Monday, January 30, 2006

Beyond The Journey

Some of you are aware of Joseph Campbell, who did very important work in showing the parallels between life and mythology and how mythic themes are still everywhere and affect us all in profound ways.

One of his paradigms is "The Hero's Journey". It shows the steps that a classical hero undertook to achieve his spiritual growth and his integration of the spirit and material aspects of the world. This is a powerful model and you can see it in compelling fiction and film and even in the real lives of people.

One of my friends refers to this a lot and suggests it as a framework or a plan for your own life. So I printed out the steps and really looked at it. Next to each step I wrote the specific event in my life that reflected that challenge or triumph. They didn't happen all in the same order, but every single one was checked off. The last one about the time I started getting really bored with almost everything.

The trouble is that there is no sequel to the Hero's Journey. What did Theseus do after slaying the minotaur and returning to Athens? Rule wisely and well? How fricking boring would that be? Is that the destiny of someone who acieves this pinnacle of growth? Paperwork? No thank you.

The truth is that fighters rarely age well. Sure, the injuries don't heal as well and cold weather hurts old breaks, but it's more than that. The suicide and alcoholism rate of Medal of Honor winners is astronomical. The bitter, reclusive retired warrior is a cliche. I know many people who deserve to be called heroes and I watch them fall apart as they pass through middle age, not just physically but mentally.

The ideal, of course, is to die in your last battle, but that's not really practical.

So that's what I'll work on for the next year. Attempt to script the endgame for a warrior.

Some things I've rejected: setting goals is basic, but once you have achieved your list inventing more just to fill the void lacks heart. It wouldn't be genuine. So I won't just try to repeat the journey. This one will be new and different.

Who are the role models from the past? Many did become rulers, but that rarely ended well and I'm not a big fan of paperwork.

Some retired to monastaries to reflect and meditate, creating, especially in Japan, the image of the warrior monk. My wife would hate that.

There is Merlin, who went into the esoterica. He outgrew the world, in a way. He achieved what he became on a warrior's path, but let his lessons separate him from the world to the point that he was no longer considered truly human. He let that happen and in many ways I feel it was a mistake.

There was Chiron, my namesake for these writings, who dedicated his life to training new generations of heroes. I like that.

Things to think about for a year or so.


Anonymous said...

When one has achieved the pinnacle, experienced all that they can in the world of creation, then there is only one place to go. The mind - the spirit - always seek more, it is the nature of life. But in the bounded, limited world, there is only so far one can go. Where does an Iwo Jima Medal of Honor winner go after 30 days of hell? Is it possible to get the same thrill out of looking at a cloud as having a 'biner pop out, falling 40 feet and living? From sex so intense you feel close to death? From watching the life fade from the eyes of a man gasping his last after you've pumped three rifle rounds into his chest? Yes. But it's too easy and easy isn't our way. Look inward. Experience that which cannot be known. Yogastah kurukarmani.

Rory said...

"Established in being, act." Yes. I see the world as nearly infinite and my one regret to being mortal is that I will not absorb it and experience all of it. I am much smaller than this limited world and much simpler. The danger of focussing completely inward is the monkey tendancy to create illusion to satisfy our need for complexity.

How are you, old friend?

Anonymous said...

But you can absorb and experience it all - you are limiting yourself to only outward experiences; you are unbounded, unfettered, unlimited in your essential nature, immortal. It is not a dream, a lofty ideal, an unattainable goal. It just is; and you are. Give yourself permission to stop needing permission. And then, with a thought, you can alter the course of a person, a group, a county, a society.

And I miss your presence, mi amigo, but, thankfully for my lifepath, have not lost the connection.