Getting back to a “Hero’s Journey,” a hero needs to ask, explore, and find out how to do something. The journey a hero takes is within the scope of normal activity but is valued because of virtues such as: boldness, insightfulness, good heartedness, sacrificial attitude, struggle, conquest, restraint, integrity, etc. Real heroes act from their inner conscience. Their attitude is often that anyone else in their circumstances would have done the same thing. Joseph Campbell compares a “Hero’s Journey” to our internal growth and transformation:
The hero journey is one of the universal patterns through which that radiance shows brightly. What I think is that a good life is one hero journey after another. Over and over again, you are called to the realm of adventure, you are called to new horizons. Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There’s always the possibility of a fiasco. But there’s also the possibility of bliss.
Spurred on by a Vision
The point about a “Hero’s Journey” that makes it stand out is that heroes are challenged to grow and at the same time they could fail. The outcome determines their happiness and future. Heroes must think beyond the mundane. They can’t let life just pass them by. Instead, heroes have a vision and hope that spurs them on to greater heights even if they aren’t certain they can succeed.
When we hear about a hero in the news, it’s often a story of someone making an instantaneous decision and immediate action. Although it looks like it happened randomly, it reflects the hero’s way of life and internal growth of heart. If we look deeper into the person’s past, the hero usually had a habit of thinking about others and giving. The overriding heart of a hero is altruistic. They habitually serve others and sacrifice their own comfort. A “Hero’s Journey” is about striving for common needs such as: finding love, succeeding, fighting evil, healing wounds, or seeking justice. Heroes are motivated from within. They desire to improve the ways of the world even at the risk of injury or loss of life.
The hardest challenges for heroes are their own limitations. By the end of the journeys, heroes improve such qualities as reactions, doubt, and reluctance, etc... The reason we can relate to a “Hero’s Journey” is because we experience a similar challenge to grow internally. For instance, in the Wizard of Oz movie, we feel the lack of courage, heart, and intellect. We innately know we can develop such qualities even though it seems almost impossible. We can also connect with Dorothy’s yearning for home and protection for her dog.
A “Hero’s Journey” includes a “herald” which is the force that presents the warning and/or challenge to the hero. The herald might announce a significant change. The way the herald appears is different for each hero but most often appears at the beginning of the journey. The herald may appear as a news report, an emergency event, a notice, or in the form of dreams and visions. Its purpose is to present a challenge to get the story in motion.
My herald presented itself over a period of time: first with a burning feeling that something was missing, then with thinking I found what was missing, next doubting, and finally finding the conviction necessary to go the course.
During the winter break of my last year of high school, our family went to stay in a cottage surrounded by a redwood forest. My parents were going through a life course decision and wanted us kids to join them in prayer and discussion for a few days. My dad felt it went against his conscience to work at Lockheed as a defense engineer. He wanted to stop working there, become a peace activist, and devote his life promoting world peace. However, he wanted it to be a family decision especially since he was the sole financial provider for our family at that time.
One of our discussions revolved around how we would get money to pay the bills. For some reason I didn’t worry about that at all. Instead, I wondered how world peace could come about. At the time, I was overwhelmed by a feeling that something was missing. My family didn’t understand what I was feeling and why I felt something was missing. I didn’t understand it myself, but the feeling was so strong, it brought tears to my eyes if I tried to talk about it. Later that school year I would know what was missing.
During that time in my life, my friend, her sister, and I would spend hours talking about life. We also did fun things like camping and going to Disneyland. The sister, Susan, was a year older and in college at San Jose State. She met the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity (HSA-UWC) on campus. Since Susan knew how I thought about things, she invited me to an event and then to a weekend retreat.
Susan picked me up after I completed my late work shift and drove me to the retreat. The first couple of lectures the next day were interesting but nothing exceptional for me. The third lecture was a different version of the Garden of Eden story in Genesis than I've heard before. My soul had a mystical awakening and I felt the power, wisdom, and love of our Heavenly Parent along with uplifting emotions. I couldn’t stop crying as if I’d won the lottery and couldn’t believe it. It was a profound experience that can’t be explained in day to day language. I knew this was the answer to my yearnings. My inner consciousness knew the truth I was hearing revealed what was “missing” in our family conversations in that cabin in the woods earlier that year.
The rest of the weekend was uneventful, but that one divine encounter was forever lodged in my memory. After arriving back home, I started telling my father how great the weekend was, but he interrupted me and said one sentence, “I think this is the anti-christ.” A struggle began. If it was the movement of the anti-christ, it’s the worst thing to join and if it was the Christ, there’s no hesitation that I should join. What should I do? In a couple of weeks, after graduating from high school, I attended another weekend workshop.
The next retreat was full of doubts and reservations. During a few of the group discussions, I mentioned my conflict. Each time, they told me to pray about it. This was something I personally had to decide through prayer. I completed the workshop still not knowing if I should leave this behind me or continue my involvement.
The morning after returning home, I was just waking up and Jesus appeared to me. He was carrying a cross and had the look like, “Can you help me?” My answer was, “I want to, but I don’t know which direction to turn.” Next, I saw the scene of the workshop and I knew it was the way to go.
This experience stayed with me for years. This is why I compare it to a herald. It changed the course of my life. It was my calling to help the Messiah carry his cross. I was inspired during many difficult situations that I could help “carry a cross” and give my heartfelt effort to bring about peace.
What do you see as the qualities of a hero or a heroine?
Who do you look up to?
How have you experienced a herald?
What movie have you watched in which you can relate in heart with the main character?
What challenges have you been presented with that you felt a pull to do something?
What situation did you experience a life or death possibility?
What kind of hero do you want to be?
Campbell, Joseph. Pathways to Bliss: Mythology and Personal Transformation. 2004. New World Library. P. 133