The Monojourney We Call Life

Jason, from Greek mythology, on his quest for the Golden Fleece

When I’m not thinking up story ideas, it seems like one of the things I find myself doing most often is pondering on life experiences as well as the various concepts I’ve read about in books on filmmaking, storytelling, writing, philosophy, psychology, self help literature, et al. Today I had an especially interesting epiphany regarding something we all share in common, which I call the “monojourney.” Allow me to explain.

An interesting concept from the writings of Joseph Campbell is that of the monomyth. Campbell asserts that every myth, fable, and legend ever told in every culture throughout the world is a reiteration of the same basic story–hence, the “monomyth.” Campbell addresses several archetypical characters that consistently recur in myths from many different lands, as well as the various trials that the hero must go through as he journeys into the underworld in order to obtain and return with the elixir of truth to share with the rest of mankind. Many filmmakers, including George Lucas, were studied in Joseph Campbell’s teachings, and consciously applied them to their storytelling, such as in the Star Wars films.

Carl Rogers, a psychologist, said “what is most personal is most universal.” In my life, I’ve found that to be true. We all have our own idiosyncrasies, strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes which make us unique. The world would be extremely boring if that were not the case. However, we are also all human, and we often experience similar ordeals, emotions, experiences, epiphanies. If this were not so, talking about our life experiences with others would be fruitless, as there could be no understanding, no common wisdom to be gained from communicating with each other. Because we all share some fundamental similarities, however, we can share our personal experiences and things we have learned in life, and others can resonate with them, and also profit from them by applying lessons we have learned into their own lives as well.

When I first read Anthony Robbin’s teachings on modeling in his book Unlimited Power, at first I was annoyed because I thought: I’m my own unique individual. I don’t want to copy what others are doing. But later I realized: Yes, I am a unique individual and always will be; however, I can see many similarities in my life to the experiences I read about and hear about in the lives of people I look up to, such as successful filmmakers, authors, etc. It is possible to retain our individuality and uniqueness while applying concepts learned from the lives of those we model ourselves after. In fact, it is not only possible, it is inevitable. We can no more become a clone of someone else than we can change our own DNA. We can, however, achieve triumphs in our own lives using the same principles others before us have used.

If every hero in every myth, story, novel, movie, poem, etc. is repeating some variation of the same monomyth, then it stands to reason that each of us as individuals is also on a quest, or a journey if you will, that in many aspects is the same journey that each of our peers also treads. While we as people are many, the journey is one. Although we often think that others can’t understand us, we may be quite shocked to find out that when we share our deepest, most inward feelings with another human being, the result is often that they understand us on a higher level, because in their heart of hearts, they too have experienced the exact same thing. The outer form, the circumstances of the experience is different, but the root emotion, the essence of what is happening on a very basic human level is the same.

Having situated and given a preface to my thoughts, let me share with you what I wrote in my journal today:

“The most valuable thing I can do for the rest of the world is to explore and better myself. That which is most personal is also the most universal. So the more I find out things about myself, delving deeper in search of self discovery and improvement, the more I’ll find gems that I can share with others. This applies to the world in general and my profession, as well as people in specific and my relationships, including my most important relationships. For example, I can help my son the most and be a better father if I discover more about myself and share what I learn with him. He therefore will be that much farther ahead in his own path of self discovery because of the things I’ve discovered, as well as the things I’ve done in my life. Since we are all human, we are all similar, and in many ways share the same journey. Just as the heroes of mythology follow one monomyth, we humans are all on the same monojourney we call life.”

May each of you find joy and success in your journey of self-disovery! I firmly believe that the most important knowledge is self-knowledge. It is only when we truly understand ourselves and our potential that we can help others around us to the fullest extent. Each of us is a treasure trove of unique talents and characteristics. It is only when we pursue and develop those talents that we can contribute meaningfully to the world, and to the people around us. As Joseph Campbell said and I have made my motto: “Follow your bliss.”

If you are interested in learning more about Joseph Campbell’s monomyth theory, I recommend reading his book Hero With a Thousand Faces.

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One comment

  1. […] others. In fact, Star Wars was intentionally patterned after it, as I discussed in my previous post The Monojourney We Call Life. The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler and Hero With a Thousand Faces were two of the first […]

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