It strikes me as funny and sad it has taken me so long to grasp the underlying message that so many story-tellers, over so many generations, have shared. Even now, there is any number of talented tale-weavers whose stories repeat a key theme: the wake-up call for self-transformation.
The story goes something like this: a supporting character, (The Mentor), helps our protagonist (would-be Hero) challenge his beliefs – about himself, about others, and about the nature of reality itself. It is only when our protagonist becomes willing to shift his perspective that he realizes his potential, which includes the ability to shape or alter reality through the power of his will.
In The Matrix, We have Morpheus and Neo
In Doctor Strange, We have The Ancient One, and Strange
Often in these stories, the Mentor’s final act is self-sacrifice to save the protagonist; they model a Hero’s behavior, giving our protagonist an example to follow.
So, what does it take for the protagonist’s willingness to arise? As we have either experienced for ourselves or known through these stories, it is often trauma. This may be physical, or possibly a form of psychological crisis, such as a sudden loss of identity, or reaching an emotional nadir; despair. Our need for healing becomes a catalyst for personal change.
This transformation in the protagonist is not yet complete. While he is shifting his perspective, that alone is not enough. These novel ideas and principles are difficult to work with, and it takes practice, confidence, and yes – faith – for the hero to succeed. It is ultimately the hero’s mastery of self that enables him to save the day.
We see these same threads across numerous religions and philosophies. I believe that this theme repeats, not for the purpose of intellectual exercise, but as a loving act of guidance for us all. This is the spiritual challenge of our times. It is the purpose for everything. It’s why we are here. It’s why we struggle, and why we experience pain. All of these experiences are intended to free us from our assumptions, our false beliefs, and fear. Like Neo and Dr. Strange, we all need to emerge from our deluded state and become the people we were created to be.
Blessed be the story-tellers, for showing us all the hero who dwells within.