Life as Shipwreck?


No great adventure ever happens when things stay just the same. Think about it.  In any story or film, the life of the main character is invariably disrupted in some way.  It was a regular evening at home and then, suddenly, an earthquake happens, or aliens land, or a loved one is kidnapped. This disruption is the call to action. Many years ago Joseph Campbell taught us that the hero’s journey always requires one to leave behind the comforts of home to brave the unknown.  This is where growth occurs. The outward journey is really a metaphor for the inner transformation.  It is potential being fulfilled.  This is what life secretly longs for.  There is an old saying: The ship may be safest in the harbour, but that is not what she is built for.  This is why it is important to do things from time to time that scare you. That’s right, sometimes it is better to move toward the danger.  It is a misconception to believe that we must avoid the things we fear. When we run from the things we fear, we deny ourselves an opportunity for growth. Afraid of public speaking?  Then do it.  Afraid you might get lost? Then go there.  Afraid she might say no?  Ask her anyway. Afraid you might fall and look like a fool?  Be brave and venture forth.


I am not asking you to engage in reckless, irresponsible behaviour. I am suggesting you deliberately set about the task of doing some things that scare you.  Maybe it’s approaching that attractive person in bookstore. Maybe it’s bungee jumping off a bridge.  Maybe it’s agreeing to date again after having had your heart broken.  Maybe its going for your first job interview since you cannot remember when. When you face a fear and proceed anyway, you follow the hero’s journey.  And the hero’s journey always has the element of destiny.
As I indicated earlier, life has a way of throwing difficult things at you when you least expect them.  A loved one is diagnosed with cancer, or is injured in an automobile accident, or hurts you in some way.  You are let go from your job.  Sometimes, it all happens at once. Add to this the myriad other things beyond your control: war, famine, earthquakes, tornados, floods. This is why Spanish philosopher Ortega Y Gasset insists, “Life is, in itself and forever, shipwreck."  He knows that Life is disruption.  Or at the very least, life happens under constant threat from disruption.
You might think Ortega Y Gasset is a pessimist.  He most certainly is not.  Indeed, what he hopes to do is steer people away from the belief that life is supposed to be nothing but smooth sailing. Such a conception is neither realistic nor healthy. You should expect some rough seas.  More than this, you should understand that often it is in these moments that you are truly tested.  It is in these moments that you find the best that is within you. You uncover a power you did not know existed.  It is the power of the real you.  It manifests when you rise to a challenge, by force or by choice, and succeed where you were not sure you could.  These moments, trying as they may be, can transform you forever.  You discover your own magic.

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