When Noah got home from school the other day he asked me if I had ever heard of “something called the Hero’s Journey.” He’s at that age when he’s started to suspect my fallibility–worried that I might not actually know very much more about this world that we inhabit than he does–though he’s not quite ready to relinquish the ideal that a parent of his is unassailable.
Quite often he hits me with questions & nuggets of information that would be insulting coming from a peer, but are downright endearing when they emerge from my 11 year old’s mouth. (Other recent queries: “Mom, I don’t know if you know this but Pluto isn’t really a planet…it’s a dwarf planet…it used to be considered one of the real ones, but scientists your age had it wrong.” And, “Do you know why there are seasons?…I mean the real reason; the scientific reason…” And, “I know who invented they wheel. Do you?” (OK. For that last one, I haven’t a clue.)
He’s been discussing The Hero’s Journey with his reading group at school and is talking about it at home because he’s hooked on the arc. During class time he and his mates (and teacher) have been discussing the Artemis Fowl series and, at home, kids are choosing to read Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings for book projects. He is also studying Greek and Roman mythology in Social Studies, tales which have a natural similitude to this monomyth pattern. Like many of his peers, Noah has all six Star Wars movies (nearly) memorized and when you add on the several dozen or more viewings of The Lion King and The Little Mermaid during his formative years, this is a kid who has been steeped in The Hero’s Journey for most his life–though not until recently did he realize that the kinds of stories that he likes best have a name and an archetype all their own.
They are my favorite, too.
In case you don’t know, this Hero’s Journey/monomyth theory is a narrative pattern in stories identified by mythology & religious scholar Joseph Campbell, who describes the cycle in his book The Hero With A Thousand Faces like this:
“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”
Campbell designates 17 stages of this journey that are divided into three parts: Departure, Initiation and Return. There are books and websites dedicated to its explanations and critique, so I won’t bore you with a history lesson, but I haven’t been able to get this theory out of my head for the past several days, as I try to make sense of my own journey.
Departure. Initiation. Return. How many times have I done that loop? What does it mean that this journey of mine has begun to feel like a ferris wheel stuck on repeat? Departue. Initiation. Return. repeat. Repeat. REPEAT. A pattern especially obvious now that I’ve decided to post parts of (said journey) here, on a blog, for the whole world to, ostensibly, see.
Not that blogging is a Hero’s Journey. I recoil at labeling myself a blogger because, well, I think our blog has about 3 readers (who we APPRECIATE and we LOVE) but an audience which barely constitutes anything more than me sharing my journal during happy hour. And, also, instead of taking part in some magnificent excursion, blogging feels more to me like a hustling than anything else….hustling for an audience, hustling for more website hits and for more shares on Facebook. I’m a part of this blog mostly because of my affection for my friends (who, you know, broke my heart a little bit when they moved across the ocean) and not to satisfy any literary aspirations I might have. (Though I harbor some of those, too.)
Departure. Initiation. Return.
Participating in the production of this blog, especially this week–when I’m attempting to write solo and am obliged to gauge the appropriateness and appeal of what I’m saying without my Cuban curator by my side–has made me consider what I’m doing here (Here) all the more. And thinking about why.
Truthfully, I don’t have any answers. This entry today is as much to lay out a few of the questions I’d like to consider as we move forward with this thing, as it is to conclude something in particular.
The fact is that part of the Hero’s Journey is embracing the questions. Questions such as:
- What are we doing with this thing?
- Is anyone actually reading it?
- Does it matter if they do?
- How much of myself do I give away in the words that I type? In the stories I tell?
- How much of Noah? Of Ray?
- What about my my ex-husband? How much kindness do I owe him? How much of my annoyance/disgust/anger with him do I want Noah to see? How much actually remains?
I’m not sure which stage on the Journey this getting-used-to-blogging-thing is–perhaps the Refusal of the Call stage? Perhaps the Belly of the Whale moment? Or maybe I’ve reached the Ultimate Boon. Whatever the case, this philosophy is jiving with me at an interesting time…as I question my passion and purpose. As I wonder what, if anything, I’m doing right or wrong.
Departure. Initiation. Return.
What I know is that I’m looking forward to Gina joining me over There again tomorrow. (And tomorrow. And tomorrow.) I’m excited to hear about the glorious minutiae of her adventures and I can’t wait for her to tell me about each detail and then for her to write about each detail and for me to respond and for us to continue to mold our discussions into a purpose and an art.
Perhaps the Hero’s Journey is just this. Life. My life. Her life. A general pattern of adventure that regular people encounter during their living.
Blogging might not be a Hero’s Journey, but putting one foot in front of the other on days when you’d rather stay in bed and not ski or write or shower or cook certainly is.
I like to think we’re all heroes. Anyway for today, when Noah asks, I’m going to go with that.