Currently on Netflix there is a series of interviews Bill Moyers did with Joseph Campbell in the last two years of his life. The interviews were recorded at George Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch in California. Lucas being a famous proponent of Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. He used that concept in his Star Wars films.
The setting for the interviews is in a cozy book lined study. I imagined like the one that Campbell must have had in his own home or office being an academic. The camera alternates between Moyers and Campbell seated in overstuffed chairs.
Moyers begins by asking about the concept of the Hero’s Journey and how it is relevant to our lives today. Campbell commented that we need to be the hero of our own life’s story. We have a need to take literal or mythic journeys, transform ourselves and come back to our day to day lives with new wisdom. And when the topic turned to those who are mavericks in our society and what they can contribute he identified himself as having always been a maverick.
I resonated with that statement. Many of the people I admire are mavericks. Certainly, Jesus fits. He followed his own path and threw the money lenders out of the temple. He broke the rules and saw beyond the prescribed ways of his society. We must stand outside the structures of our culture to make a difference.
Another example closer to home is my grandfather John who left his native land of Turkey and eventually make America his home. If he had stayed the outcome for him as a member of a Christian minority would have been conscription into the military and being worked to death. So, in some way he was being pushed by the forces of history and at the same time launched into a journey that would change his life and the lives of his descendants.
These examples show that the outcomes of leaving home, leaving the normal way of doing things leads to disruption and banishment and possibly death. But to not leave home is to stay stuck and to live a life of someone else’s design. The way Joseph Campbell defined this path or journey away from the familiar is to “Follow Your Bliss.” This means to follow your desires: For a better life, for a better world, whatever that passion is for you.
And after that Rite of Separation occurs, the ritual has an element of defining who you are and what you want. You are on the journey of discovery, the discovery of some essential piece of wisdom or knowledge that informs you and your life. It can also be a place where you sacrifice yourself for the good of others as Christ did. This part if a Rite of Transformation where you move out of our normal places and step into an altered state to see ourselves or the world from a different perspective. It has to do with the wisdom found in balancing the opposite poles in our lives. It can be about stepping into the unknown and needing to have faith that there is something there for us to step onto. So, faith and hope are key parts of this ritual.
Next the Maverick/hero journeys back home. Here he/she shares his/her wisdom with the community. If the Maverick had not stepped out of the binds and constraints of his community in the first place he/she would not have any wisdom or knowledge to share. This is a Rite of Incorporation. In this ritual the hero gifts the community and claims their place in it as well.
Finally, the journey ends with a celebration of the hero and their gifts by the whole community. They are lifted, seen and given gifts as the community has been gifted by them. This is a Rite of Continuity and called this because it is about the continuance of the tribe, people. They continue on into the future by gaining a hero to model strong, integrous behavior for them a true path to walk in life.
And without being a Maverick the whole journey and the benefits to the individual and the community would not have happened. By being your authentic self and “Following Your Bliss” you will be on your journey, your hero’s journey in life.