The Hero’s Journey — Why We Must Confront Danger

There are things that we know and things that
we don’t. Knowledge keeps us comfortable, safe, and
alive, but it’s never enough. Death looks for new ways to get us by using
The Unknown against us. New diseases, dilemmas, and other threats
are always arising. To fight Death, we learn his tactics. We step into the Land of the Dead and confront
him, with the only thing he can’t destroy: Truth. It’s the armour that Death can’t break—it’s
timeless. Truth is timeless, and Death is time. When we confront him, he shows us where we
lack armour. Those parts die, and hopefully, it’s not
all of us. Science understands this process well. It takes an idea and tries to kill it, and
hopefully, the whole thing doesn’t die. Whatever remains of the idea is used as a
foundation for newer ideas, and these ideas are subjected to the forces of death again
and again, and if they survive, we assume they contain a piece of the Truth. But, there are truths that can’t be found
in a lab, such as how we should live our lives. Perhaps, the best place to look for the answer
to this question is in mythology. After a lifetime of studying mythology, Joseph
Campbell noticed a reoccurring pattern: different cultures told similar stories of an admirable
figure who left the world of comfort, stepped into The Unknown, confronted the forces of
Death, and, in doing so, gave us a glimpse of the Truth—the knowledge to overcome Death. This figure was called a hero, and Joseph
Campbell called this The Hero’s Journey. A hero puts the Truth above their own ego. In some stories, they initially believe the
wrong idea, and when they battle Death, the idea dies, but they eventually overcome him
by learning the Truth, and they share this hard-earned wisdom with us. This story represents a psychological death
and rebirth: a part of the hero’s worldview dies and a better one is born. In other stories, the hero is asked to make
the ultimate sacrifice. The Reaper proposes a deal: die in the pursuit
of Truth or abandon it and survive. In this story, Death can only win by getting
the hero to embrace their ego and walk away from the Truth. Death wants the hero to regret ever pursuing
it and to convince others to abandon it as well. But, the hero gladly embraces death and becomes
a martyr for Truth: they don’t want to live in a world of lies, and they know that others
will continue the pursuit. By refusing the Reaper’s deal and gladly
accepting death, the hero has actually transcended it. Albert Camus said that “what is called a
reason for living is also an excellent reason for dying.” Heroic martyrs show us what makes life worth
living by choosing to die for it. A physical death is sometimes accompanied
by a physical rebirth. In both versions of the hero’s story, we
are shown that Truth is what overcomes Death, and it’s also what makes life worth living. Joseph Campbell was often asked how we could
find our hero’s journey, and he encouraged us to follow our bliss: the thing that intrinsically
motivates us or calls on us. It’s a thing outside of ourselves that gives
our lives meaning. Even if we were to lose everything—fame,
money, power— we would look at it and say, “at least I still have my bliss.” It’s not about what gives us pleasure. It transcends us; it’s more important than
our ego. Our bliss sustains us through hardship, suffering,
and minor skirmishes with Death. And one day, if the Reaper approached us and
asked if the thing we’re living for was worth making the ultimate sacrifice, we would
answer yes. A hero is someone who finds what’s worth
dying for, and in doing so, they show us what’s worth living for. They show us how to overcome Death with Truth.

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