Monday, August 19, 2013

Year Three - The Hero's Journey

We were blessed this summer to travel to Greece and walk in the footsteps of Atreus and Agamemnon at Mycenae, the Oracles at Delphi, Pericles at the Acropolis, and so many other heroes of history and legend.  It was grand and inspiring but we feel that what we are all engaged in here at John Adams Academy is no less grand and inspiring, and truly a hero’s journey!

As we begin our third year let us begin with hope and enthusiasm that we too might follow the pattern that can be found in myths, stories, and legends. Like a rite of passage, our journey requires that in our ordinary world we receive a call to adventure. We are reluctant at first or even refuse the call, but are encouraged by a mentor to cross the first threshold and enter the Special World, where we encounter tests, allies, and enemies.  We approach the inmost cave (wouldn’t be JAA if we didn’t mention a cave!) crossing a second threshold where we endure the ordeal.  We take possession of our reward and are pursued on the road back to the Ordinary World.  We cross the third threshold, experience a resurrection, and are transformed by the experience.  We return with the elixir, a boon or treasure to benefit the Ordinary World.

This pattern is not the invention of the ancient storytellers.  Myths are metaphors for a process of growth and discovery and are a way to express the highest of truths.  As we discover and apply these truths we can become heroes.

 Joseph Campbell, an American scholar identified the phases of the hero’s journey.  The journey is about growth and passage.  The journey requires a separation from the comfortable, known world, and an initiation into a new level of awareness, skill, and responsibility, and then a return home.  Each stage of the journey must be passed successfully if the initiate is to become a hero.

According to Campbell, the hero is someone who has given his life over to someone or something bigger than himself. A hero is judged by the things he does and the way he reacts and relates to people.  His deeds must be marked by a nobility of purpose, and he must be willing to risk his life for his ideals.

For you returning you know what you have given in this adventure greater than any single member.  For those of you just joining us do not be afraid.  At the end of the journey great heroes are made in ourselves as we achieve our mission to restore America’s heritage and develop servant leaders!

During our trip to Greece this summer our Greek tour guide shared her favorite poem with us.  It is very appropriate to this theme and to our current reading of Homer. As I read it ask yourselves what your “Ithaca” might be in your journey of becoming.

by Konstantinos Kavafis (1911)

As you set out for Ithaca
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
angry Poseidon - don't be afraid of them:
you' ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
wild Poseidon - you won't encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope your road is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you enter harbours you're seeing for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind -
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn and go on learning from their scholars.

Keep Ithaca always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you're destined for.
But don't hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you're old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you've gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaca to make you rich.

Ithaca gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you wouldn't have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaca won't have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you'll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

The Jockey of Artemision is a large Hellenistic bronze statue of a young boy riding a horse, dated to c.140BC but possibly as early as 200BC. It is a rare surviving original bronze statue from Ancient Greece, particularly the Hellenistic period.

Some parts are missing, such as the rider's whip and reins, and the horse's bridle. The image of the goddess Nike is engraved on the horse's right thigh, holding a wreath in raised hands.  After seeing hundreds of statues and monuments this was our personal favorite and a fitting symbol of our hero’s journey here at John Adams Academy.  We will continue to leap forward, hardly contained, our scholars unafraid to go forth and change the world.

We express our gratitude to each of you and our confidence in our individual and collective hero’s journey this new year!

Dean and Linda Forman
Founders of John Adams Academy

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