What is the Call to Adventure?

This is the second of a series of posts detailing the hero’s journey.  It expands on this post: The Hero’s Journey.  See the first post here: The Mundane World.

The wake up call.

The purpose of the Call to Adventure is to wake the hero up.  It shows them that there’s something else available outside of the Mundane World.  The Call can come in many forms – Frodo’s ring, Dorothy’s tornado, or Harry’s letters.  There’s often a person involved too – Gandalf helps explain the ring and Hagrid expands on the Hogwarts invitation.

For we real life folks, it’s opportunity knocking.  It might be a job advertisement or a chance to take a trip.  It could be a new book club starting up or some neighbours moving in.  These are signs of an opportunity for change.  And for growth.

It is a choice.

As with anything heroic, there must be action.  The hero needs to choose to accept the Call before moving on with the story.  Very often, though, the Call is refused.  It could be through inaction (a failure to seize the opportunity) or it could be flat out refusal (“I’m not going to do it”).

In Star Wars, Luke Skywalker initially turns down the opportunity to fly off his planet with Obi Wan and the droids.  He has responsibilities.  His aunt and uncle need him.  He couldn’t possibly leave now – maybe later.  His words echo those of his uncle from an earlier conversation.  Han Solo also initially refuses an opportunity to stay and help the Rebellion.  Safety and money are his motivators.

In 1993, when I received the Call to come to America, a friend of mine (we’ll call him Dan) came to the information nights as well.  This adventure in America idea was pretty exciting to both of us.  We went to subsequent meetings and signed up, getting more and more excited.  Then one day, Dan decided he wasn’t going.  He didn’t think he’d be able to do it.  And, “it’s not so bad here.  The beer’s fairly cheap, the beaches are pretty close, and I like my cricket club.”  The Mundane World had its hooks in him.  Notice the use of the words fairly and pretty – hardly stellar testimonials.

Joseph Campbell said, “Refusal of the summons converts the adventure into its negative. Walled in boredom, hard work, or “culture,” the subject loses the power of significant affirmative action and becomes a victim to be saved.”

Refusing the Call ends the story.

The hero is not a hero.  Period.  While my story began, Dan’s ended.  He stayed working in a supermarket for ten years.  Nothing changed.

Thankfully, we don’t always get just one chance.  Luke Skywalker’s initial refusal is reversed when the reasons for his refusal are removed from the picture (by some over zealous Stormtroopers).  When we’re tempted to refuse a Call, identifying the reasons can help.  Once we know what’s keeping us from the adventure, we can remove it or reduce it.

Fear is the great motivator.

Behind each reason for staying where we are is fear.  We might think we’re not good enough.  We might worry about the embarrassment if we fail.  We might not want to leave the perceived comforts provided by the Mundane World.  We may have been taught that “this is the way it is – just play the game and you’ll be rewarded”.  That’s all fear.  The greatest enemy of fear is a mirror.  Stare down your fears – make them explain themselves.  They’ll have no answers for you because there is no logic in fear (except the fear of falling off a skyscraper – I hate that).

When a great adventure is offered, you don’t refuse it. – Amelia Earhart.

You should always be watching for a Call to Adventure so you can answer it.  However, make sure you’ve made your peace with the Mundane World, because it has ways of making you stay.

When did you refuse a Call?  Share the story with us in the comments and identify the reasons behind your refusal – if you can.

image from Flickr

5 Responses to What is the Call to Adventure?

  1. Lisa Robbin Young November 8, 2010 at 8:15 am #

    I’ve been debating a Call for a while now. Security, fear, anxiety, frustration, and the hope that things would improve in my current situation all kept me frozen. I created outward signs of “let’s do this!” – kind of like your friend Dan. But when it came time to board the ship, I’ve been standing there, looking at the gangplank, and not setting foot on it.

    Yesterday, I decided it was time. So now, I’m travelling in the boat to the shore where I’ll eventually burn my ship, as it were. 59 days to go. Wish me luck.

    And thanks for bringing this adventure to us “grown ups”. :-)

    • matt November 8, 2010 at 9:58 pm #

      Lisa, I’m glad you stopped in when you did. Keep us up to date on your crossing… I’ll be posting this week about the Crossing of the Threshold, so maybe there will be something of use.

  2. Gabe January 30, 2014 at 11:10 pm #

    Great post Matt well written.

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