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The Hero with a Thousand Faces (first published in 1949) is a non-fiction book, and seminal work of comparative mythology by Joseph Campbell. In this publication, Campbell discusses his theory of the journey of the archetypal hero found in world mythologies and stories.

Since publication of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell’s theory has been consciously applied by a wide variety of modern writers and artists. The best known is perhaps George Lucas, who has acknowledged a debt to Campbell regarding the stories of the Star Wars films.

Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens

Campbell explores the theory that important stories from around the world which have survived for thousands of years all share a fundamental structure, which Campbell called the monomyth (see this TED talk for more on this). In a well-known quote from the introduction to The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell summarized the monomyth:

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

It is challenging to write a story, a good story that holds together and speaks to the human heart in any deep way, unless you borrow from God’s story. The nature of humanity and the things that we long for such as love, heroism and sacrifice, were put on our heart by God (see Ecclesiastes 3:11). You really can’t write a good story without borrowing from God’s story.

So if you pay attention to any of the powerful, contemporary films such as Titanic, Braveheart, Gladiator, The Matrix, or The Lord of the Rings series, you realise that you can’t create a gripping story without, consciously or unconsciously, telling God’s story. I would imagine that a lot of these screenwriters are aware of what they’re doing, but I think the success of “Titanic” is based entirely on the fact that it parallels the gospel. The love story, the ship going down in tragedy, he dies so that she might live…we want to be loved like that, we want to be rescued like that and we want to live in a story like that. It resonates with us.

Why is it that we just love stories with a hero and the villain? Because these stories mirror our own story. We all either want to be a hero, or have a hero rescue us. The villain is the evil one and is always present. We feel both of these characters every day as we all live in a broken world.

In the cave you fear to enter lies the treasure that you seek
– Joseph Campbell

The quest we face on this earth is all about the story. Will your story be great or small, will it impact or will be impacted, will it live or just exist. Your story is also a developing story – it is about learning and unlearning, doing and undoing, the advance and the retreat. Your story is set in a galactic battlefield.

So may you, my brothers and sisters, rediscover that your story is part of a much bigger and greater story. May your realise that your role in the great story is unique and is so important and vital to telling the greater story. You are the vulnerable courageous hero. It is your time to get in the arena of life and dare greatly. May this Force awaken within you.

The Story

Deep in the valley dark and cold
The Mystery greets the young and old
To lean and unlearn lessons past
For the restoration of your heart

Upon the hill so bleak and bare
When wild winds fight in deep despair
Threatens the holy and the whole
For the reformation of your soul

In the desert arid and dry
The sands of time stand idly by
The minutes from their hours unwind
For the refinement of your mind

Fear not – the Mystery still unknown,
Nor its ways of kind critique.
For in the cave –  you fear to enter,
Lies the treasure that you seek.

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Life, for most of us, feels like a movie we’ve arrived to twenty minutes late.

Sure, good things happen, sometimes beautiful things. But tragic things happen too. What does it mean? Here we are in the middle of a story that is sometimes wonderful, sometimes awful, and usually a confusing mixture of both. We really have no clue and about how to make sense of it all. We get despondent and start to lose heart.

We need to know the rest of the story – the larger story.

Travers-Cascade Track in Nelson Lakes National Park
               Travers-Cascade Track in Nelson Lakes National Park

We were all born into the midst of a great story begun before the dawn of time. A story of adventure, of risk and loss, heroism and betrayal. A story where good is warring against evil, danger lurks around every corner, and glorious deeds wait to be done. Think of all those stories you’ve ever loved—there’s a reason they stirred your heart. They’ve been trying to tell you about the true Epic ever since you were young.

There is a larger story And you have a crucial role to play.

So what is our response. Which story do we choose to live in? Mark Twain, the great writer reflected on the stories we live in.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

May you this week remember some of the fleeting images and memories that lead you to the larger story. May you remember that the mundane, the routine, and the usual all exist to lift our eyes and remind us that we are all caught up in something epic and exciting – the greatest story of all time. You are invited to this story and write your chapter. What will your story be?

The Inside Story

Explore the valleys
I have made
And you will find me
Deep within the forest glade

Dream your future
I planned for you
And you will find me
In your heart that’s true

Discover the frontier
Beyond boundaries you know
And I will find you
In the places you’ll go

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