Storytelling remains the backbone of our education. We grow up begging for bedtime stories; as adolescents, we yearn for television and movies; and, in adulthood, many of us turn to books.
Joseph Campbell, world-renowned mythologist and author, discussed at length the importance of myth. He had a wide understanding of myths across geography and time, and shared their commonalities through the concept of The Hero’s Journey. Most stories follow the same plot: An unsuspecting hero is called to adventure, leaves home, faces trials culminating in a great battle, and returns to share his victory.
We study myth not only to understand the world, but to understand ourselves.
“The latest incarnation of Oedipus, the continued romance of Beauty and the Beast, stand this afternoon on the corner of 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue, waiting for the traffic light to change.”
We tend to believe that our problems are uniquely our own, but the human experience has, and will continue to be, the human experience. There are no new fundamentals. We ask ourselves, “What is the meaning of life?” It’s the other way around. Life asks us, and we each answer by the way we live.
Our bookshelves are filled with the responses of great men.
The struggle of the individual against his culture is universal; the former, ceaselessly fighting to keep his head above water, striving to see with clear eyes; while, the latter rolls along merrily, carrying with it all whom oppose its stream. For those who see beyond their culture, fellowship can be found with heroes of the past.
“The hero, therefore, is the man or woman who has been able to battle past his personal and local historical limitations to the generally valid, normal human forms.”