In his classic book, “The Hero With a Thousand Faces”, Joseph Campbell poignantly described the common tragedy of the refusal of the call:
“Often in actual life, and not infrequently in the myths and popular tales, we encounter the dull case of the call unanswered; for it is always possible to turn the ear to other interests. Refusal of the summons converts the adventure into its negative. Walled in boredom, hard work, or “culture,” the subject loses the power of significant affirmative action and becomes a victim to be saved. His flowering world becomes a wasteland of dry stones and his life feels meaningless – even though, like King Minos, he may through titanic effort succeed in building an empire of renown. Whatever house he builds, it will be a house of death: a labyrinth of cyclopean walls to hide from him his Minotaur. All he can do is create new problems for himself and await the gradual approach of his disintegration.” (from The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell, Copyright 2004 by Princeton University Press)
Though this may sound bleak, it is sadly the norm.
Most of us settle in life. We may compromise our values because of peer pressure, parental influence, desperate conditions, comfort, pleasure, our own self-interests and egos. We take the job that is not our dream and we stay there. We follow someone else’s path and never find our own way.
We settle for passionless relationships and superficial friendships. We work for money, and we just survive. We buy things to satisfy a deeper need, but our needs are never satisfied. We seek thrills to feel alive, but those feelings fail to last. We remain empty and unfulfilled.
It is the exceptions who shine among us. They are the people who exude joy and enjoy near limitless energy in their day’s work. For them, such work is like play because it is their mission and their passion.
You know where they stand because they know who they are. Their words and actions are aligned with their beliefs. They exemplify integrity.
You are transformed by their presence because they are fully present. They are free from the burdens of the past that would hold us back – past pain and loss, unforgiven or unexpressed. They are not consumed with our anxiety for the future because they know that their life and their power is in the present.
Life remains an adventure – one in which they are fully engaged. It is a story which they coauthor, a work of art that they create.
They live for something greater than themselves, and this leads them in growth beyond their smaller selves and on a journey in which they will discover a profoundly deeper sense of self. They have heeded the call to live – the purpose of their lives, and they rise to meet the call of the moment and of each day.
Your exercise in happiness: Are you one of the few? Have you heeded the call?
What is your calling? What has your life said to you so far? What themes repeatedly arise in your life and in your relationships?
What do you need to do to feel complete? What holds you back from doing this?
Coming up: You – the hero of your own life story.