The Heroes’ Journey is a metaphor. The usually young man or woman takes a journey away from what is familiar, the safe, what is comforting and known. This reaching into the unknown implies great risk and danger. New challenges are encountered demanding new responses, the cultivation of new skills and capacities. This reaching into the unknown, meeting new and often unexpected challenges, the unfolding of new perceptions and capacities is the essence of transcendence. The formal definition of transcend or transcendence is ‘reaching beyond limitation and constraint.’ The entire spectrum we call childhood and human development is based on this principal. Joseph Chilton Pearce devoted an entire book, the Biology of Transience, to this theme.
The question is: what is it that limits and constrains? What is it that must be transcended especially when viewing the parent paradigm? Yes, parenting is a paradigm; a pattern, an architype, a way of perceiving with implicit behaviors. Looking deeply, a transcendent model of parenting is one that overcomes the limitations and constraints that the known pattern represents. The known pattern is called culture.
In Joe’s book he describes how biology is based on transcendence. Culture is not. Culture is the story we tell each other. This is the way it is done, not that. Culture is essentially conservative, that is, it resists change. Biology is dynamic, using homeostasis, stability, as a basis for ‘reaching beyond.’ We call this evolution and this constant morphing is accomplished through play. Play in this regard is not a thing, rather it is a verb, a state of relationship that is open, flexible, curious, full of energy and attention, a willingness to risk, to try and try again with absolutely no inner feeling of failure. There is wonder; meaning interested ‘not knowing’, humor, care with its implied affection and respect. All these qualities and more are active, present and available to meet the next unknown. Play is a state, not an activity.
The rules we call culture have none of these. We eat this and not that. We speak this way and not that. We wear this kind of clothing and not that. And each of us are compared, judged, punished and rewarded based on our conformity to the accepted pattern. Culture represents one paradigm and our innate nature, what Joe calls the Biology of Transcendence, is another paradigm. And there is a battle between the two.
Again, looking closely, we find that our identity is etched as an adaptive coping pattern to the limitations and constraints imposed by culture. We have our embodied temperament and we have our personality, our persona, our particular social mask that we wear, must wear when dealing with the slings and arrows that culture represents. Temperament is largely biological. Personality is defined by society and that by culture.
The hero’s journey is and has always been traveling from the safe, the accepted, very limited, very constrained patterns culture imposes to the deep interior, far more authentic and vastly more diverse and dynamic and mostly unknown ground of our being. What we really are, not the mask.
Like a fish in water we can’t take off the mask in culture. Our very identity, our self-world view is defined by the water. And the mask, which is all most of us really know, was carved precisely to fit in that particular pond. What now is the hero’s journey? It is giving up our very identity, who we think we are. More importantly the hero’s journey means negating the power ‘what will they think of me’ has over our behavior and choices we make. Risky indeed.
To not be subject to culture’s approval brings a heavy price: being rejected, punished, even being abandoned by the culture. Mainstream parenting is based on this punishment and reward, comparison, judgment system. Parenting, mainstream compulsory schooling, law enforcement, the courts, church, prisons, the military, and flag waving patriotism are all part of the same paradigm. Taking the hero’s journey implies bucking and then transcending this paradigm.
Joseph Campbell picked mythology as the framework for the journey. What is important to understand is that there is only one journey; that of transcending the limitations and constraints imposed by conservative-culture and thereby discovering and developing our authentic nature, which is boundless.
New human beings are born into their authentic nature. What Ashley called the ‘genius of childhood’ in Growing Young, is the free expression of our authentic nature. The goal of traditional parenting models, ‘eat another spoon of this crappy boxed cereal for mommy,’ is to domesticate children out of their authentic nature adulterating them as we were adulterated.
The only hope for ourselves and our children is for adults to take the hero’s journey, to see very clearly how conditioned and compliant we are, which as John-Taylor Gatto points out, is the goal of compulsory schooling and as an extension of the same paradigm, compulsory parenting, comparison, rewards and punishment. Deeply conditioned, adulterated adults have no choice but to deeply condition and adulterate their children. OMG! Now what? Welcome to journey. The next step to the right is the twilight zone.
But there are hints, helping hands along the way. Recall in the Bible, ‘unless you become as little children you can’t enter the kingdom?’ The kingdom is your authentic nature, which is nothing less than creation incarnate. You ARE made in the image and likeness of God, but God is not a thing. Culture took the Tao, living, moving, always changing creative intelligence and froze it, as in a comic book, in the form of a wrathful parent or domineering parent or vengeful Monarch. The true likeness is that of ‘creation,’ creative intelligence in action. That is what your child is and you were.
Your challenge, and the perineal invitation each new human being offers to the adulterated culture is to become once again as a little child. No, not spilling and slapping mud pies. Becoming as a child is to return to our authentic nature in a mature adult form which means transcending; reaching beyond the limitations and constraints we imposed on ourselves by accepting and reincarnating, moment by moment our social-cultural identity. Right! How do we do that? Easy. Do what your children do naturally. Play.
Games? No, not football or golf. No winning games. Games are culture’s counterfeit for authentic play or what Fred Donaldson calls ‘original play.’ Unadulterated children may get frustrated but they have no self-image to compare, a prerequisite for failure-conformity. Imagine not having an image to compare, to get embarrassed, to be judged, bribed, punished or rejected. With no inner social image none of these limitations and constraints has any meaning. They don’t exist. Imagine it if were impossible to ever get embarrassed again. What would you do, explore and learn that you have self-censored for fear that someone might not approve? How much of your vast potential would you have discovered and developed that you have not? Welcome to the hero’s journey and what Transcendent Mentoring is all about.
If you are caught in comparison and judgment, feeling compared and judged, you have no choice but to pass this along to you children. If you get embarrassed, you will pass this phobia on to your children. Monkey see, monkey do. In order to free your children from the limitations that our cultural identity implies you need to become free and innocent, as a mature caring adult. Let the genius of childhood be your guide, but you have to wake up early, or your conditioning will infect the children you love and they will become just like you.
What does it mean to wake up? Recall we said that play is a state not an activity. This is your key. Just as you have been deeply conditioned to live inside the image you created in order to navigate a judging, punitive culture, you can rediscover what it is like to be absolutely free of that image.
What does it feel like to wonder, to be really interested and not knowing the answers? Wonder is a state. What you think you are wondering about is thought or a memory, which is different than wonder. What does being open and flexible feel like? Consider how it feels to be closed and inflexible as a feeling. What does it feel like to be full of energy and attention, to be really attentive and curious before thought comes in and makes up a conclusion or reduces all that energy and attention to a word or concept? Imagine what it feels like to try, to risk again and again, like learning how to roller-skate or ride a bike for the first time with absolutely no inner feeling of failure. What does kindness feel like? What does trust feel like? Not the idea, the feeling? What do affection, care and respect feel like before these become words or ideas? Imagine meeting your young child who IS all of these, and relating to the world, the next moment and the next in this shared state, the child leading with their lack of experience and you from your years? The young mind points and gestures. The mature mind responds with wisdom. Together they represent the ever-newness that life is with the maturity that timeless wisdom represents. The transcendent mentor invites and models wisdom, kindness and appropriateness in the child while the child reminds the adult of beginner’s mind and ever-renewing innocence.
The key to taking the hero’s journey and along the way becoming a transcendent mentor for this and future generations is to understand the nature, quality and experience of authentic play. The ‘kingdom’ isn’t a place. It is a state. The state you are in as you meet any challenge defines the challenge and how well or poorly you will respond. Elite athletes know this. They seek the Zone, which is a calm, curious, fully attentive highly energized state, and from that they respond to the next pitch.
We need to do the same as parents. If being in the Zone is good enough for hitting a golf ball, don’t you think our children and the future of humanity deserve at least the same from us? Is that asking too much? By the age of five however, the average child has spent over 5,000 hours staring at a dead screen. Hardly the zone.
The majority of our time will be spent exploring what authentic play is and its cultural counterfeits. This will involve a number of video interviews and programs with Joseph Chilton Pearce, founder of the national institute for Play Stewart Brown, Fred Donaldson and Bev Bos.
With this as a foundation we will explore play ages and stages and how you can live your life more and more in this optimum state for learning and performance. We will explore how doing so will eliminate the vast majority of conflicts most parents experience with their children, even with two year olds and teens.