May 25, 2015

Joseph Campbell on How to Be a Hero.

Vassilis Photography

“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” ~ Joseph Campbell


Giving changes us.

Service to country is a genetic trait in my family. I wouldn’t say it’s tradition, I really believe there are members of my family that were born to serve. We have nurses, teachers, government servants and religious servants.

We serve.

As of today I have four cousins serving three out of four branches of the military. All of these family members have enlisted within the last two years. Their choice to enlist has allowed me to pause and ponder the hero’s path.

Am I a hero?

“He must put aside his pride, his virtue, beauty and life and bow or submit to the absolutely intolerable.” ~ Joseph Campbell, The Hero With a Thousand Faces

The individuals I personally know share a similar quality: whether they serve their mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, children, friends or their pets, they are devoted. They have a deep appreciation for loved ones. That appreciation may serve as a vessel to go on the hero’s path that Joseph Campbell speaks about in The Hero with a Thousand Faces:

“The usual hero adventure begins with someone from whom something has been taken, or who feels there is something lacking in the normal experience available or permitted to the members of society. The person then takes off on a series of adventures beyond the ordinary, either to recover what has been lost or to discover some life-giving elixir. It’s usually a cycle, a coming and a returning.” ~ Joseph Campbell, The Hero With a Thousand Faces

What might happen if I take the hero’s path?

Joseph Campbell talks about three phases of the hero: the departure, the initiation, and the return.

I have to believe that anyone that decides to embark down this path starts out like a blank page. The challenges they encounter initiate the hero’s story. The personal impact of the challenges determines the type of return the hero will experience.

The people I know in these positions before, during, and after are quite beautiful to behold. You can physically see the type of experience they’ve encountered. It’s easy to take a certain perspective and accuse someone who has served the public of being cynical now. That isn’t what happens, what happens is they have returned with a different outlook, sometimes it’s better and sometimes it’s heartbreaking.

What awaits me on my hero’s path?

“Perhaps some of us have to go through dark and devious ways before we can find the river of peace or the highroad to the soul’s destination.” ~ Joseph Campbell, The Hero With a Thousand Faces

There is conflict and criticism over so many civil service professions at this present moment. Police departments, military personnel, media reporters and anyone in education. As I stated before, I have to wonder how they have changed since they first started down this path.

We are all faced with “what would you do” moments.

Every day, you don’t have to be on a hero’s path to come across gut check situations.

So in some ways, we can all relate to the hero’s path.

If I choose not to go on this path, what then?

I’m not very good at deciding who is wrong or right on the spot. I see too many grey areas in life. Instead, I choose to think about the individual person and how I can be an understanding human being to someone who willingly chose to put themselves in harm’s way or in a position to face public ridicule or outcry. I think about how each person chooses to feel about this choice to put themselves out there, and I honor their feelings.

Finally, I choose to stand on the side of hope. I hope that no matter what happens, we will take care of each other.



Relephant Read: 

Cultivating the Hero’s Path.


Author: Michelle Taylor

Editor: Renée Picard

Photo Use: Vassilis Photography

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Michelle Taylor