The Hero's Journey: Reality Within
A fun highlight this past weekend was attending the movie, "Avengers: Endgame" with my family - and of course, the debriefing that followed. Not only did we share favorite snippets, re-state comical one-liners, and tattle on all who shed a tear (I promise - no spoilers in this post), we also anayzed the plot and discussed its personal application. (Attending movies with my family is often an educational experience which I love!)
As I watched the 3-hour quasi-finale of the fates of a group of superheroes America and the rest of the world have grown to love, I couldn't help but think about Joseph Campbell's description of the basic narrative pattern that the hero myth follows.
Very simply stated: Hero receives call to adventure...crosses threshold to unknown... receives aid from mentor...faces trials and opposition...receives help from others along the way...reaches darkest abyss...overcomes...is transformed into new creature as result of journey...returns to known world as elevated being (aka - a hero).
Have you ever wondered why so many of us love Avengers, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars? These "mythical" stories follow the narrative pattern - known as "the hero's journey." Yet , we also find this same pattern as we learn of what actual heroes (think "Boys In A Boat"- 1936 Berlin Olympics U.S. rowing team or Private Desmond Doss - "Hacksaw Ridge") undertake in real life. We gravitate and connect with stories of the underdog who defies conventions, faces horrendous odds, surpasses expectations, and proves to the world they are capable of greatness.
Brain science will tell you we are hard-wired for stories. Great narratives can release the "feel-good" neurotransmitter dopamine (involved in motivation/memory/attention) and increase our empathy towards others.
Stories also help us to learn. Before the written or typed word - family histories, lifeskills, and survival processes were passed down from generation to generation through the (verbal) sharing of story. Even today - we connect with our ancestors and relatives through their stories. Our children learn language and social concepts through simple stories, often found in picture books. And hopefully, as we study the stories of historical figures and events, we learn what progression towards happier and more production societies truly requires.
I propose that our immediate, and often - emotionally intense - connection to story, and particulary - the hero's journey - is also (and even primarily) the foundational story of each one of us.
Throughout our existence, we make a choice to accept calls to new adventures. We leave our comfort zones and face new challenges and opposition. If we seek, we can always find a mentor that encourages us, shares wisdom and insight, and grants us strength and the tools necessary for overcoming the opposition. We find friends/helpers on the way that give us what we need in the exact moment we need it. When we face our darkest hour - and make a choice to overcome- we find resolution. And we realize that through the choice to take the journey, we progressed to a mightier, changed being. We return to the known elevated and refined - a hero.
Truly, a hero is within us all. We are all on an adventure of sorts. So, be kind - to yourself and to others. Be the helper when needed. Take heart and face your challenges with courage. Know that your story is real - and the hero's journey, eternal. If you make the choice to overcome, you will succeed. You will change and progress. And you will return as a hero.
Shine On. -Kimberly
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