A Hero With A Thousand Faces

If you read my last post, I hope you took a moment to silence all the distractions in your life, and just listen.

I have spent the last, almost 2 years, distracting myself with a mobile game. I couldn’t stand to be with my own thoughts, I was afraid of what I would discover.

So I played, and played, and played for nearly two years just to avoid my self.

My true self.

If you took the time to listen I wonder what you discovered.

For me it was a sinking realization that I just wasted nearly two years of my life distracting myself from discovering my transcendental purpose.

It’s funny, after I came to that realization I was in our online chat group talking with some of the other members. There are a few members who are hardcore players. They often brag about how awesome they are.

On this particular day one of the members talked about how he works the graveyard shift and then he doesn’t go home to sleep. He goes out to play. To level up his character. To level up his fighters.

In that moment, I was struck how small and insignificant all this was.

I told him “At the end of the day I doubt there is going to be a single one of us on our deathbed, who laying there with their final breath utters “I wish I could have just a few more hours to play my game.” I could be wrong but what do I know?”

To which he responded: “Gamers know.”

Good for him! I’m glad he found his life’s purpose! I’m sure his children and grandchildren will forever remember him as being the level 40 trainer that he was…

I just believe that our lives were meant for much greater things than paying to play someone else’s game.

If you haven’t had a chance to silence all the noise in your life, and get in touch with yourself, then I suggest you do that now. You might be surprised what you discover.

The Hero With A Thousand Faces

We are all on our own heroic journey. We are all seeking to blow up or own metaphorical death star.

Today I want to outline what exactly the heroic journey looks like.

As I said in the last post, the heroic journey is something that was laid out in the book The Hero With A Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell.

I like that title, because it suggest a sort of equality. Every single one of us can go on this journey, and be that hero with a thousand faces. We all get one story in this life, and why not become the hero that legends are made of?

What Mr. Campbell did was he noted that there is a common literary them among the ancient stories that have survived with us to this day.

Think stories like The Odyssey, Gilgamesh, or Beowulf.

All of these stories came from different people’s, from different culture’s, and from different time’s.

Yet…they could all be telling the same story.

The story of a young hero, who gets called from the ordinary world, into adventure, facing daring trials, an ultimate sacrifice, triumph, and a return home as master of two worlds.

This chart helps us to visualize that there are really three distinct portions to the Hero’s Journey.

  1. Start in the ordinary world
  2. Journey to the extraordinary world-which can really be broken into two sections
    1. Before the abyss
    2. After the abyss
  3. Return to the ordinary world

Here I will briefly describe each step, and then I will develop each section in the future.

The Ordinary World

I’m a nerd, so I’m going to wave my nerd banner and use Star Wars to illustrate this cycle. It represents the heroic journey so well though.

At the beginning of Star Wars A New Hope, we meet Luke Skywalker.

Luke is an ordinary kid, with ordinary dreams. He has friends, he works on a farm, and he enjoys flying the family ship in the canyon to kill wombats.

He yearns for adventure in his life by joining the rebellion, but his Uncle Owen refuses to let him join. At least not until after that seasons harvest is over.

Just an ordinary kid, doing nothing extraordinary.

One ordinary day, his uncle asks him to go with him to buy some droids. Unwittingly they choose C-3PO and R2D2, two droids of the resistance.

Luke receives his call to adventure when he is trying to wipe the memory bank of R2D2. At this moment R2 plays a message from Princess Leia, asking an Obi Wan Kenobi for help.

That night R2 escapes, intent on finishing his mission of finding Obi Wan. Luke has to go out and rescue him, only to be attacked by the sand people.

Fortunately for young Luke, he is rescued by Obi Wan. This is when he meets the mentor. 

Obi Wan tells Luke some amazing things. That his father was a Jedi, that he is a Jedi, and that he must travel through space so that Obi Wan can train him.

Luke, the young man yearning for adventure, refuses the call. He gets scared when the opportunity presents itself. He tells Obi Wan that he can’t, at least not until this years harvest is over.

Resigned, Obi Wan takes Luke back to his home, only to find that his aunt and uncle had been killed by the Empire. This causes Luke to cross the threshold. Now he is committed to the journey. He steps out of the ordinary world and steps into the extraordinary world.

The Extraordinary World-Before the Abyss

Early on, it is important for our hero to determine who his allies, enemies, and friends are. He already has his mentor.

As they enter the Mos Eisley cantina, it becomes apparent who will be his allies; Han Solo and Chewbacca. It also becomes apparent who will be his enemy; the empire.

Next Luke must faces challenges and trials. He must rescue the princess (who also becomes an ally), and blow up the first death star. He must help the rebellion survive the attack on Hoth in Empire Strikes Back. He must train with Yoda. He must confront Vader in Cloud City. He must rescue Han from Jabba in Return of the Jedi.

All this in preparation for the abyss. That point in time where failure means death, and success means saving the galaxy. For Luke his abyss is facing Vader in Return of the Jedi.

Luke knows in his heart that Vader, his father, still has good in him. He must redeem his father, or die trying.

He willingly surrenders himself for the chance to meet with Vader. He pleads with him to leave the Empire and become the Jedi knight he once was.

Vader refuses and takes Luke to his master, the Emperor.

Here the Emperor crushes all of Luke’s hopes. He shows him how the rebellion has fallen into a trap, both the fleet coming to destroy the second death star, and the ground forces on Endor attempting to blow up its protective shield. He is letting Luke see that everything he holds dear in this life, will shortly be destroyed.

All this is done to anger Luke. The Emperor wants Luke to tap into the dark side via his anger. And in his anger he wants Luke to strike down Vader.

Luke and Vader have an epic duel, that was pretty evenly matched until Vader threatens his sister. At this point Luke taps into his anger and becomes stronger even than Vader. In his anger he cuts off Vader’s hand and has his lightsaber ready to deliver the killing blow.

The Emperor taunts him, he commands him to strike Vader down and take his place at his side in ruling the galaxy.

Luke has entered the abyss. This is where he determines who he really is.

He takes a moment, lowers his lightsaber, and tosses it, telling the Emperor that he is a Jedi like his father before him.

The Extraordinary World-After the Abyss

Once Luke made his decision at the Abyss, he is no longer the same person.

In the movie he literally transforms from Luke Skywalker Jedi knight, into Luke Skywalker Jedi master. He faced his ultimate trial, and he passed.

Now he is more powerful than ever before.

Yes the Emperor was electrocuting him to death, and it took his father to save him in the movies. But Luke has undergone transformation, and he has experienced atonement with his father.

Luke was able to redeem his father. He vanquished Vader and saved Anakin. With his dying breaths, Anakin was able to gaze upon his son, and be proud of the man he had become.

Luke was able to drag his fathers body out of the second death star and back to Endor, where his rebel friends were able to beat the Empire.

Here he gave his father a proper burial.

With Vader redeemed, the Emperor defeated, and the Empire vanquished, Luke was able to reenter the ordinary world.

Return The Ordinary World

We don’t get to see much of Luke in the immediate aftermath of the destruction of the second death star. We only get to see him celebrating with his friends on Endor.

But it is safe to assume that Luke has become the master of two worlds. He is able to help those around him in the ordinary world as a result of his mastering the extraordinary level.

Luke’s skills are a help to those around him.

He is no longer just a farm boy on Tatooine. He no longer is that whiny boy yearning for adventure that we first met. He has become a wise Jedi master who knows his place in the galaxy, and helps others on their way.

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In a nutshell that is an overview of the heroic journey. Is it a perfect example?

No, but that’s ok because not all of us are going to mirror the same path on our heroic journey.

It’s a guide, not a carbon copy.

You’re heroic journey is a destination that will lead you to become the person you were truly meant to be. More than likely you are on the journey already, but didn’t realize it.

That’s the beauty of the heroic journey. It gives context to where you’re at, and where you need to be heading.

Next we will delve more into the specific steps along the journey.

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