Don’t Turn into a Tree (The Hero’s Quest)

Whether you know it or not, you're on a classic Hero's Journey. If you ever get the chance to read Joseph Campbell's "The Thousand Faces of the Hero" you won't be disappointed. However, if you don't have time for that, then listen to it in your car on CD or watch "Joseph Versus The Volcano", "Finding Nemo", or "The Matrix". These movies have more in common than you would think. They all tell a tale that is as old as the oldest myths on the planet. From my inaccurate memory let me recall the main parts of this journey. I made some comparisons to the Matrix for your better understanding.

The Call (red pill or the blue pill)

The hero is often drafted against his/her will into a great adventure or quest.

            The Old Man of the Forest (Morpheus and The Oracle)

They receive spells, potions, amulets and other magical assistance from a supernatural being. However, the 'Old Man' usually advises against the perilous journey.

            The Quest (the bulk of the movie)

The Hero braves incredible dangers and usually something or someone dies.

            The Boon (the Human and Machine war is over, but Neo dies)

Joseph Campbell referred to the gift the hero brings back from the quest as 'The Boon'.

If the hero is bringing a re-birth for the entire world then the hero must actually die (as in the Matrix). 

The REAL Journey

Of course the entire story tells the tale of an inward journey into the heart of your own being. The 'old you' is what must die in order to bring about your own re-birth (like a phoenix rising from it's own ashes). Every culture has rites of passage that help their young people make this journey. These rituals often result in the young person acquiring a new name or stature in the culture signifying the death of the child and birth of the aware and self-actualizing adult. Unfortunately, in this enlightened age, we are way to sophisticated for this nonsense. This is why we are surrounded by 30-50 year old adolescents trapped in their teen years. They had no great journey, no transcendent experience.

Enter Shaolin-Do

You started your journey in Shaolin-Do much the same as our hero, with NO idea of the difficulty or length of the journey ahead. Your teachers gave you some magic amulets for trip and you were off. Along the way you encounter steps that you never anticipated, pass rites of passage (tests) and receive validation from your peers. In the end you put on a new identity (black belt or higher) that represents your transformation. In ancient times you might have had to enter the wilderness and fight a bear. Surviving this act gave your life meaning and bonded you to the tribe. Getting your black belt has similar meaning in the Shaolin-Do group. The belt is meaningless, but the journey you shared in common with the other black belts is everything.

We need the obstacles of the journey, the momentary lack of faith in its completion, overcoming the biggest barriers, the final triumph over our fears, and the eventual victory. It is this sequence that allows us to bring about an internal transformation.

Having said all of this, you now may think that getting the black belt is the least important part of our journey. I agree with you. In fact, the only things that are important are the OBSTACLES. You must NOT avoid them, you must seek them out. We have a big one coming. It's called a tournament. You say that tournaments are not for you. I would say that it's all about obstacles baby. If tournaments scare you, then guess what..? Remember the Matrix? That entire movie is about the quest part of the hero's journey, not the completion of the quest. Nobody looks forward to the end of an epic story? So fill your life with the obstacles of an epic journey, don't just live for the 'feel-good' squishy ending.

 Turning Into A Tree

Campbell noticed that sometimes in the myth, the hero refused the call to action. In most of these cases, the hero turned into a tree, plant or non-moving object. In other words, they stopped growing, put down roots and never moved again. Life is too short and precious to become a vegetable. I want my Hero's Journeys as big as I can get them

Joseph Schaefer, Ph.D.

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