We have our own Hero’s Journey to fulfill

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We have our own Hero's Journey to fulfill

By John Ruberry

As we are in the Lenten sea­son it is nat­ural to look at Christ’s life and teach­ings – even if you are not a per­son of faith or you are a believer of a non-​Christian reli­gion. In these reflec­tions, how­ever, what is often over­looked is that Jesus faced three temptations.

I was reminded of these temp­ta­tions while watch­ing again the 1988 PBS series Joseph Camp­bell and the Power of Myth on Net­flix. Although raised a Catholic, Camp­bell was an athe­ist. He was a pro­po­nent of the uni­ver­sal­ity of myth across cul­tures which is best explained in his influ­en­tial 1949 book, The Hero with a Thou­sand Faces, which was a major influ­ence on George Lucas’ Star Wars fran­chise. It was in that book where the term the Hero’s Jour­ney became popularized.

Accord­ing to Scrip­ture the devil tempted Jesus three times. First phys­i­cally, while he fast­ing after his bap­tism, when Christ admon­ished Satan, “It is writ­ten, Man shall not live by bread alone.” Then with van­ity, when the devil chal­lenged Jesus to throw him­self from a tall tem­ple, and finally with prob­a­bly the most allur­ing temp­ta­tion, in exchange for sub­mit­ting to Satan, Jesus would be given the power to rule all nations, that is, the com­plete power and domin­ion over others.

Now think of Darth Vader’s appeal to Luke Sky­walker to abuse the Force in the best of the Star Wars movies, The Empire Strikes Back. “If you only knew the power of the Dark Side,” Vader tells Luke. That power is totalitarianism.

In J.R.R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, other than invis­i­bil­ity, the real power of Sauron’s One Ring, which Frodo has vowed to destroy, is only vaguely described. But the greater and more treach­er­ous power of the Ring is the same one found in the Dark Side of the Force.

Jesus resisted those three temp­ta­tions. Luke refused his father’s over­ture. Frodo stayed true to his mis­sion as long as he could. Even Vader redeemed him­self in the end.

In The Power of Myth, host Bill Moy­ers com­ments to Camp­bell, “But I can hear some­one out there in the audi­ence say­ing, ‘Well, that’s all well and good for the imag­i­na­tion of a George Lucas or for the schol­ar­ship of a Joseph Camp­bell, but that isn’t what hap­pens in my life.’”

Which brings this quick reply from Camp­bell, “You bet it does. If the per­son doesn’t lis­ten to the demands of his own spir­i­tual and heart life, and insists on a cer­tain pro­gram, you’re going to have a schiz­o­phrenic crack-​up. The per­son has put him­self off-​center; he has aligned him­self with a pro­gram­matic life, and it’s not the one the body’s inter­ested in at all. And the world’s full of peo­ple who have stopped lis­ten­ing to themselves.”

Camp­bell believed peo­ple are mostly good and the bet­ter com­mu­ni­ties are pro­grammed for such a life. And yes, “the world’s full of peo­ple who have stopped lis­ten­ing to themselves.”

These are the peo­ple who become, eth­i­cally speak­ing, mon­sters, albeit with­out the Darth Vader mask or the devil’s horns. They are the home repair scam­mers who replace per­fectly work­ing fur­naces with over­priced new ones, the fur­ni­ture sales peo­ple who sell a pro­tec­tion plan of dubi­ous value that is sad­dled with an ardu­ous claims process, or the remit­tance clerks, with the bless­ings of their bosses, who bill Medicare for treat­ment never deliv­ered to patients who don’t exist. They’ve com­mit­ted them­selves to a cor­rupt sys­tem. They are betray­ing soci­ety and yes, them­selves. These beasts see other peo­ple merely as step­ping­stones to achieve their own ends.

So yes, Camp­bell was right. We have a Hero’s Jour­ney in front of us. Sure, it’s seem­ingly eas­ier to lie and cheat your way to pros­per­ity, rather than earn­ing your way. But a healthy soci­ety must be con­trolled by the right­eous who resist temp­ta­tions such as the ones I just described. Oth­er­wise soci­ety will be at war with itself.

And if you’ve read this blog entry this far, then you are among the righteous.

Remain that way.

John Ruberry reg­u­larly blogs at Marathon Pun­dit.

By John Ruberry

As we are in the Lenten season it is natural to look at Christ’s life and teachings–even if you are not a person of faith or you are a believer of a non-Christian religion. In these reflections, however, what is often overlooked is that Jesus faced three temptations.

I was reminded of these temptations while watching again the 1988 PBS series Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth on Netflix. Although raised a Catholic, Campbell was an atheist. He was a proponent of the universality of myth across cultures which is best explained in his influential 1949 book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, which was a major influence on George Lucas’ Star Wars franchise. It was in that book where the term the Hero’s Journey became popularized.

According to Scripture the devil tempted Jesus three times. First physically, while he fasting after his baptism, when Christ admonished Satan, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone.” Then with vanity, when the devil challenged Jesus to throw himself from a tall temple, and finally with probably the most alluring temptation, in exchange for submitting to Satan, Jesus would be given the power to rule all nations, that is, the complete power and dominion over others.

Now think of Darth Vader’s appeal to Luke Skywalker to abuse the Force in the best of the Star Wars movies, The Empire Strikes Back. “If you only knew the power of the Dark Side,” Vader tells Luke. That power is totalitarianism.

In J.R.R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, other than invisibility, the real power of Sauron’s One Ring, which Frodo has vowed to destroy, is only vaguely described. But the greater and more treacherous power of the Ring is the same one found in the Dark Side of the Force.

Jesus resisted those three temptations. Luke refused his father’s overture. Frodo stayed true to his mission as long as he could. Even Vader redeemed himself in the end.

In The Power of Myth, host Bill Moyers comments to Campbell, “But I can hear someone out there in the audience saying, ‘Well, that’s all well and good for the imagination of a George Lucas or for the scholarship of a Joseph Campbell, but that isn’t what happens in my life.'”

Which brings this quick reply from Campbell, “You bet it does. If the person doesn’t listen to the demands of his own spiritual and heart life, and insists on a certain program, you’re going to have a schizophrenic crack-up. The person has put himself off-center; he has aligned himself with a programmatic life, and it’s not the one the body’s interested in at all. And the world’s full of people who have stopped listening to themselves.”

Campbell believed people are mostly good and the better communities are programmed for such a life. And yes, “the world’s full of people who have stopped listening to themselves.”

These are the people who become, ethically speaking, monsters, albeit without the Darth Vader mask or the devil’s horns. They are the home repair scammers who replace perfectly working furnaces with overpriced new ones, the furniture sales people who sell a protection plan of dubious value that is saddled with an arduous claims process, or the remittance clerks, with the blessings of their bosses, who bill Medicare for treatment never delivered to patients who don’t exist. They’ve committed themselves to a corrupt system. They are betraying society and yes, themselves. These beasts see other people merely as steppingstones to achieve their own ends.

So yes, Campbell was right. We have a Hero’s Journey in front of us. Sure, it’s seemingly easier to lie and cheat your way to prosperity, rather than earning your way. But a healthy society must be controlled by the righteous who resist temptations such as the ones I just described. Otherwise society will be at war with itself.

And if you’ve read this blog entry this far, then you are among the righteous.

Remain that way.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.