April 29, 2010

Everyone Loves a Hero

The archetypical narrative of the hero’s journey – protagonist encounters a challenge, overcomes the challenge, and triumphs over negative forces -- has deep roots in the human psyche. As Steven Denning so brilliantly writes in The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling,

All of us tend to see our own life as a journey with goals and obstacles that get in the way of attaining those goals. So when we hear a story in the form of the hero’s journey, we respond from the deepest reaches of the psyche. This familiar way of looking at the world may be an illusion. True life may actually be a muddle, in which we may never get around to formulating clear goals, so we don’t set out on any journey in which, after encountering obstacles along the way, we finally attain our goal.

We become grown-ups only to find that there are no easy answers (and, to further complicate matters, we can’t let the kids see that we don’t have all the answers). The simple, reliable, and comforting structure of the hero’s journey is in fact how we make sense of the muddle of our lives, how we view our experiences in the world and the experiences of those around us, and how we retell it. The hero’s journey is how we comprehend and derive meaning from our messy lives and the vexing world surrounding us.

1 comment:

  1. On the other hand, I think we do kids a big disservice if they think we actually have all the answers! That way, when they make their own mistakes, they'll know it wasn't just them -- that everyone muddles through their lives sometimes.



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