Every Departure from Routine . . .

Wandering, part 3

Hero's Journey: Stages 6-9

Stage six: Tests, Allies, Enemies. Challenges and resources arise in the unfamiliar world and begin to transform the Hero.
  • Harry adjusts to life at Hogwarts.
  • Han Solo and Chewbacca agree to take Luke and Obi-Wan to Alderaan.
  • Morpheus trains Neo to fulfill his role as “The One” who will free humanity.
  • Peter becomes Spider-Man, and takes photos for the Daily Bugle.
  • Nala finds Simbha and the two fall in love.
  • The Fellowship faces the Balrog, who takes down Gandalf.
  • Katniss must deal with Peeta confessing his secret love for her, and, in the arena, she allies with Rue.
Stage seven: The ordeal reaches its most dangerous physical test or deep inner crisis.
The Hero uses and solidifies the learning, resources, and self-transformation gained so far to face this ordeal.
  • Harry, Ron, and Hermione plan to get the Philosopher’s Stone before Snape and must overcome the obstacles set up to protect the Stone
  • Luke and company invade the Death Star to rescue Leia, and, in the process, Darth Vader kills Obi-Wan Kenobi.
  • Peter, having refused to join Norman Osborne, the Green Goblin, must rescue Mary Jane, whom The Green Goblin then kidnapped.
  • Nala asks Simbha to return to the Pride Lands and take the throne from Scar, and Simbha returns to take on Scar.
  • As the Fellowship of the Ring dissolves, Frodo and Sam alone head into Mordor. On the very brink of the pit of lava, Frodo’s ordeal at last defeats him, but fate in the form of Gollum rescues Frodo from himself by biting off Frodo’s finger, and falling, with the ring into the lava.
  • Katniss is alerted to a rules change allowing tributes from the same district to win as a team. She nurses Peeta back to health, only to then have the new rule revoked – putting Katniss and Peeta under command to try to kill each other.
Stage eight: Resurrection and the Road Back. The Hero’s new condition emerges, her former self having “died” in the Ordeal. The new self faces additional challenges that test and further refine the transformation.
  • Harry, transformed by getting into the room where the Philosopher’s Stone is hidden, his new self then faces Professor Quirrel, who has been hosting Voldemort in his body.
  • Luke joins the rebels, refuses Han Solo’s offer to leave. His new self then uses the force to destroy the Death Star.
  • Agent Smith kills Neo. Trinity whispers to Neo that the Oracle told her that she would fall in love with the One, and that Neo cannot be dead because she loves him. She kisses Neo, and he revives. Neo’s new self then defeats Smith.
  • Peter Parker’s new self responds to Mary Jane’s confession of love by choosing to reject her to keep her from danger.
  • Simbha’s new self learns that Scar killed his father. Simbha throws scar off Pride Rock.
  • Frodo and Sam reunite with the Fellowship, and face challenges on the road home.
  • Katniss’ new self decides on double suicide by eating poison berries. The authorities concede just in time to save her and Peeta.
Final stage: the return home. The hero re-enters the familiar, but is changed. She brings closer, wiser, more wholesome relations to the people and things of the Ordinary World. Home is not the same because the hero is not the same. Or maybe, home is what it has always been, but the hero now sees it more clearly for what it is. As T.S. Eliot sums up the hero’s journey:
“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time."
In Praise of Aimlessness

The good of wandering, when it is a good, is to encounter something new, unpredictable, something we-know-not-what. In this way, the aimlessness of wandering is crucial.

If you have a purpose – if you really understood your purpose – then it isn’t wandering, isn’t truly encountering something new, but is only further carrying out the purposes that already define you. By encountering the new, the not-already-understood, you become new, transformed.

The function of grand epics like Harry’s or Luke’s or Frodo’s or Katniss’, is to attune us to possibilities for enacting small-scale versions of that story arc in our own lives. Every time we depart from routine, try something new, a potential hero’s journey stretches before us.

Every vacation can be a mini hero’s journey: as we face challenges – and open ourselves to what they might teach us. This word, "wandering," is a reminder that you don’t always have to have a purpose. At the same time, there are options less extreme than abandoning everything for good to hit the road in a Pinto. Instead you can do what most people do: leave home for a little while, taking your keys with us and knowing you’ll be back. You can drift and wrestle for a while, not knowing where or why – seeking, or awaiting the emergence of, a new purpose -- and the new you who can pursue it.

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This is part 3 of 3 of "Wandering"
See also
Part 1: The Pleasure and Pain of Wandering
Part 2: Stages on the Hero's Journey

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