The Hero’s Journey…Death & Rebirth

This week my pup won a best actor award for her portrayal in my daughter’s stunt video for a college course. (Not sure what that says about the rest of the actors in the video, but…Bella does tend to steal the show.) Click below to view a clip.

In the actual movie clip, she closed her eyes and didn’t complain about being wounded while going down. But ah, these temperamental actors. This was the best I could get.

The portrayal got me thinking about the classic hero’s journey as originally described by Joseph Campbell. He observed that in most classic tales and myths, the hero must come to a kind of death, also referred to as the abyss, or the belly of the whale.

According to Campbell, the belly of the whale represents the final separation from the hero’s known world and self. By entering this stage, the hero shows willingness to undergo a metamorphosis.

The emphasis is mine, because it struck me in a fresh way as I read this. When I contemplate my hero’s journey, I usually think of him as being thrust into this stage by circumstances and the consequences of the difficult choices he’s been forced to make. Isn’t that how most of us feel when suddenly confronting death or dire situations? 

Yet, the hero inevitably has a choice as to how he or she will face, or refuse to face, the situation. By willingly entering the belly of the fish (so to speak) he or she shows a willingness to undergo a metamorphosis. Just as Christ willingly went to the cross that we might be reborn. (Okay, perhaps this would have been a more timely Easter post. *grin*)

Stanley Williams in his book The Moral Premise calls this turning point the moment of grace. That is the point where the hero realizes that the value he’s clinging to leads only to physical detriment, and chooses to embrace the virtue that will lead to betterment. (Unless of course, the book is a tragedy!)

In my pup’s case, she chooses to “die” because she has learned that she will be rewarded!

In life’s journey we face many “deaths to self” or “moments of grace”. These are the fodder of fiction.

Your Turn: Are you skirting the edge of an abyss in your life’s journey? What choices do you see before you? Is there some way I can pray for you? Have you experienced a life-changing metamorphosis, a kind of epiphany, after journeying through a difficult valley?

Special Note to my Newsletter Subscribers: I emailed my newsletter on Friday with the link to Rick & Ginny’s Christmas story. If you subscribed and haven’t seen the email in your inbox, please check your spam/junk mail folder. I hope you enjoy the story!

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