The Hero/ine’s Return
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Evan H of Well Being and Health. Thanks Evan!
The story of the Hero/ine’s Journey is everywhere. From Hollywood to novels and even to news stories. It is the story of the person who leaves their home to pursue a quest – a quest that involves going through trials in order to gain the ‘prize’. The hero/ine then returns home with the prize.
In fairy tales the person who has pursued the quest and gained the prize is often rewarded with ruling the kingdom. In Hollywood movies it may be training in a sport to beat an opponent – e.g. the Rocky and Karate Kid movies. (A thorough treatment of the Hero/ine story in many cultures is Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces. It is clear, well written and readable.)
It is the quest, and the trials endured on it, that takes up most of the story and is what is most memorable. In fairly tales it is the dragons slayed and the illusions of the Wizard that are seen through which are memorable. In Hollywood movies it is the obstacles that the hero/ine overcomes on the way to their goal (difficulties overcome, opponents defeated, or circumstances transformed).
Compared to the battles fought and trials overcome, the return isn’t nearly as gripping. In fairy tales it is usually something quite brief like, “And so they were married and lived happily ever after”.
This makes it easy to forget that in some ways the return is what the Journey is all about. The journey is not undertaken for its own sake. It is not simply an adventure or a holiday.
Remembering the Return
I think this is a danger for those of us into “self-development” or “self-improvement” (I don’t particularly like these labels, but you know the kind of thing I mean). We can become focused on the challenges and how we handle them. We can improve our coping strategies, even develop excellence in deploying these strategies, and greatly improve our performance. Which can lead us to forget why we started out on our journey in the first place, we can get lost on the journey.
At this point I’d like to say that I have been interested in “self-development” and such things all my adult life. And I hope to stay interested in them for the rest of my life. I enjoy improving how well I do things and I do pursue excellence. I am not criticising this: I am trying to place it in a bigger picture – the bigger picture of the journey and it’s purpose.
The Purpose Of It All
For me the spiritual journey has a purpose – it is compassion and joy (or, better yet, a compassionate joyfulness).
The hero/ine sets off on the journey for the sake of their town or village. The hero/ine slays the dragon to save the village or win the hand of the prince/ss. The hero/ine does not slay the dragon for the thrill of it or because they like slaying dragons. The purpose is to save the village or to demonstrate that they are a worthy ruler.
Our kingdoms still need to be saved and to be ruled wisely. This applies to our own past – our fears and prejudices, our resentments and unhelpful habits, still need to be overcome; we still need to develop a living (and liveable) spirituality. It also applies to our external situation: we need innovations like never before. As I see it the big challenge is a human and sustainable lifestyle. Our work, relationships, urban design and much else besides needs to be transformed so that we can live in a sustainable, compassionate joyfulness. This is a cause worthy of a hero/ine.
I’d like to hear about your journey – how you set out on it, what you have confronted along the journey and whether you feel you have returned from it. If so how are you different and what was it that you gained from your journey? I’d love to hear your experience in the comments.
About the Author
Evan has a website at www.livingauthentically.org. He thinks that authenticity is the real cure for stress and the path to joy. Evan has written a book, Living Authentically, and also has an email course. If you would like to experience living with more authenticity you can find links to both the book and the course on his website.
Note from the Editor
Thanks Evan for the post and for inspiring some nice conversation!
My study and workload has suddenly doubled, so Ill be away for a couple of weeks. Dont worry, as we have lined some really nice guest authors for your reading pleasure!