The Hero’s Journey: A Solid Kick to the Groin

Last month I published one of my old “Letters from the Publisher” from back when The Magical Buffet was a monthly e-zine because the letters didn’t migrate over to the new blog format. As I said then, most of my letters aren’t worth republishing. However there were a few that shared some of my more personal thoughts that I wanted new readers to have access to. With that said, here is my “Letter from the Publisher” from August 2007.

In folklore, mythology, history, and religion you will find instances of the “hero’s journey”. Much like Jung’s archetypes, the hero’s journey is universal regardless of culture. The basic, bare bones telling of the hero’s journey is as follows:

A member of a tribe, through fate or choice, becomes exiled by their fellow tribesmen, thrown out, or leaves the tribe. Thus begins the hero’s journey, where the hero learns of a different purpose separate of the tribe, has their purpose tested, and inevitably they return where they are welcomed back as one who has gifts to share with the tribe.

Does that sound familiar to you now? How about, an independent blind girl in an isolated village in old Pennsylvania suddenly must leave her family and village to travel through a dark alien forest inhabited by horrible monsters to get medicine for her dying true love? Yes, that’s the plot for the film “The Village”, and it is a marvelous example of the hero’s journey.

It sounds so brave, so noble, the hero’s journey. Down right epic. Doesn’t it just seem like everything should just fall into place? You know your purpose, you’re to lead the Jews out of Egypt, you’re to find the shard (do you know what that one is from?), you’re to do whatever “it” is. It just seems like once the hero steps on the path, each step is surely predestined to land exactly where it should be. On the surface, it would appear to be a place where there is no doubt or fear.

Of course, life has the tendency to kick you in the groin. Heroes suffer, physically and I am sure, emotionally. To paraphrase a thought from Carolyn Myss’s book “Sacred Contracts”, if Buddha could occasionally wonder if he’s on the right path, well then EVERYBODY has got to wonder from time to time, no matter how certain the path seems. There you are, certain that this is it, the path to take. Each of your steps fall exactly as you feel fate would have it. But just as every hero on the journey encounters obstacles that make them wonder, life kicks us average Joes square in the groin, and let’s face it, that makes anyone wonder.

We don’t all have epic hero’s journeys to take, but all of us want to find a path to follow. I consider these to be “average Joe” journeys. None of us want to start our own religion or feel we’re going to end up in circumstances where the fate of the known world is in our hands. “Average Joes” want to know they’re doing right for themselves, their families, and their communities. Just because we’re “average”, doesn’t make our “average” journeys any less scary, painful, or difficult. As I have said, and will say again, life will sometimes just kick you in the groin. Occasionally, while you’re crunched in the fetal position, rolling around on the floor, life will gut kick you, just to make sure you felt it. The thing that makes the journey heroic is when you get back up and start on the path again.

This month’s issue features lots of wonderful people who in my opinion are undertaking extraordinary journeys: Lisa McSherry, who is helping us explore nature based spirituality online; the editorial staff of Hinduism Today, that helps hopeless bumblers like me understand what Hinduism is; and the folks at Pagan Troop Support, that insure that Pagan and Wiccan soldiers are supplied with the tools necessary to practice their faith. I’d be comfortable knowing that the fate of the world was in their hands.


This one resonates with me more today than it did a few years back. At the time I wrote this, the extent of my “Average Joe” journey was working on my Bachelors in Metaphysics and figuring out how to make The Magical Buffet work. As I’ve alluded to a few times, I’ve been having prolonged health issues. These have made everything harder, much harder. Although I rarely find it the case, my husband assures me that despite what I think I handle my unpredictable health and bevy of doctors and appointments well. Honestly, I don’t see it. However, in looking this old letter over, I see it staring right at me. “The thing that makes the journey heroic is when you get back up and start on the path again.”

It’s true that no matter how many times I’ve been given false hope, how many times I’ve exhausted the limits of allegedly the greatest health care system in the world, the plans that I’ve had to cancel, and the times I’ve tried to play through the pain only to fail, despite every time I want to just drop out and let life happen around me, my body refuses to stop and I get up the next day and do it all over again. And before you think, oh how heroic, trust me, it’s not. It’s ugly and trying and essentially devoid of any triumph. That said, I can perhaps now see, from the outside looking in, how it might not be heroic, but it could certainly be an “Average Joe” journey.

Also, I still stand by referencing “The Village”. I liked that movie, okay? Sure, the “big reveal” may not have been that shocking, or whatever else people seem to like to grouse about, but I liked it. If you have a heart in your chest how could you not have loved at least 85% of that movie? Was it “Unbreakable”? No. Was it “The Sixth Sense”? People, get over that, you can’t make “The Sixth Sense” twice. Could I have used “Alice in Wonderland” or “The Wizard of Oz” as examples? Yes, but by my calculations it would have made this post 75% less cool. Although if I were to write this one again today, I probably would drop “The Village” in favor of a “Kathy Griffin’s My Life on the D-List” reference. The same calculations show this would have made the post 120% cooler.