Wednesday, July 2, 2014

We Are All Heroes

The morning light was catching the sweet peas that are crawling up outside my kitchen window, casting interesting shadows on the ledge. Our cat, Velcro, believes that the sun rises and sets for him everyday, so he had positioned himself against the window screen for maximum sunning. I grabbed my camera to catch the light. And I thought about writer Jon Katz, who has become a mentor and friend for a big, vibrant on-line community of which I am a part, encouraging awareness and creativity to take hold in life-changing ways.  Jon has just successfully braved heart by-pass surgery, and we are all so grateful that he is on the road to recovery.  It is another experience in what he often refers to as “the hero’s journey”.

I heard that phrase for the first time over 30 years ago, encountering it as I listened to Joseph Campbell and his “Power of Myth”. I was fortunate to be working at the time as a TV producer in the company that made the series of interviews that Campbell did with Bill Moyers.  Campbell described it as:
“You enter the forest
at the darkest point,
where there is no path.
Where there is a way or path,
it is someone else's path.
You are not on your own path.

If you follow someone else's way,
you are not going to realize
your potential.”

I understood what Campbell was saying, and I believed him.  But I could never think of myself as a hero on a journey.  It felt too egotistical. It seemed like something that men, not women, would think about their lives.  Men are taught to be heroes. Women aren't.

Recently, I’ve been on a pretty challenging part of my own journey. Driving up and down the road to my mom’s nursing home and the hospital for the past week, I look at all the houses, some tiny cottages and others ostentatious estates. I keep thinking that in each one, there are people who each have their own story to tell. So many stories, we all have them. Each one is valid. As I was in the barn with my wise old mare, Silk, this morning, I heard a voice in my head. Whenever this voice speaks to me – and it only happens as I’m standing next to my horse in the barn – I believe it’s Silk’s message to me. The voice said, “We’re all heroes. You just need to learn to value yourself and your life that way.”

There’s a quote from the Campbell and Moyers series which I’ve carried with me all these years:

Bill Moyers:  Do you ever have the sense when you are following your bliss, as I have at moments, of being helped by hidden hands?

Joseph Campbell:  All the time. It is miraculous. I even have a superstition that has grown on me as a result of invisible hands coming all the time - namely, that if you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss, and they open doors to you.  I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.

I think that’s what’s happening here right now.  Thank you, Jon Katz. 

The dictionary definition of hero is: “In mythology and legend, a man, often of divine ancestry, who is endowed with great courage and strength, celebrated for his bold exploits, and favored by the gods.”  Let’s change that to anyone, woman or man, acting with strength and courage to live the life that she or he believes they ought to be living, encouraging and helping others to do the same.


Calm, Forward, Straight said...

A perfect post for me to read today, and beautifully said Victoria.

I have so enjoyed your recent postings, and that they are becoming more frequent again. Thank you for taking the time to share, even when your life circumstances must make that more challenging.


redhorse said...

Yes, I love those quotes too. I love all of Campbells books, and I had all the tapes of the program with Moyers. I just don't have a tape player anymore. Someday I'll have to get them on DVD.

You were very fortunate to have been involved with that project.

Victoria Cummings said...

Thanks - great to hear from you - how are you and Val doing?

Victoria Cummings said...

CFS - Just saw the weather forecast for Arthur hitting the Outer Banks - take care and stay safe. Let us know how it goes - we'll be sending good thoughts to you during the storm.