What is your dream?
In our younger days, this kind of question fascinated us a lot.
In the beginning, your life is an empty box. You have the freedom to put anything you want and decorate it for your preference. It is your box, and you own it. What do you want to put in it? How do you decorate it?
Your life is a piece of the blank canvas. It’s up to you what you want to draw and paint. Standing in front of it, you get excited to imagine what you would create your masterpiece at the end. Are you ready to be a great painter?
Imagining how you create your life, you are a novelist. Placing a sheet of paper on your typewriter or gazing at a blinking cursor on the screen in your computer, you have plenty of ideas for exciting storylines. Your life should be as dramatic as these plots in your mind.
Despite the types of analogies we can ponder, one commonality is that we are at the starting point in our younger days, and we are about to commence what we are supposed to do, and life should begin as we move forward.
That’s why we tend to consider our lives a journey, and it is your unique journey that you can plan, act, experience only one time in your life.
Based on various myths in the world, Joseph Campbell distilled this archetypal concept as the Hero’s Journey. Defining the three critical actions as Departure, Initiation, and Return, he elaborated seventeen stages in the Hero’s Journey:
- The Call to Adventure
- Refusal of the Call
- Supernatural Aid
- The Crossing of the First Threshold
- Belly of the Whale
- The Road of Trials
- The Meeting with the Goddess
- Woman as the Temptress
- Atonement with the Father/Abyss
- The Ultimate Boon
- Refusal of the Return
- The Magic Flight
- Rescue from Without
- The Crossing of the Return Threshold
- Master of the Two Worlds
- Freedom to Live
While I don’t go into details for each stage, from each name, we can guess and recognize what we are supposed to experience in each phase.
We hear that the masterpieces should contain these components. From the mythical to religious to historical, even contemporary perspectives, those figures we can recognize as heroes or heroines should have experienced them in their lives.
Even in the case of your box, canvas, novel, you have to go through them to make it a masterpiece. In order words, as long as it consists of these stages, even as simple as today’s cooking and shipping, anything can be your great artwork.
Your life looks like a mere empty box for now. But then, you don’t have to get disappointed. The Hero’s Journey is out there, and God is waiting for your Departure to make your life a great artwork as you are His masterpiece.
But then, let us not overexcite ourselves. Let us listen to the words of Rumi, which warns us of the misleading superficiality of those Hero’s Journey ingredients.
Rumi’s poetry, Dying, Laughing, starts as follows:
A lover was telling his beloved how much he loved her, how faithful he had been, how self-sacrificing, getting up at dawn every morning, fasting, giving up wealth and strength and fame, all for her.
There was a fire in him. He didn’t know where it came from, but it made him weep and melt like a candle.
“You’ve done well,” she said, “but listen to me. All this is the decor of love, the branches and leaves, and blossoms, and you must live at the root to be a true lover.
” Where is that! Tell me!”
Depicting a guy who loved his partner, Rumi warns us about our life obsessions. Using an analogy that life is one’s loving partner, we love it as if one loves one’s partner desperately. We exert all our efforts for the partner to prove how much we loved that person – how much we loved our lives.
Perhaps, you became successful by overcoming all challenges and adversities. Your Hero’s Journey looks perfect. You are ready to share all the tips and secrets with others as they admire your life as a success story for purchasing.
Using the words of the lover (life as your beloved partner), Rumi tells us otherwise. Only our fire decorated and burned the branches, leaves, and blossoms of the tree of life.
“You’ve done well,” she said, “but listen to me. All this is the decor of love, the branches and leaves, and blossoms, and you must live at the root to be a true lover.”
She said he must live at the root of the tree of life, which surprised him a lot. And he asked her back:
“Where is that! Tell me!”
She (life) answered:
“You’ve done the outward acts, but you haven’t died. You must die.”
As the guy in Rumi’s poetry, let me imagine and add his immediate reaction as follows:
“You, my life! I loved you so much. I did everything for you. You are my life and everything. But now you tell me, I must die. Are you saying I have to lose you after all the efforts?”
Your life is telling you to die, and you should lose yourself and her to gain yourself and her at the root level.
Life tells us: We must live at the root of life, and to do so, we must die. As long as we live at the branches, leaves, and blossoms, burning them with our fire, we can never light up the entire tree of life. We must live at the root, lighting up the whole tree of life, not with our fire, but God’s light.
Rumi describes his realization as follows:
When he heard that, he lay back on the ground laughing and died. He opened like a rose that dropped to the ground and died laughing.
Laugher cracked out upon realizing what living at the root level means and the meaning of the Return as the last stage of his Hero’s Journey. He had been burning his fire to decorate and light up his life superficially. He thought he was able to do well as his life said to him, “You’ve done well.”
But he missed the great light, which had been waiting for you to illuminate the entire tree of his life from the root level. So did we, and we can laugh at ourselves as he did.
That laughter was his freedom and his gift to the eternal. As moonlight shines back at the sun, he heard the call to come home and went.
When light returns to its source, it takes nothing of what it has illuminated. It may have shone on a garbage dump, or a garden, or in the center of a human eye. No matter.
It goes, and when it does, the open plain becomes passionately desolate, wanting it back.
The fire of our ego shines on a garbage dump, while the great light we miss has been out there ever since. Returning to the great light, we no longer worry about the fire. The light is limitless and infinite. We are the children of this light.
Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness.1 Thessalonians 5:5
Image by Larisa Koshkina