As the Year Fades Out

The sun was reborn 5 days ago, but the calendar lingers woefully along. Five more days of 2011 still to endure. At least there was a continual flow of comic relief during much of 2011: the burlesque show known as the GOP presidential race. Medical experts tell us that it is healthy to laugh and those who do, add months or years to their lives. That’s good news to me because I figure that I’ve added perhaps 5 years to my lifespan watching and listening to the array of comics who took the stage this year to do stand-up comedy. The Donald; Michelle; the Newt; Cowboy Rick; Herman; The Mitt. Only the clown make-up was missing.

Kids love clowns and you hate to shatter their image by telling them that clowns are just ordinary, simple people with face-paint and odd clothing, doing moronic stuff. Let the myth endure. The wearing of masks is still a common practice in many primitive cultures around the globe. The masks serve to help the people, especially the children, understand the power of myth in their lives. Modern industrialized cultures have dropped the masks and therefore the children have a much more difficult time absorbing the common myths associated with their culture. The Santa suit, Halloween costume and the occasional visit to the circus are the few remnants of the customs of our primitive ancestors.

Regarding myth, I’ve read some of the writings of the foremost teacher of myth, Joseph Campbell. In one of his most famous books, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell notes that, as the title of the book suggests, the ‘hero’ is a common phenomenon throughout the world and shares the same set of enduring characteristics and a similar life-journey. The heroes of the religions of the world all move through the same set of phases; only the names, dates and places change.

Campbell calls this common adventure the ‘Hero’s Journey’ Monomyth. I wonder if we could apply this journey to the Office of the President? Surely, not all U.S. Presidents followed the hero’s journey because some were accidental presidents while others were presidents for a specific mission- our war generals, for example.

As we approach the next presidential election year, it may be fitting to apply Campbell’s Monomyth to those who would seek that high office. As a strong military leader is not needed this year, perhaps the monomyth may give us a guide to who more closely fits that hero mold.  We Americans both love and believe in myth perhaps more strongly than in any of the other industrialized nations of the world. If this holds true in our politics as well, then,  as voters begin think about  their choice, we might ask: Which of the GOP candidates and Barack Obama comes closest to fulfilling the ideal of the hero circle?

Here is a diagram of Joseph Campbell’s ‘Hero’s Journey’ Monomyth:

Does this 17-step process help us in choosing our President? If so, which of the current set of candidates has, in your opinion, completed more of the journey than others? And what does that portend?

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4 thoughts on “As the Year Fades Out

  1. Hello Muddy,
    I love and respect Joseph Campbell’s insights. I especially enjoyed the Bill Moyers interviews with him with regards to the book, “Power of Myth.” For me this interview was a “Grand Eye Opener” of critical understanding and logic. I was riveted when this was first broadcast and I have since obtained the book on CD’s for myself and to pass on to my daughter for her personal education.

    When reading your posting what came to my mind too were the masks of “Greek Comedy and Drama” along with the traditional Japanese theatre that includes Kabuki, Noh, Kyogen, and Bunraku. Of course with my A.D.D. mind instantly came up with the mental picture with one of these candidates with the traditional Japanese “Demon” mask. Had to laugh.

    May I complement you on a posting that is a good food for thought.

  2. Well, I have a brief moment on the computer at the New York Public
    Library to say hello to all. What a week we have had. Have taken in
    4 plays, many museums, and miles of walking, lol…However, the
    high light of the trip has to be time spent at “Occupy Wall Street”. I
    will bring you up to date when we return home on Wednesday. They
    are being given the run around, but they are determined to stay the
    course.

  3. To me it looks like 2 of the GOP candidates fell at the bottom of the circle, the “Temptation” phase. Newt and Cain seemed to have fallen off of the circle right there. The others got past that point at least as far as we know.

    Rick Perry went astray at the ‘Crossing the first threshold’ when, at the debates, it became clear that his head was mostly empty. Perry found himself leaving from the safety of Texas [as part-time governor] and running directly into an unpredictable place, where the ‘rules’ are different than he was used to and, as he found out, the cost of miscues is enormous.

    Michelle Bachmann similarly failed to cross that first threshold with her obvious lack of knowledge of American history. The GOP primary voters will forgive that, but the general election voters will not.

    The stage called, “Meeting of the Goddess” is interesting. Campbell notes that this goddess can be a human woman or a spiritual goddess. Although God’s Own Party claims the Father as their own, the female gender is, in the Christian tradition, summarily dismissed. It’s an all-boy’s genre. That leaves the ‘goddess’ to a human- either the mother or spouse. What do we know of the spouses of the remaining candidates? How important is she in the life of the husband? Mrs. Romney and Mrs. Obama have been quite visible. What about Mrs. Paul and Mrs. Santorum? Where are they in all of this?

    The two adjoining phases, Road of Trials and Belly of the Whale are similar in intention, but differing in degree. The hero needs to be tested and, of course, he needs to succeed. Of Paul, Santorum, Romney and Obama, which has run the more difficult gauntlet of life?

    Surely not the son of the rich and famous George Wilcken Romney, CEO of American Motors Corporation, Governor, Presidential candidate and Secretary of HUD. The son surely had few obstacles in his path to adulthood.

    Barack Obama is the son of Stanley Ann Dunham.

    Ron Paul is the son of Howard Caspar Paul and Margaret Dumont.

    Rick Santorum is the son of Aldo Santorum (born 1923 in Trentino, northern Italy) and Catherine Keane.

    All four candidates went to college.

    Thus, if the Road of Trials and the Belly of the Whale are important steps in the formation of the hero, Romney is out at this stage.

    The stage labeled, Atonement with the Father, is apparently important to only Barack Obama, for he is the only one of the four without a father-figure, as far s we know. Had Obama ‘atoned?’ In common mythology, the son is challenged to ‘beat’ the father figure, and, following that, he takes the head of the table and thus becomes the father. Obama, as President of the United States, clearly ‘beat’ is absent father.

    Each of these men has reached a ‘Boon’ in their lives, but only Obama has reached The Ultimate Boon. Therefore, Obama has ready to move to the next stage, Refusal of the Return, where the hero wants to stay in the place where he has found bliss and enlightenment.

    This is where I need to end my comments on this topic.

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