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?