Your Hero's Journey
Time to embark on a journey to a galaxy far, far away… Again... because I love writing and talking about Star Wars and the philosophical takeaways from it. In fact, this article is going to be part of a long running series as I write about quotes and lessons I have taken from Star Wars and the Jedi.
George Lucas’s Star Wars movies gave us an exciting space-opera adventure where the main protagonist takes the hero’s journey. In the first film, Episode IV: A New Hope, an ordinary farmer discovers he has special gift and sets off to help someone in need. The second film, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, the hero has accomplish many great things, but must learn new skills while to defeat the main antagonist. In the third film, Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, the journey of the hero comes to an end with his final confrontation with the main antagonist.
This monomyth story structure is found everywhere and is as old as time. Originally coined the Hero's Journey by Joseph Campbell in 1949, the story structure has three acts: the Departure, the Initiation, and the Return. These acts are divided further in 2007 by screenwriter Christopher Vogler in The Writer's Journey into specific storytelling stages or steps in the journey. But I would say this story structure is more than a guide for writers.
Each one of us is on the hero’s journey. We can look at any of our dreams, goals, or previous accomplishments as our Episode VI where that final confrontation occurs and we succeed. We can look at our current state as Episode IV where we recognize that we have special gifts to share with others and we set off to accomplish something special. I want to help you with Episode V when you need training, when you will encounter failures and defeats, when you need to unlearn, and when you need to build yourself up into the hero you need to be. I may not be a Grand Master Jedi or a green Muppet living in a swamp, but I can certainly lend my eyes, ears, and mind to help your journey.
"Adventure... excitement... A Jedi craves not these things."
A few years ago, I wrote a post on Nerd Fitness called My Epic Quest detailing a lot of long term and short terms goals plus a bunch of Bucket List items. I wrote it thinking about bringing adventure and excitement to my life. Looking at the list, there are probably too many awesome experiences which I'd like to have in this life time with places to see and things to do all over the world. Reflecting on the list today, most of it I would be perfectly happy missing out on if it meant more time with my wife and daughters. The Bucket List was made with my own wants in mind thinking only of myself, which is fine for a Bucket List, but when it comes to completing the tasks, I may decide there are other priorities to spend my most valuable time. My family will have to be along for the ride for me to check any items off my bucket list. Thinking about the bucket list got me thinking about what happens after I pass. It reminded me of listening to radio DJs talking about David Bowie's Last Will and Testament where he asks for his ashes to be spread in Bali, Indonesia. David Bowie practiced Buddhism and wished to have an Ngaben cremation ceremony, which is the traditional method of final disposition in Balinese culture. An Ngaben is a Hindu funeral rite that takes some influence from Buddhism. The DJ’s segway into talking about different places they would want their ashes spread. One of them brought up the travel and experience for the ones spreading the ashes as a therapeutic last journey with loved ones. I thought that sentiment was beautiful. I would want this as a grieving experience for anyone I felt dear to. I would want it for my loved ones.
I remember thinking at that time about where I'd want my ashes spread and why I'd want my family to visit those places. Personally, I'd want my ashes spread somewhere I felt important to me and important to my family. I've been to some great places and have had great experiences. I plan to go to more great places with my family and possibly have some more great experiences. Home is the only place which really resonates with me as a logical answer. None of that compares to the experiences of raising my children at home. But home has never been a physical place for me. I've lived in quite a few houses in almost just as many states, but home is always where the heart is. I have no sentimental attachment to any particular place. I am attached to people. My wife and I found out that there are services which will convert ashes to diamonds for about $3k. We'd like to do that with our remains to create jewelry for our daughters. What happens with the rest of the ashes is trivial at that point. My remains will be kept in my family, where my heart belongs. Getting back to the quote and the lesson to take from Yoda's teaching offered to Luke on Dagobah in their first meeting, I feel life is about the journey, not the destination. Adventure and excitement are what a young moisture farmer may have been looking for when leaving Tatooine, and I'm sure any young adult can relate to that mindset. To train to be a Jedi, you are giving up on your own aspirations to help others live a more peaceful life. A Jedi craves helping people. A Jedi craves greater understanding and mastery of skills to better help people. A Jedi craves serving the light and extinguishing the dark, being compassionate to all and alleviating suffering. For me, all that revolves around family: immediate, extended, and adopted, and sustaining a world in which they will be safe and prosper. That is my Hero's Journey and why my family is always my home. Map out your Hero's Journey and figure out your Initiation Act. Adventure and excitement will be had along any trip, but they are more associated with the goals of life's journey or the destination of the trip. The plan to get there involves people interacting. The steps to get there involve learning, understanding, practice, and growth. The plan and the steps are the journey. You'll be amazed at the stories you can tell when you see yourself as a hero.