As we age into elderhood, we are met with new challenges and opportunities. Rather than being a time of decline, it is really a time of blossoming fully into who we really are capable of being. Personas can finally be laid aside if we so choose and transformation into the “heroic journey” is possible in a unique and life altering way.
The writing of Joseph Campbell in his book, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, describes the concept of the hero’s journey as the path of courageous personal change.
Campbell identifies three elements that make up this concept:
• The hero is first challenged by a call to adventure, an adventure which will require some form of separation, loss or change.
• In choosing to respond to this call, the hero is faced with obstacles and ordeals on the path of initiation into something new.
•Finally, the hero is transformed, the “something new” is integrated, and the journey ends at a place of victory or new life.
Age does hold the gift of possibility to experience living in the expression of our deeper wisdom, that’s the good news. But, this does involve a strengthening of the understanding of commitment.
Goethe’s couplet offers the simplicity of what must be done as the inevitable chaos begins to present as the heroic journey unfolds. I come back to it over and over, as the winds of change have made me want to run for the hills.
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.
A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
As we grow older, we can become bolder in dealing with the inner fear that can stop us in our tracks as obstacles arise.
The stages of growth tend to develop in an opening spiral, a circular order that returns to each phase with the experiences of the previous ones included.
So, in a way, there is a return to a phase by cycling back to it; at the same time, the return is different, since the experiences have been accumulated.
Growth is dependent on coming to understand and accept our own personality, with all of it individual strengths and weaknesses. It seems to be true that things always get worse before they get better.
This can be interpreted as a sure sign to stop evolving and persisting and instead jump on a cruise ship to head for the high seas. It’s not that the cruise ship is such a bad idea, it is just to be clear on what your intention is for going there.
The call to elderhood is a call to adventure really. It may be that dreams were given up on in younger days for any number of reasons that seemed very compelling at the time.
Is it too late to revisit them as the transition into the third stage of life is taking hold? Only if we think that time cannot expand when we are truly doing what we love.
It is common knowledge that an artist immersed in the creation of a painting can go on for hours putting brush to paper and it seems like only minutes have passed.
Time does expand if we choose to believe that it is possible. And so it is with aging.
It is our perception of it that defines its passage. Sometimes, someone offers us a glimpse of a potentially fulfilling way to reassess the status quo. Sometimes, a situation stops us dead in the tracks of our current path.
However the call is initiated, we all have the opportunity to become the hero. When we are ready for the adventure—or when we can’t stand our old ways for one more day—we take some action to change.
Often some chaos and struggle ensues that requires courage to continue. While on a one day retreat a while back, in the quiet of my time in the woods, I watched a spider that made a seemingly impossible leap from the leaf of a tree onto another one some distance away. It missed and fell to the ground. It scuttled back up the branch and leapt from the leaf again. Again it fell to the ground.
I watched as it did this three more times.
Finally on the fifth try, it made it to the second leaf. The light shifted and I saw that in the process of struggling, the spider was actually spinning its web.
I realized that I had been observing the adversity, the tenacity, and the inevitable achievement of this tiny champion, unseen though it was in the midst of the action.
The obstacles that aging can and will present pose the inevitable test of whether we give up too soon or keep taking the leap to create something new.
That may be to revisit an old dream or passion that got left behind. It may be starting a whole new way of life that others may be critical of. But one thing is for certain, despite the difficulty that may present as you spin your own new web, staying with it will not leave you in regret.
A great future does await us, in our inner connection and in our outer achievement, if we seek to be our truest selves and take the heroic journey.