Little things connect us as human beings, little things that we don’t always notice. Like our love of a good hero story.
Think of all the millions of dollars we spend on games and movies and TV shows that follow the exact same path and are filled with the same archetypical characters. It’s ingrained; we love seeing the Little Hero overcome the Big Bad. There’s a little bit of hero in all of us.
But there’s one thing we don’t always realise about this universal Hero’s Journey – it’s a story about giving, and that makes it a journey anyone can follow. With a little bit of generosity, we can all be heroes.
Don’t believe me? Let’s go on a journey and see who we meet...
HERO. In the story they’re a farm boy, or a servant girl, or an orphan, but in the real world they’re you. They get to be The Hero by giving away their past path, the easy path, to serve a greater good. Being The Hero is a circular journey; it starts at you and spirals ever outward to touch more and more people.
FAITHFUL FRIEND. Sometimes they’re the comic relief, sometimes they’re the one who keeps you standing no matter what comes your way. But the Faithful Friend is always there. ALWAYS. They are the person who, when The Hero is ready to step up and change the world, says 'Cool, how can I help?'
INNOCENT. You only get to be The Hero by saving, protecting, or giving yourself to The Innocent. In a story it’s the child from a prophecy, or a beautiful prince/ss, or a vulnerable group of villagers. They give something special to The Hero: inspiration, hope, and a reason to carry on. In the real world, The Innocent is anyone who desperately needs someone to give a shit. And sadly, they’re not hard to find.
MENTOR. The old hermit. The great warrior. The mysterious wise one. In the real world, The Mentor comes in a million disguises. Your kids. A poet on the street. A woman on a podcast. The Mentor is the one who gives of their knowledge to set The Hero on the right path.
TRICKSTER. The smart-arse hustler. The good-looking troublemaker. The wise-cracking sidekick. The Trickster’s that person you know who has more to give than anybody, but refuses to believe it. They’re the big gun pointed at the wrong target, the perfect voice fronting the wrong band, waiting for you to give them the right directions. The trick is to trick THEM – they’ll be giving before they know it.
VILLAIN. Every story needs a bad guy. The evil overlord. The terrible demon. The cruel tyrant. The legendary killer. Real life villains are laughable in their smallness, but insidious in their influence. They’re the snide reality show host. The politician who’s more worried about their connections than their portfolio. The tight-fisted manager. The self-absorbed knocker. The loud opinionator. But like any good story, you don’t get to find out everything about The Villain until we’re nearly at the end of our journey.
This is a Call.
These archetypal characters who populate so many of our myths, movies, games and binge-worthy TV shows resonate with us because they trigger some deep, hidden understanding of what it means to be human.
We all enter the great forest of life at one end, follow the twisting, turning paths through it, and eventually emerge on the other side. We don’t all encounter the same things along the way, but patterns and events and echoes exist that, if we listen hard enough, are there to lead us down the better paths. If you’re hearing the call, however faintly, to step up and be more generous with the world, here’s something to consider.
Remember how I said you don’t get to know everything about The Villain until the end? Well, here’s their secret. The Hero gives. The Mentor gives. The Innocent gives. Even The Trickster learns to give. But The Villain? They never give. They only take.
We all go to the movies and boo the bad guy. We all love finishing the boss level and taking down the BBEG. None of us side with The Villain. None of us applaud their selfishness. It’s because of our innate human nature: we know it’s wrong to care only for yourself. It’s human to give and we’re all born to be generous; we’re all born to be The Hero.
So why, in our real world, do we allow selfishness to win? Why don’t we make the choices that allow us to resist it? Time to step up, Hero! Generosity is calling.
No… This is Just The Beginning!
Illustrations by Natasha Vermeulen. Words by Mark Easterbrook. With thanks to Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell