Stephen, I really like the way you articulated the basic idea I was trying to get at and expanded on it. Yes, in a sense the idea of a patterned form to model after is usually what I think most people look to or think about in their idea or concept of what the hero represents “to them”. Joseph says something interesting about this that has come up in conversations about this topic in the forum discussions before. In the book: “An Open Life – Joseph Campbell in Conversation with Michael Toms”; on pages 109-110 he is talking about this concept a little bit differently than what we normally think of as the Hero as a set image and expounds on this model aspect but with a twist.
Michael Toms starts out by saying: “One of the things that seems to have been lost to us is the presence of the hero. We constantly search for the person who is going to pull us out, be it the President or Superman. But the knight on the charger is not appearing as we supposed he would.”
Joseph: “There are two aspects of the hero, I think. The hero is somebody whom you can lean on and who’s going to rescue you; he is an ideal. To live the heroic life is to live the individual adventure, really. One of the problems today that with the enormous transformation in the forms of our lives, the models for life don’t exist for us. In a traditional society—the agriculturally based city—there were relatively few life roles, and the models were there; there was a hero for each life role. But look at the last twenty years and what has come along in the way of life possibilities and requirements. The hero-as-model is one thing we lack, so each one has to be his own hero and follow the path that’s no path. It’s a very interesting situation.”
Toms: “Or at least the models we tend to use are very strange ones. I think of Hollywood stars…”
Joseph: “Oh, now those models come flashing in front of us and they are heroes of sorts. I think the athletic hero is right there. But these are bizarre kinds of heros because they can’t really be incorporated into one’s life. Actors, personalities, politicians—they are mostly heroes in life contexts that are not of the people who admire them. That’s just a curious result of the fact that our society is changing so fast. But I think there are heroes—there is just no doubt about it. I think Martin Luther King was a hero. Kennedy was a hero—both Kennedy’s. And certain athletes.”
Toms: “They filled the model.”
Joseph: “They filled the model. But they are not doing much for us in the way of helping us build our own lives. There are very few models for life. I think the individual has to find his own model. I found mine.”
Toms: “Isn’t it important to respect our own uniqueness?”
Joseph: “I think that’s the most important thing of all. That’s why, as I said, you really can’t follow a guru. You can’t ask somebody to give The Reason, but you can find one for yourself, you decide what the meaning of your life is to be. People talk about the meaning of life; there is no meaning to life—there are lots of meanings of different lives, and you must decide what you want your own to be.”
This to me is one of the things that gets lost in the “hero journey process” and must be rediscovered, often many times along the way of the individual’s journey/adventure. And you can say it’s a template of sorts; but a very different approach than what people most normally think of as the: “The Hero’s Journey” per say. And another very important thing is there is no roadmap into the dark forest; there is only the path that is no path. In other words, you are groping to find your way unique to yourself and often you have no idea where you are or where you need to go to get there; (wherever “there” is); so, to speak. “Lost in the woods” searching for your own individual unique destiny. You may hear a “call”, but even that disappears sometimes. This “Grail” business is not easy, or everyone would be able to do it; hence you are “the hero of your own life” as Joseph was pointing out. It’s not a model, at least in that sense I think, which to me is what Joseph was saying.
Now others may have their own take on this; and it’s not for me to say what’s right or wrong for anyone but myself. But this idea is what has spoken to me throughout my own life; (which has been sort of a work-in -process full of: all kinds of mistakes, wrong turns, bumps and bruises along the way).