I love when there is mandatory movie watching in class. This past week, we curled up in our Mexican blankets, laid out on our mats supported by props and bolsters, and watched “Finding Joe.” It is an ode to Joseph Campbell, the writer, anthropologist and champion of the hero’s quest.
We all know the story: the protagonist has an evolutionary awakening or calling, feels the need to leave home, journey out to discover who or what is knocking on the door, and later returns home to report the news. Examples are Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz,” Neo from “The Matrix” and Atreyu in “The Neverending Story.” The list is as long as IMDB’s title search, because the story inspires almost every Hollywood screenplay. Even Buddha followed the script long before Steven Spielberg and concluded with the same answer: “It is you.”
“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” -Joseph Campbell
This is a basic evolutionary principle that most of us are deathly afraid of (pun intended, of course): we are afraid to let go of our beliefs, or more importantly, other people’s beliefs and live in the freefall of uncertainty. To strike out on the quest for self-definition is to figuratively, and sometimes literally, leave the comfort of home.
All the usual suspects come forth to haunt those who step beyond the armor of security into the cave of exploration: fear, doubt, insecurity, worries of what others will think, even worries about what they might find there. Who knows, you might even meet your dragon?
Through the tales of slaying dragons, slipping off a cliff into the abyss and crying oneself to sleep through the darkest night of the soul, there is always an answer. That answer is usually greater self-understanding, more confidence, a deeper education about the world and thus, a new definition of happiness. The only thing we have to lose in taking the leap into the unknown is our old sense of self. The only thing we have to gain is potentially a better life.
Go ahead, find your dragon and ask him to guide you to your bliss.