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I’ve been a fan of Joseph Campbell’s work for decades now. Campbell was the advisor to George Lucas in the making of the Star Wars canon, particularly the first film to be released now known as “Episode IV A New Hope”.

Campbell’s model is that a person (usually a young man, and there are some obvious critiques here) is in their regular world, then called to a special world, finds themselves and often some magical force, and then returns to their regular world or moves into a new phase of being having thrived in the special world. This “Hero’s Journey” is the basis of myths from around the world, and the basis then of many movies today. See I also might suggest that this same journey is reflected in our Judeo-Christian stories; Jesus in the Wilderness, The Israelites and the journey to the Promised Land. In many ways, Campbell’s work has given us all a lens through which to view our stories and myths anew.

And there are critiques, as noted above from a feminist perspective, that the hero’s journey may well not be the heroine’s journey, so the myths are not ‘universal’. And it is interesting also to note that the hero’s journey is about young people. (Even the more recent films in the Star Wars saga have Luke Skywalker, the young man in the first three films is now an old man, mentoring a new young heroine.) The psychiatrist Allan B. Chinen notes that of the 5000 or so fairy tales and myths he read, 90% were tales about young people, think Star Wars, Cinderella, and Snow White. Often they end with, “And they lived “Happily Ever After.” But 10% of these stories are about the middle years and senior years. They explore life when Prince Charming is bald and the princess has a midlife crisis. (

I’ve been fascinated by Chinen’s books, in large part because I’m turning 65 in September and so finding stories that speak to me about my life is engaging. And also because the stories Chinen shares are fascinating. Some general thoughts for your reflection this week, especially those who are in midlife and are elders. In these stories;

  • There is no magic, there is simple, hard work
  • There are very often social role reversals; women go on quests and save the man
  • These tales deal with marital conflict, personal failure and tragedy, they are in that sense universal, and ultimately healing

And so, I invite you to reflect on the biblical stories that mean a lot to you. What in those stories reflects your own life experience? Which character speaks to you and why? And is there something about your age and maturity that is reflected in that story?

I look forward to the conversation...