Choosing to live Mythically 3 (Living Heroically)

One can choose to “live mythically”. One can choose to live heroically. One can view their life as a story and choose to serve as the hero of that tale. Doing so  will open a wealth of adventure in one’s life.

What’s a hero?

How do I live heroically?

What’s the gain?

These are the questions I will be addressing in this post.

A number of years ago, I came into contact with the work of Joseph Campbell, a renowned mythologist. Note: a good way into Campbell is to check out The Power of Myth series, produce by PBS. Great series.

Campbell points out how every culture in the world tells stories of heroes. This is a universal phenomenon we, as all cultures and people on earth, engage in. Interestingly, our stories all follow more or less the same structure, a pattern, if you will.

Carl Jung, famed Swiss psychologist, theorized that we, collectively, are united, as all people, by a field of consciousness. He called this the collective unconscious. Jung also theorized that we have written and rewritten, read and reread the stories of heroes and heroines, that we are so attracted to this structure of storytelling, as this is how we, as people (perhaps subconsciously) perceive our walk through life. It is as though the hero journey mirrors the process of our lives or seeming pattern of human existence.

Heroes go on adventures. Adventure is simply a going into the unknown. Now, typically, when one goes into the unknown, all kinds of surprises, obstacles, battles and subsequent adventures occur. For more on the Hero Journey CLICK HERE.

The hero journey is a process of change, of transformation. It is about coming to know who you are as a person.

These thoughts inspired me when initially discovering the works of Campbell and I thought to myself, “I can choose to live heroically, to serve as the hero in the story of my life”. This is one of the many qualities I attempt to inspire my students at TITAN Teaterakademi (Theatre Academy), which is based in Oslo, Norway.

In choosing to live heroically, in this case, moving to Norway and building an accredited conservatory, I have faced obstacles and battles that were just ridiculous in scope, timing, and strength. When we arrived in Oslo in 2004 and my intentions were known, people told me, fairly regularly, that people will try to tear me down. These well-wishers would give ominous warnings that people will try to attack us and cause us (our school) to cease to exist. I remember thinking, “Hm. That sounds paranoid”. Were they right? Oh yes. Yet, here we are, overcoming obstacle after obstacle, developing a reputation of quality and becoming more and more known in Norway and abroad. TITAN enters its 8th year of operation next school year.

The longer I stay in the game of “living heroically”, of making bold life choices and saying yes to adventure in my life, the greater the heartache, the more difficult the obstacles, the greater the sacrifice I face and have faced. Simultaneously, though in the hardship, there is renewal. I have found that the gifts and opportunities realized, though often more subtle than the chaos and noise around the adventure, that the blessings, if you will, are equal in scope to the hardship.

Living heroically is a saying yes to life and all that it contains, both pleasurable and not pleasurable. It is a choice to play within life, to live a conscious and active existence. You and I, we are alive. Living heroically is a choosing to say, “Ok. The world is a mess. It is really painful to be alive. Life really is full of suffering. All of this said, I am going to choose to live joyfully in my life”. Campbell puts it so elegantly when he says, “Choose to live joyfully in the sorrows of the world. We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy”.

To live heroically, one is on a mission. To live heroically, one must be willing to sacrifice personal gain and interests for the service of something larger than oneself. Heroes sacrifice for a belief, another person or others. This is what makes them heroes.

A heroic life, by this definition, is a life of service. When one is committing to a life of service, they become necessary. Necessary in their community, necessary to individuals , necessary to their society at large.

Choosing to live a heroic life is one of intensity, of volume and of rapture. It is a coming into conscious awareness of what it is to be alive and who and what we are within life.

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonance within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive. That’s what it’s all finally about”.   

Joseph Campbell

Jim Hart is the Director of Arts Entrepreneurship at SMU and is founder of TITAN Teaterakademi. The International Theatre Academy Norway.


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