There Is Only One Story

Joseph Campbell was an American Mythologist. He gave attention to the bigger stories that guide and influence who we are as human beings and where we are headed. I remember reading some of Campbell’s writings in the 1990s. They were awakening kinds of material to me.

A friend, Dave Waugh, recently reminded me of a Joseph Campbell framing — “there is only one story.” In a Hero’s Journey kind of way, he named that there are four stages to the story.

One is hearing the call. Hearing the deeper invitation from life. Often heard in the heart and in the belly.

Two is facing obstacles. Things (or ourselves) almost seem to conspire to hold us from the waking. Life circumstance challenges us to added layers of resolve.

Three is receiving gifts. We earn things in our journey. Sometimes we earn the right to more trouble. We gain wisdom. We find grounding and soul.

Four is returning to community with more responsibility. Yah, this is the phase where we contribute to others on the journey. We hold space for them. We burn a fire for them.

This initiatory narrative is one that I find very helpful. It is at the heart of the Fire & Water Leadership Journey and Rite of Passage program that Quanita Roberson and I have created (we are now accepting applications for a 3rd journey that begins August 2021). This narrative helps to welcome the possibility of a bigger story that is expressed in our particular lives. This narrative deposits wisdom to life experience rather than reductive path that points only to failure, shame, and “not enough.”

I’m grateful for Campbell — his invitation to the story.

I’m grateful for my friend Dave, now in his late 60s, who encourages such a story in awareness and in the way we live, particularly men with men.

I’m grateful for the feeling of life as journey, and as mystery, that contributes added layers of meaning and purpose.

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