THE HERO'S JOURNEY
What do we take with us after experiencing a global pandemic?
The Hero’s Journey, also called the monomyth, is a commonly used narrative framework. I learned about it this semester in a Pop Culture class with Professor Garth Friesen. Since then, I can’t help but see this framework all around me – in movies, TV shows, the Bible, and real life.
Since March 2020, we as a world, as a college, and as individuals have lived through a global pandemic. It’s almost uncanny how our journey has resembled the typical Hero’s Journey. As I reflected on the similarities, I noticed that there is wisdom to be found in knowing the path of the archetypal hero that lends itself to our real-life circumstances.
The hero starts off in the Ordinary World, usually lacking something or having something taken from her. She then receives a Call to Adventure – some kind of challenge. After Refusing the Call, the hero meets with a Mentor, is persuaded to embrace the challenge, commits to the Adventure, and enters the Special World.
In March 2020, the SBC community was thrust into this adventure just like the rest of the world. It was a time of grieving, confusion, and tremendous change. Students had to leave campus and their community, transition to online school, and were left to wonder what this new future held. Staff and faculty were also shocked by this abrupt change. I think I can speak for everyone when I say we all entered this Special World of COVID-19 as reluctant heroes. However, as in the monomyth, the heroes committed to the task as they entered the Special World. From the beginning, there was a commitment to the goal – to remain flexible amidst the COVID-19 world, to roll with the punches, and stick to the core values of SBC.
The second part of the Hero’s Journey is the most extensive and arduous. The hero must learn to navigate the new rules of the Special World. She faces trials as she adjusts, and she forges allies. This is where the “true characteristics of the hero are revealed”. With her newfound allies, the hero survives the Supreme Ordeal and takes possession of the Elixir – a reward, typically a weapon, treasure, knowledge, or love.
We have all felt the pains and frustrations that this new world has brought us. We have all felt our character be tested as we faced newfound trials whether that be burnout, family tensions, sickness, division, or anxiety. The importance of having supportive allies has been made evident.
As a student, I have been so grateful for the amazing staff and faculty here at SBC. They have adapted to COVID with grace and perseverance, always seeking to enrich the SBC experience despite all the curveballs thrown their way.
One of our biggest allies have been the many donors whose support has been invaluable and incredibly encouraging. Personally, COVID made it extra difficult to find jobs the past 2 summers, which put me in a tough spot when it came to my education. The support of donors has made my time at SBC possible. It has given me the opportunity to grow in my faith, to find a direction for my future, and deepen my love for the Church.
The Road Back constitutes the last part of the Hero’s Journey. While returning to the Original World, the hero is required to face one final test necessary for purification, rebirth, or transformation. The triumphant hero may return to the Original World with the Elixir while the “defeated hero is doomed to repeat the lesson”.
It certainly feels like we are on the Road Back. Restrictions have lifted extensively making community life feel the most normal it has felt in over 2 years. Our Mission Xposure trips were able to run pretty much like normal. We had a normal graduation for the first time in 3 years.
I use the word “normal”. While the hero does go back to the Original World, things are hardly “normal”. The hero is not the same as she one was and, if she has triumphed, she brings something valuable back with her.
I wonder: how are we returning to our Original World, and what are we bringing with us? Have we changed for the better or has the COVID world gotten the better of us? What Elixir will we carry forward as we return to the Original World?
It has been a privilege to witness our SBC community returning or “coming together” in ways that have not been possible for the past 2 years. I hope that our shared experience as reluctant heroes in the Special World of COVID has taught us to cherish our communities, to be gracious, kind, and radically compassionate, to embrace of a hermeneutic of generosity. Lest we went through all this trouble only to return empty-handed, a defeated hero, embittered by battle.
Judy is SBC’s student blogger for 2021-2022. She recently graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Ministry Leadership degree in April.
[This article is a part of the upcoming 2022 Spring/Summer issue of In Touch. The issue will be released next week!]