the tao of jaklumen

the path of the sage must become the path of the hero

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Update on Hero Introduction (A Pride of Heroes)

For the original post, please see BeWoW: Hero Introduction (A Pride of Heroes).

I sent Matt Langdon this message:

Thanks, Matt!

I’ve been admiring the work of The Hero Construction Company for a while.  After I decided to start blogging about the Hero’s Journey, I wondered if others were writing about it, and I came to the collection of blogs that include the Hero’s Handbook.

I hope you don’t mind that I included this message in a blog post: while referencing “A Pride of Heroes”.  I really do want more people to know what you do.  So many others I’ve talked to think the Monomyth is just about writing stories, and haven’t considered its real-life applications.

Due to indigent circumstances, I’m not sure I can scrape enough money to attend the Hero Round Table Conference anytime really soon.  But I’ll do my best to participate as much as I can until circumstances change and/or a conference comes closer to the Pacific Northwest.

and Matt had this to say by way of reply last Tuesday:

Thanks a lot for the blog posts. No idea how I didn’t see your original posts, but the internet is a funny place. Thanks also for the compliments. It means a lot.

Keep an eye on the Hero Round Table. If you can make it there, I can comp you a ticket. It’s a really energizing time. You’d meet some kindred spirits.
Wow!  How about that?  I’m still not sure how I’d make it to Brighton, Michigan.  The last (well, only time, really) I was in Michigan, was when Cimmorene and I were still university students, and we stayed with friends in Ann Arbor.  The plane ticket alone wasn’t terribly cheap, and I have no idea how I’d gather the funds now.  Just by comparison, the Trauma Recovery U/#NoMoreShame Project retreat is in Portland, Oregon at the end of June– much closer to us, and I’m not sure if we have the funds to go to that.
We’ll see.


BeWoW: Hero Introduction (A Pride of Heroes)

What is BeWoW?

BeWoW stands for Be Wonderful on Wednesdays, a blog hop/blog prompt started by Ronovan at RonovanWrites.  The idea is to share a blog post that meets the definition of encouraging, positive, or wonderful.

For more information, click on this link: Be A #BeWoW Blogger

For Ronovan’s entry this week, click this link: Being Positive Support for Others.

Okay.  What Wonderful Thing do you have to share, jak?

I got this message very early this morning:

Hey Jonathan,

Nice to see your comment on the Hero Handbook. Thanks for stopping by. If you’re interested in talking to more hero people, I would suggest checking out the conference we’re running in Michigan (for the third year). The Hero Round Table basically came into being because I wanted people like you in the same room as each other. It’s been a cool experience thus far.
Blogging for more than ten years is pretty damn impressive. Well done.
The Hero Construction Company
810 689 HERO

Join Us at the Hero Round Table Conference:
The comment that Matt is talking about is on his post A Pride of Heroes.
Here’s an excerpt from that post, to give you an idea:

A while ago I asked the Hero Construction Company Facebook page what a group of heroes could be called. Some offerings were host, league, and army. Then came pride. It won me over instantly.

I like it because it highlights that heroes should be proud. Heroes are always humble, but there’s no reason they shouldn’t be proud. I like the lion connotation too, as it seems lions of different shapes and sizes all fit equally well into the pride.

He offered anyone who was reading an invitation to this collaboration he calls The Pride, and all readers had to do was comment with their first name, initial of their last name, and their general location.  So I left a comment, and that led to the rest of the story.

Let’s wrap it up.

I’ve followed the Hero’s Handbook for a while, along with some other blogs done by fine folks at the Hero Construction Company and the Janus Center.  I wrote about them previously (here and here).  I was so impressed not just that they were teaching schoolkids about the Hero’s Journey, but that they were teaching them how to integrate it into their own lives.

As seen at Ronovan Writes- All image rights reserved to Ronovan and his son.

As seen at Ronovan Writes-
All image rights reserved to Ronovan and his son.


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The Lies Our Abuse Tells Us | Childhood Sexual Abuse Recovery

A good online friend and helper of mine, Bobbi Parish, wrote an article recently.  Here’s an excerpt, with a link to the article:

The four lies are:
— We should be ashamed of our abuse, which manifests as Shame
— Our abuse was our fault, which manifests as Self-Blame
— We are bad because we caused our abuse and deserved our abuse which manifests as Low Self-Worth or even Self-Loathing
— We are powerless to change anything in our lives, which manifests as Powerlessness

The shame, self-blame and low self-worth reside at the very core of our being, defining the way we see ourselves and the world. That triad of lies is protected by the fourth lie: that we are powerless. The powerlessness tells us we cannot change the feelings of shame, self-blame and low self-worth that we feel. In essence, our feeling of powerlessness guards that core triad of lies. For this reason, I call those four lies The Lying Triad and Its Dark Guard.

The Lies Our Abuse Tells Us | Childhood Sexual Abuse Recovery.

Please take a moment to take this article in, dear readers.  I was just tweeting with Bobbi a moment ago– she was telling me the “The Lying Triad and Its Dark Guard” came to her in the middle of the night as I was saying it sounded like an enemy of an epic saga.

I felt inspired.  So many people know The Hero’s Journey as a template for a story, but I see it as a reflection of real life.  Our legends, myths, folkloric stories– are reflections of our values, dreams, outlook, for the societies we live in.  I took some time to explain that in a series of posts on “The Inner Journey”.

In essence, this will be “The Journey out of Childhood Abuse” and “From Zero to Hero”.  (Remember that WordPress blogging challenge, dear readers?  You see now why the theme resonated with me?”

Stay Tuned

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…the father becomes the son. (more thoughts)

[ADDENDUM: 11 January, 2015]  When my father first told me of his near-death experience, many years ago, a flash of memory hit me, like a curtain being drawn from my mind, to reveal the light of the morning sun.

I remember begging, pleading with him, to go back, so that I would have a chance to be.  I did not remember all, but over the years, I came to know the deep sacrifices that were made in those moments.  I would revisit them when he nearly died, again, and each time I climbed up on the surgeon’s table, the last time being the 7th of January, 2015.

This is my Atonement with the Father.

JOR-EL: Once, when you were small, I died, while giving you a chance for life.

It was a shock when I saw him.  He was wandering around aimlessly, obviously not in his body.  He was NOT supposed to be here.

“What are you doing here?  You need to go back, and be my father, just as we planned!”

“I’m tired.  I hurt.  I don’t want to go back to a broken body.”

“But you need to go back!  We agreed!”

My father first got really sick in 1992, when I was hundreds of miles away going to college in Rexburg, Idaho.  When I crashed out of school and took the rebound to community college, I came home one day to see him carried out on a stretcher into an ambulance.

Almost two decades passed and he got really, really sick again.  As in deathly ill.  He could barely move and he grew a beard because he didn’t feel well enough to even shave.  “Not now,” I thought.  “I still need you.”  But I talked with my youngest sister about it, and we made peace with it; we were ready to bury him if that was really to be.

I sent him pictures of me and my son to try to cheer him up.  He was in really bad shape.

A Boy and His Dad

It was obvious that I was not going to persuade him by plans of the future.  I would have to appeal to his here and now.

“What about your family now?  Won’t they miss you?”

That seemed to be more persuasive.  He softened a bit and looked more ready to turn back.

Dad found a specialist in Walla Walla that seemed to know what was going on, finally, and he recovered.

JOR-EL: And now, even though it will exhaust the final energy left within me…

(turns frightened)
Father, no!

Look at me, Kal-El!

“Wait, before you go.  I have to do something.  I… I will carry a part of that pain for you.”

“You don’t have to do this.”

“Yes… yes, I do.”

“No, you don’t.”

“I do.  I promise, I will help you.”

“Very well.”

My back was thrashed– not too long  after my son was born, I found out that some of the discs in my spine were wearing out, and one was being crushed like a pancake, pinching the nerve (sciatic) in my right leg.  In the first week of October in 2009, I had a fusion surgery, but the nerve damage was done.

I found myself comparing notes with my father on pain.

JOR-EL: The Kryptonian prophecy will be at last fulfilled. The son becomes the father – the father becomes the son.

My father later apologized to Cimmorene, and to me, for his mistreatment of me in the past.  He got it.  Things would never be the same again.


The Hero’s Journey vs. The Heroine’s Journey: Rewriting Privilege –. (as seen at The Good Men Project)

Nicole Franklin writes about equalizing the differences between the Hero’s Journey and the Heroine’s Journey.  Specifically, she recounts an experience with Alice Li, a comic book illustrator, noting at the New York Comic Con that the Heroine’s Journey cycle is often portrayed in a misogynistic way, and it doesn’t need to be that way for modern stories.

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The Hero’s Journey with Tamara McCleary

Today I was excited to see a certain Tweet pop up in my feed for @MondayBlogs:

Oh snap!  Someone else blogging about The Hero’s Journey?  I’m all over that like a hungry man at a buffet!

Since the tweet was to the eighth part of Tamara’s series, I decided to start from the beginning (and I’d get to part 8 in due time).  If you’d like to join me in my reading, please start here:

The Hero’s Journey: Leave the Ordinary World | Tamara McCleary.


The Power of Myth: Stories are not just for children

Image credit:

The Power of Myth” is a series of interviews that Bill Moyer conducted with Joseph Campbell.    These interviews were also transcribed into a book of the same name.

As I was reading my news feeds and other sorts of electronic media this morning, I opened up a Digg article called Is Adulthood Dead? by Steve Rousseau, which in turn was a response to a New York Times article called The Death of Adulthood in American Culture by A.O. Scott.  Reading the former article, I noted that Rousseau cited many other responses to Scott’s article, with writers taking different angles and perspectives to his claim.

I chose to dig deeper, or rather to focus on yet another article (bear with me, dear readers) that Scott cited.  It’s a Slate article by Ruth Graham titled Against YA: Adults should be embarrassed to read children’s books.  Hopefully, the title goes without saying, but, if you wish to read the article, your sentiment might echo what Scott reported of Graham’s article thus far:

Noting that nearly a third of Y.A. books were purchased by readers ages 30 to 44 (most of them presumably without teenage children of their own), Graham insisted that such grown-ups “should feel embarrassed about reading literature for children.” Instead, these readers were furious. The sentiment on Twitter could be summarized as “Don’t tell me what to do!” as if Graham were a bossy, uncomprehending parent warning the kids away from sugary snacks toward more nutritious, chewier stuff.

But Scott seems to agree, albeit reluctantly:

Full disclosure: The shoe fits. I will admit to feeling a twinge of disapproval when I see one of my peers clutching a volume of “Harry Potter” or “The Hunger Games.” I’m not necessarily proud of this reaction.

Logo for Cimmy’s stories. Pencils by Cimmorene, digital coloring and inking by jaklumen. Characters depicted are inspired by Patricia C. Wrede‘s Enchanted Forest Chronicles book series

I don’t think you’ll be surprised, dear reader, to read me say that I don’t agree, and not with the slightest bit of hesitation.  And I will tell you that my dear wife Cimmorene does not agree either.  Why?  Allow me to point to Cimmy first.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again that she is a storyteller.

[If you are not yet reading her blog, Cimmy’s Stories, I warmly invite you to do so now.  Feel free to open a link to it, and read it after finishing this article, or start reading now.  I’ll wait.  “Captain Jack and the Wavemistress” is a wonderful story series she’s working on now.]

She follows the old oral tradition of passing stories by word of mouth, although she has been eagerly following new technology to tell these stories.  She has shared with me her studies on fairy tales, and one thing we noted repeatedly was that tellers of these folkloric tales repeatedly modified their stories for their audiences, and this included embellishing the details for more mature audiences.

To wit: I think it’s ridiculous that Graham should ridicule books labeled Young Adult, or any fiction that the author expressly intended to be read by children or teenagers.  It certainly never stopped the bardic storytellers of old, and I genuinely doubt that readers, over the the centuries of printed books, ever on average limited themselves that way.  It smacks of the bully’s taunt ‘that stuff’s for babies’, and it’s just not reflective of the history of storytelling as I have understood it.

And I’ll say again that the reason why I blog about Joseph Campbell is that he understands this, that cultures need these kinds of stories.  Despite the critics that claim he is glossing over the cultural particularities, I will insist that he is right to point out that we, as a people have a mutual need to hear them, and there are great similarities in the stories, particularly with the Monomyth cycle, known better as “The Hero’s Journey“.

Alexandra Petri summed this up well in the Washington Post:

But I think what we’ve been identifying as YA — big characters, broad strokes, flat dystopian landscapes that are clearly designed to pose fairy tale questions — are in fact stories that deal in the shapes of myth.

All really popular stories today are, to some extent, fairy tales. “Harry Potter” is a fairy tale. “Star Wars” is a fairy tale. “Batman” is a fairy tale. And fairy tale problems are not the problems of adulthood. They are deeper and less practical. The rise of what is termed YA, I would suggest, is actually a return to the kind of stories that cast larger shadows — the kind of fiction that is necessary. We need our stories in a way that we don’t need literature, per se. We need myths when we are struggling with uncomfortable questions, “too deep for utterance.” How to be. What to love. What to save and what to destroy.

Although she does not cite Joseph Campbell, I believe she is strongly and emphatically affirming what he has said, that we, as a people, need myths.  And once again to his critics, I state that these myths continually reflect our hopes, our dreams, our outlook as a people.  They are a way that we can regroup when our lives are difficult– yes, to escape for a while, but also possibly to recommit to our struggle.  Often these myths are about real people, but although time and fading memory have distorted them away from the practical facts to grandiose legend– this should not mean that the stories do not have validity and application.

If you read Campbell’s work, then you will find that he says that the symbolism itself is not important, but the realizations they bring us to.  It is not the story itself that is most important, but how you liken your life to it, and how it guides your journey.

Your journey is most important.


Are you a hero?  If you do not believe yourself a hero, are you nevertheless inspired by the many tales of The Hero’s Journey?  Do you believe there is a hero inside every one of us?  Do you believe in the power of myth? 

and lastly

Is there a version of The Hero’s Journey you would like me to reference?  Are you ready for our story, Redemption of the Four Kingdoms?


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Magic Flight: Surfer Escapes His Prison On Earth

Joseph Campbell describes the Magic Flight thus:

If the hero in his triumph wins the blessing of the goddess or the god and is then explicitly commissioned to return to the world with some elixir for the restoration of society, the final stage of his adventure is supported by all the powers of his supernatural patron. On the other hand, if the trophy has been attained against the opposition of its guardian, or if the hero’s wish to return to the world has been resented by the gods or demons, then the last stage of the mythological round becomes a lively, often comical, pursuit. This flight may be complicated by marvels of magical obstruction and evasion.

(American Anthropologist, 92:4/December 1990, p. 1104, via Wikipedia.  Emphasis mine)

How witty the phrase “comical” is applied here, and how ironic, since there is little humor to the Surfer’s story.  Moreover, those of you dear readers that follow comic books may say that “lively” and “complicated” puts the circumstances lightly.  Rarely, if ever, do superhero comic books follow simple plots.

The Surfer made numerous attempts to escape Earth, including traveling back in time, but the most significant one involved an entanglement with the Hell-Lord Mephisto.

The writers and artists at Marvel obviously modeled Mephisto after the Christian concept of the devil, which may in turn be another part of the associations of the Silver Surfer with Jesus Christ.

To sum up, Mephisto played a game of cat-and-mouse of sorts with Surfer.  He allowed him to cross the barrier Galactus had imposed, only for the Surfer to find Mephisto had kidnapped Shalla-Bal, the love of his life.  As the Surfer returned to Earth to find her, he was trapped once more.

With the assistance of Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic Four), Surfer escaped Earth once more, and looked to Zenn-La to find Shalla-Bal.  But he found to his chagrin that not only had Galactus destroyed his homeworld and consumed its energies as further punishment for his betrayal, that the surviving residents blamed the Surfer.  Worse yet, Mephisto had taken Shalla-Bal prisoner once again, and was using her as a bargaining chip to destroy the SHIELD agency.  After the ensuing battle, Mephisto was finally defeated and again sent Shalla-Bal to Zenn-La, but not before the Surfer endowed her with a portion of the Power Cosmic, which she used to rebuild the planet, and then assume ruling duties as Empress.

The Silver Surfer escaped one last time from Earth, but conflict with Galactus (who took on new heralds) was finally put to rest when he managed to save his latest herald Nova (Frankie Raye) from the Skrulls.  Galactus then declared his long exile ended.

And so…

…the Surfer was once again free to roam the stars.

NEXT POST IN THE SERIES: Surfer descends into The Abyss: Enter Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet


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A Hero’s Journey: Norrin Radd, the Silver Surfer

The trial period for the spinal cord stimulator is over; the leads have been out for three days now. Since I’m waiting to see about the permanent implant and I’m not sure how much wrestling I’ll do with pain until then, I’ll be reworking and reposting some series I’ve done earlier. This week I am reposting, reworking, and continuing the Silver Surfer and the Hero’s Journey series.

He is sometimes called “Christ on a surfboard”, but I have yet to see many writings that tie this Jack Kirby comic book character to Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth.

Especially compelling is his origin story, which fairly quickly traces elements of the Hero’s Journey in his transformation from Norrin Radd to the Silver Surfer.

The Silver Surfer gazing on the world he dared to protect

But even in extended stories such as the Infinity Gauntlet (which is said to really be about the Surfer, despite affecting all characters in the Marvel universe at that time), there are still emphases of the Monomyth.

Both ideas will be explored in future posts. Previous articles from this blog will rise to the present again (some have already), to show that the current focus I have taken here has had seeds planted in musings of the distant past. Perhaps eventually I will show you, dear readers, of why I find the Silver Surfer such a personally compelling figure…

NEXT POST IN THE SERIES: A Hero’s Journey: Summary of the Silver Surfer



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John Preston Meets Mary O’Brien: Guide and Goddess

Cimmy, myself, and the kids are observing an unplugged week, so it’s time for a week+ of reruns. Also, I’ve been in horrid pain, so creating new posts is tough. Please enjoy (even if you’ve read this before).

John Preston meets Mary O’Brien (Emily Watson) after being paired with his new partner, Brandt (Taye Diggs), after another routine raid for sense offense.

At first, I was going to identify her as Guardian at the Threshold, but Cimmorene astutely pointed out that that role belonged to his son Robbie, the Cleric-in-training, especially as he witnesses him missing a dose of Prozium.

During Preston’s interrogation of Mary O’Brien, she poses the great rhetorical question: “Why are you alive?”

Since Preston does not seem to really know (he presents a circular argument, in her words) she provides the answer: “To feel.”

This is probably the overarching message of the movie– to feel emotion is human, and to suppress it is to suppress humanity.  (I will explain later that not everyone in the film follows such suppression– some for good, some for evil.)

And I will make a quick aside for a moment.  This film is commonly compared to two other stories, one of them Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, and the other the Wachowskis’ film The Matrix.  By and large, both these comparisons carry a higher regard.  More specifically, some critics believe Equilibrium’s message of emotion being necessary to full humanity is not as compelling as the message of The Matrix, which has more nuanced layers concerning free will, freedom, and oppression of humanity by technological symbolism.  While I enjoy The Matrix (and someday I will explore how Reloaded and Revolutions, the sequels, explore more of Joseph Campbell’s ideas), I take issue with criticism on Equilibrium.

The only story I can think of concerning suppression of emotion is within Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek.  Those that suppressed emotion in favor of logic, the Vulcans, are presented as noble, almost selfless, while the people that split from them, the Romulans, are presented as passion-bound warmongers.  With apologies to Trek fans, there is little exploration that both sides are needed.

Anyways, Mary O’Brien here also fulfills the role of Goddess, as Preston discovers in a subsequent interrogation that not only she and his former partner Partridge were lovers, but that he has romantic feelings for her as well.  This I will explain later, as this movie has so many ticks, so many scenes, that each have meaning and significance.

NEXT POST IN THE SERIES: Preston grapples with emotion: Crossing of the Threshold

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