The Hero’s Journey; or, Waiting To Be Saved

When I was young I utterly worshipped Midnight Oil.

They were a highly political, environmentally-conscious Australian band who wrote an 80s hit, Beds Are Burning, but who had done a lot of other records they aren’t as well known for. I learned about them around 1992 from my cousin, bought all their records, and listened to them every day. Even now, I’ve listened to more Midnight Oil songs than to any other band in the world. I was even crazy enough to get send CDs of their concerts from other fans all over the world. This obsession must have lasted 10 years.

Anyway, sometime around 2007, I found out that they had broken up. I remember it really vividly. It was dark and I was sitting in front of my computer screen and I started Googling feverishly, looking for information about what had happened, etc. I learned the whole story and stayed up until 5 in the morning, falling into a kind of depression. My heroes were no longer really there.

Midnight Oil used to shake up their audiences and demand that they pay attention, learn from the past, and make the world a better place. It was an idealistic message that stood with me, but this band was gone now.

That’s when I realized that it was up to me. I had to be my own saviour.

When Joseph Campbell discussed the Hero’s Journey in the book The Hero with 1000 faces, a fundamental building block of the storytelling process, he described a part of it called The Refusal. In this section of the journey, the hero hears the call for him to do a great deed, to go on an epic quest, but he refuses, because he thinks he isn’t worthy or can’t do it.

This is the kind of feeling I had. This is probably the kind of feeling you have to, that it can’t be done– or that if it can, it certainly can’t be done by *you*. In other words, there’s no faith.

Here’s what happens afterwards though. At some point, the hero receives a second call. These calls can be subtle, but he recognizes them. Although it frightens him and there is a serious chance he may perish, he goes forth anyway. He realizes it’s his destiny to take part in the quest. He can’t escape it anymore.

Of course, this is just a story, so it doesn’t always happen that way in real life. You can reject the call, or ignore it, multiple times, even for your whole life, and no Greek deities will come from up on high to demand that you save them from whatever happens to be threatening their ancient world.

But the reason stories like these are so prevalent is because they are universal ways to teach us about life. So when the Hero’s Journey tells us about the call, the refusal, and the eventual acceptance of the quest, it’s telling us that it’s how we, as people, should behave.

We can refuse the call several times. That’s natural, even heroes do it. But we still have a quest to perform, and we know it, and eventually we will need to take responsibility.

There’s probably a few things you are waiting for. Your relationship is getting weird, or work isn’t as challenging as it used to. Maybe you hate where you live, who knows.

Whatever it is, the responsibility for it lies on you. It’s up to you to start the ball rolling. Other people are busy, and they have their own stuff to work on. They won’t do this for you– they won’t save you, because they have their own crosses to bear. They can help, but ultimately, the initiative has to be yours.

No one else can do it but you. No one else will save you. It’s your responsibility alone.

Accept your current situation, and move on it.





25 responses to “The Hero’s Journey; or, Waiting To Be Saved”

  1. Larry Avatar

    Hey Julien,

    You know why a lot of your posts suck? Because they’re not environmentally-friendly, that’s why. Here’s yet another one I am printing – and there goes another sheet of paper.

    Thanks, man.

    1. Julien Avatar

      Ok Larry, I’ll try to make them shorter.

  2. Ian M Rountree Avatar

    Midnight Oil was one of my favorites as well – I was sad to see them disband. Unfortunately, after the mixed messages of Redneck Wonderland and Capricornia, it was unsurprising.

    The idea of worthiness is a tricky one, though. Taking up the mantle – especially when it’s previously been PUT DOWN for any reason – is daunting.

    I so wish I had a resolution for that thought.

  3. Robert Brady Avatar

    This is some deep, inspirational stuff Julien. Thanks.

  4. Steve Haase Avatar

    That’s the nondual perspective: there is only one. And I am that one.

    Thanks for the reminder that it always has been up to each of us alone.

    Of course, when we come together with others who hold that view, that’s when the real magic happens!

  5. Jose Avatar

    Larry, how about not printing?

  6. Jeff Sutherland Avatar

    When I was younger, naive-er, and more idealistic, I heeded the call. It was hard, it was messy, and it hurt.

    After burning out from discouragement, I put it on the back-burner and sought after someone else to follow. I’ve spent the last few years looking for someone who was heading the call, that I could prop up, and support. It felt wiser, easier, and less risky.

    I still haven’t found that person, or movement, to fall in behind and lend my support to. I think I may be in that process of arriving where you did, finding out “I had to be my own savior”.

    Deep breathe, chin up, onward!

  7. Larry Avatar

    I was just using the printing story as a roundabout way to say how much I admire these posts. (Although I actually did print this one. And others.)

    Anyway, it was meant as a compliment; hope nobody thought I was complaining.

  8. Andrea Megale Avatar
    Andrea Megale

    I love what you write. Today, reading “The Hero…” was like if it had been written for me to read – or in other words, what I NEEDED to read TODAY!
    And by the way, I was also a fan of Midnight Oil too.

  9. Josh Braaten Avatar

    This post is basically the main theme to Free Prize Inside and Linchpin, both Seth Godin books. I love inspiring posts like this. Empowering yourself and making the CHOICE to be great is the first key to success!

    Keep on doing what you’re doing, Julien. I love when you make it to Media Hacks – cracks me up bigtime.

    1. Julien Avatar

      Hehe, thanks Josh. 🙂

  10. Ryan G Avatar

    Funny. I never looked into their lyrics so much. Probably cos I was too young at the time to care about social change.

    Larry I created a PDF of the post so technically the eco-friendliness slate is back to zero now.

  11. Eric Avatar

    Oils, man. Rock on!

  12. Tamsen Avatar

    I spent a lot of time when I was younger looking for where I felt safe. It took me years to realize that I was my own safe place–but the realization was life-changing.

    When we step back and realize, and then accept, that the power lies in our hands–and only ours–we can do anything. The tricky part is, of course, that even if we realize we can, many of us don’t.

    The real change that happens between The Refusal and the actual pursuit of a quest is finally accepting responsibility for what we do, and don’t, accomplish.

  13. Tamsen Avatar

    And, I should add (otherwise I’m just repeating what you wrote more eloquently in your post): the key to that acceptance of responsibility is being willing to live with the fact that you cannot take credit for your success if you don’t also take credit for your failures.

  14. Jason Berek-Lewis Avatar

    I used to write for a pop culture site called ‘Broken Frontier’ and did a whole series of columns on the Hero’s Journey – it’s inspiring stuff.

    ‘The Refusal’ is something that we all face, every day and it’s hard to walk away from. This is something that I am facing right now as I try to act on my ambitions – can I do it or will I give in to the doubts that I hold and those that others throw at me? Time will tell…

    Julien, I am also a huge Midnight Oil fan – something else we have in common. I saw The Oils live in concert about 6 times – all shows were blistering, but none more so than when they started playing in pubs/ bars again in the late 1990s.

    I met Peter Garrett in 1992 or 1993, around the time The Oils released their live album ‘Scream In Blue’. He was at a local university to give a speech. He was at the back of the auditorium chatting with some professors, when I bowled up, said I was a fan and asked him to sign a poster for me 😉

    1. Julien Avatar

      haha, amazing Jason! we’re all coming out of the woodwork!

  15. Michelle Russell Avatar

    I’m trying not to say anything about Wedding Cake Island, or the time I stood in the tiny radio room at Burgmann College in Canberra where Peter Garrett (among many others) scratched his name into the wall when he was a student there…

    I’m nowhere near as huge an Oils fan as you folks, but I do have some very fond (and related) memories of my year Down Under. :o)

  16. Mark Avatar

    I saw Midnight Oil in 1988 and again in 2000. They were much better at the later concert. It was a smaller venue and they had more rapport with the crowd – although a lot of that “rapport” was really them railing against the Liberal government for 20 minutes.

    Interesting message in your blog post, though. One thing to keep in mind for people is to never wait for the perfect moment to act. Act now.

  17. Mark Robertson Avatar

    Just reread “The Power of Myth”–taken from Campbell and Moyer’s conversations @ Lucas’ Skywalker ranch. I

    His description of the Net of Indra is a wonderful way to understand the Net. Each individual refracts on a “net of gems.” The choice (according to 1000 heroes) is the choice to own your name, or negate your role. (Nearly everything I’ve written lately has been laced with Jung and Campbell.)

    Wish we could resurrect Campbell for myth-thirsty, post-informational world.

    I hope more nerd-core myth padawans will come out of the woodwork (along w/the Midnight Oil cultus).

    Sartre calls self-negation “bad faith”–it’s really just the “faith” that you have no ability to resonate throughout the cosmos. Eternally.

    Thanks for speaking my language, Julien. Will subscribe.


  18. Ricardo Bueno Avatar

    Re: “the responsibility for it lies on you. It’s up to you to start the ball rolling…”

    I learned this early on. Unfortunately, I have friends (or ex-friends) and family who blame everything, life on every one else rather than accepting responsibility for their own situations. It’s partly why I don’t visit on Birthdays. Don’t get me wrong, I love family. But all they do is b*tch and complain about how life has dealt them a bad hand.

    At some point you just have to man up and realize that no one is going to change your situation or circumstance but YOU. Bottom line.

    Sorry Julien, you got me all fired up.

  19. Rick Avatar

    Great story, on story, for teaching on story.

  20. Ryan Critchett Avatar

    Julien.. nice post my friend.

    You seem to always throw in the kind of projective life lessons that we all need to consider if we want to exit status quo conditioning, and create the kind of shit we sit and dream about.

    Love your stuff man.

    Ricardo! What’s up man? Cool to see you here. You make a good point dude, family is great, but not when they wine about how life kicked their ass, aka they may have been to afraid to negotiate reality to their liking. I’m dealing with similar stuff, good to see you talking about it.

    Rad post, as usual J.


  21. Dan Edwards Avatar

    Hey Julien,

    Really awesome post and resonates so true today as I had a skype chat and NLP reframe with my buddy today about this exactly and how I need to just get out there and do it and stop making excuses or using old hangups.

    So thanks for sharing the timing couldn’t have been better


  22. Seth Avatar

    Today I am planning on informing my boss of my plans to leave my well-paying, do-gooding job to start my own journey, hopefully to do something even better and larger. The doubt is creeping in and I was hoping I’d find a post today to help me take that leap. I think I just found it. Thanks, Julien

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