Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Rethinking the Journey II

The true self isn’t discovered overnight. It’s important to remember that. Nearly every myth puts forth the story of a character who goes on a journey or quest. The Greek hero Perseus went on a quest to slay the Gorgon Medusa before he could rescue the princess Andromeda. Alice tumbled down a rabbit hole into the mystery of Wonderland. Siegfried traversed the perils of Isenland to awaken the sleeping Valkyrie, Brunhild. After a long journey to London, the young foster-child Arthur pulled the sword from the stone, revealing his true identity as the God-ordained King of All Britain. Frodo had to venture forth to destroy the Ring of Power in the fires of Mount Doom. The Sumerian hero Gilgamesh searched for the secret of immortality. Journeying toward a goal is an essential aspect of all myths and legends.

Yet we are all on a journey of this magnitude, whether or not we wish to recognize it as such. We encounter event after event that is not of our making or of our own choosing: a baby is born, a loved one dies, your family needs to move to another state, your car stalls on a backcountry road, . . . Frame by frame, chapter by chapter, life plays out as a story. Yes, dealing with such events is just part of being human. However, being human also involves the freedom to choose. One of the greatest tragedies in life is when we experience the journey of life, but ignore its meaning. If we choose to view our lives as anything less than a journey of mythical proportions, we will miss the true meaning behind our experiences. If we are to reach out to the next generation, we must first begin to open our eyes to the reality of the journey upon which we ourselves have embarked. We must see ourselves in a new light.

All heroes and heroines in myths and legends must first go on a journey, a journey that forces them to be more than they ever imagined they could be. It forces them to face their greatest fears, rather than avoiding them. It places them in situations that are uncomfortable and dangerous for the purpose of revealing their true capability. The quest at first appears to be disastrous, robbing them of life, but in the end, it is the journey itself that removes the veil from their hearts so that they can truly find life. If we want life, we must seek it out, fight for it.

The young people that we work with and love must be made aware of the importance of the journey, and that life is more than just random, meaningless events. They need to know that the journey is good, even if it is often painful. Their journey, their story, as Tolkien suggests, intersects with the stories of countless others, comprising the Great Story begun at the moment of Creation. We have an opportunity to intersect with and influence the journey of the young, and they will in turn add to our own story, and we will become better for it. They need to know that the journey will reveal their true identity, the person that the world so desperately needs them to be. We will begin to see this as well.


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