“Out of the ruins, out from the wreckage...
.. We don't need another hero,
We don't need to know the way home
All we want is life beyond the Thunderdome”
Terry Britten & Graham Lyle (or is it Clive Gollings and Graeme Willey?) as sung by Tina Turner – We don’t need another hero
The desert air shimmers. A form dissolves, undulates, begins to re-solve into a semblance of recognisable shape and meaning. A human figure cresting a symbolic horizon, striding triumphantly (?) into centre frame. In time to save the day, to bring vital knowledge, ability, leadership to the desperate. Fuel from across the wasteland. An artefact with crucial powers to ignite hope and resilience. The grail. An ark. Droids! The returning hero with the map to a more sustainable land...
Indy hurtles down the corridor, darts whistling past his ears, cobwebs stringing across his face at every turn. Pursued by...something. An albatross hanging heavy on his neck...?!
Finally, Dave Bowman relents, steps into the void, plunges through the Stargate and into an impossible yet entirely realisable present. A transfiguration that requires the giving up of his last umbilical connection to what he/we cling onto as ‘reality’. The ultimate sacrifice. Plunged through a vortex of torment, of utter destruction of ego, identifiy, self. Through a miasma of light, aural chaos and the banishment of all sense and concept of what ‘is’ or should be in conventional wisdom, he is thrust out naked, vulnerable, reborn. Transformed.
What on earth is all this about?! The narrative medium that encapsulates our rich source of myth, storytelling and symbolic mythology draws a common thread through the theme of the Hero’s Journey. Popularised (but not originating with) Joseph Campbell in his seminal works on mythology and symbology, this is the ‘story’ that recurs throughout our literary heritage. It is the returning hero who started out ‘innocent’ but curious on the road to discovery. (S)he set out to see what lay beyond the garden gate, to see where the road led. To wander to the edge of the map and see in what form there ‘lay dragons’. Curiosity gave way to commitment as the road steepened and the distance from home and invested effort warranted continuing rather than abandoning the journey. Fatigue set in, and spawned concern, anxiety, despair. Commitment waned but now s/he felt lost, uncertain, doubtful. Something within kept the drive in forward motion. At the point beyond no return, complete breakdown threatened. And somewhere deep inside this ignited hidden reserves, and a second wind. Trauma catalysed growth, the building of strength, and invigorated new heights of composure, of confidence, of resolution and resolve. Identity reconsitituted, strengthenened. Wiser and more resilient. And now the desire to return and relay these lessons back home, inspiring through fortitude, and a sense of purpose for the good of the many.
The seeds of this Hero’s Journey, a quest for transcendence through the necessary trials and tribulations found on the road to Mount Doom, Camelot, Dagobah, Beyond the Infinite can be argued as being at the heart of what motivates us to embark on adventurous experiences. Such as we might aspire to travel somewhere 'a bit different'. Or try a new activity. To stretch ourselves and push beyond the sedentary, conformist nature of daily life seeking to live renewed. It is that resolve tomorrow morning to do things differently. To kick that habit. To approach life with a fresh perspective. To make things happen. In short too change. This rests in the archetypal unconscious, that desire to transform. And as the archetype implies, this will be a traumatic process by necessity.
As a concept for providing ‘transformational experiences’ Adventure Tourism is an arena that is tailormade to facilitate this ‘hero’s journey’. Why does anyone seek to have such an experience, whatever that may constitute? (For instance, from a guided tour of a place a little ‘off the beaten track’ through to a self supported expedition to climb a new peak – all arguably different points along a contimuum of ‘adventurous’ experience.) At some level this speaks to a desire to travel that same road to self discovery, breakdown and reconstitution. In the course of further pieces I will explore further how the way the brain functions connectively mirrors this mythical process, enabling growth, and in parallel, ‘self-development’ as is ‘experienced’ by the individual. In doing so some usable principles should emerge as a sort of (neural) map towards self-mastery (in a sense not intended to sound pompous or aggrandising). Dovetailed with this are other strands, for instance the prospective role of technology in the future of experience, adventure and personal development. In particular concerning Virtual and Artificially Intelligent modes of technology that become ever more integrated in our cultural milieu and sense of self, identity and capacity to ‘experience’ the world, reality, and our very place own future role in proceedings!
Max surveys the wreckage of the civilization to which he has returned. Battered, battle weary, limping and haunted, he nevertheless knows he has done what he was required to do. The community is provided for. Their stability and security assured...for now. He is neither jubilant nor dismayed, he has been into the hellish wastes, lived as a soul in torment, been destroyed, but somehow...survived. For that he holds deep down a sense that he can prevail against the worst that the desert can throw at him. And with that, his work done, his function complete, he turns about, surveys the endless horizon, the inferno of the wasteland, and slowly limps back in the direction he came. Smiling the crazed smile of a man who has not a care in the world.