The Journey of 1,000 Miles Begins with a Single Step

Today I challenge you to consider your own personal journey.

What do you need to get started? What is the goal of your journey? Who will help you get there? What obstacles are in your way?

“I seek not to know the answers, but to understand the questions.”
-Caine

“The journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.”
-Lao Tzu

“Life is a journey, and if you fall in love with the journey, you will be in love forever.”
-Peter Hagerty

“Let your mind start a journey thru a strange new world. Leave all thoughts of the world you knew before. Let your soul take you where you long to be . . . Close your eyes let your spirit start to soar, and you’ll live as you’ve never lived before.”
-Erich Fromm

The Pattern

“Are these people telling us that we can go on adventures?”

At the end of Pulp Fiction, Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta talked in a diner. “I’m just going to walk the Earth,” Jackson’s character explained. “You know, like Caine in Kung Fu — walk from place to place, meet people, get into adventures.”

At the end of Rambo: First Blood Part II, Colonel Sam Troutman asked Rambo “How will you live, John?” Rambo responded, “Day by day.” Then he walked away, into the sunset.

Is there a pattern here? Should we care? Are these people telling us that we can go on adventures? Are you ready to travel the road less traveled? Will you dare to be different?

Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay
Image by Willgard Krause from Pixabay

Beginnings

“To begin a journey, we need a purpose.”

I agree that a journey begins at some point. However, throughout history, ‘beginnings’ often become blurred the further away we are from them. We are far away from the big bang, so all we have now are some theories and a T.V. show. We often question how certain religions ‘began’ – or when they ‘began’. And historical documents are often lost or hidden, thus the truth of how something ‘begins’ becomes lore, folklore, or mythology. Still, I continue my journey, regardless of how it began.

I read an article on the Internet stating that our normal lives have few intersections with the monomyth – The Hero with a Thousand Faces (Joseph Campbell). The monomyth is an abstraction – in association of Carl Jung’s philosophy – that there is a collective consciousness that guides human thought. In basic terms, at the subconscious level, all human beings are connected. This philosophy is ethereal to me, so I have difficulty ascribing to it. From Campbell’s perspective, the archetypes that we see are birthed from this collective consciousness. However, I believe that the archetypes that we see throughout history and across cultures are placed there for a purpose. Today, that purpose is to give us purpose. To begin a journey, we need a purpose.

To contend that our normal lives fall outside the Hero’s Journey puts us all at a disadvantage. Yes, I agree that my life does not include the pursuit of silver and gold through the halls of some forgotten realm. Nor am I fighting mighty giants as did young David (i.e., the story of David and Goliath) or dragons (i.e., the archangel Michael in the Book of Revelation). My life is far from those realities. Maybe my story is more esoteric, and only I know what struggles I face in my personal life. Or the journey is real. As with everyone else, I struggle with the norms of keeping a job, maintaining an income, and upholding a sense of normalcy in my home given this pandemic. Those are real struggles that I must face and overcome. They are as real as any giant or dragon in fantasy or lore. Today, they are part of my journey through life.

The Monk

“The concept is ancient and can be seen in many religions and in philosophy.”

I continue my discovery of character archetypes based on Dungeons and Dragons fantasy role-playing classes. As mentioned in previous articles, a class represents a character’s job, occupation, trade, or profession. A character can do anything, but players need to role-play characters that have skills best suited for adventuring. Going on adventures requires some knowledge of fighting – either the use of a melee (i.e., a sword or club) or ranged (i.e., bow and arrow or spear) weapon. There are only two types of classes that limit the use of combat weapons – the Wizard (and similar classes) and the Monk. I will discuss the Wizard class in a future article. Today, I focus on the monk.

For reference, I use the definition for ‘monk’ from Wikipedia. Seriously, just type in ‘monk’, and you will find this.

A person who practices religious asceticism by monastic living, either alone or with any number of other monks. A monk may be a person who decides to dedicate his life to serving all other living beings, or to be an ascetic who voluntarily chooses to leave mainstream society and live his or her life in prayer and contemplation. The concept is ancient and can be seen in many religions and in philosophy.

Image by kalhh from Pixabay
Image by DarkmoonArt_de from Pixabay

The Hero's Journey

“He may not have been looking for riches, but he was looking for something..”

Asceticism is the practice of discipline. Nothing in this quest for knowledge tells me that the Monk archetype has anything to do with martial arts. So, where did the creators of Dungeons and Dragons connect the Monk class with the practice of Ki and kung fu? In truth, a small percentage of monks practice kung fu; still, movies from Japan, China, and America tell a different story. But I am not here to unearth the historical significance of how kung fu and monastic living marry. As with all human history, we learn to fight as a means of defense – to protect what we own or what we consider valuable. However, fighting is such a small part of the big picture. What, then, does the Monk archetype look like? How should we embrace the philosophical and religious paradigms associated with a monk? Maybe the answers lie in what you value and what is important to your life?

At the beginning of this article, I introduced the television show Kung Fu. David Carradine – the actor that played Kwai Chang Caine in the infamous television show – exemplified (at least in theory) the Monk archetype. He was a man of discipline, both of mind and body – seeking only to find the truth (or maybe peace) as he wandered the earth. He may not have been looking for riches, but he was looking for something. And that is what the hero’s journey is all about.

Many of us who are old enough to remember, the show – Kung Fu – was not about the fighting. Caine fought only as a last resort, and often to his chagrin. From watching The Next Karate Kid, we learned that someone always gets hurt from fighting. But if you must fight, you should win.

The Monk character class is an unusual archetype, in whatever genre. The Monk is not your typical adventurer. In fact, without a solid reason to go anywhere, the Monk is satisfied with monastic living. This goes for many of us. What reason do we have to venture away from the norm? Why do we need to set out and do something different? I do not have the perfect – or single – answer for these questions. I only know, even hobbits (think J.R.R. Tolkien) need to go on adventure every once in a while.

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