Crossing the First Threshold: Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey #4

We took a bit of a detour on our Hero’s Journey path last month. Are you ready to get back on track? I hope so, because you’re about to cross over into a brand new world.

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Hello Spiritual Seekers and welcome to part 4 of the Hero’s Journey series of Think Spiritual Podcasts.

As always, I am your host, Mark, and today I am here to push you over the line, because this episode is all about crossing lines or borders. This is step 4 of the quest to becoming a new and better you: Crossing the First Threshold.

In the previous Hero’s Journey episodes we have examined the Call to Adventure, Refusal of the Call, and Supernatural Aid. Now we are here, standing at the doorway of the beginnings of the real adventure. And that, in simplest terms, is what a threshold is: a doorway, a barrier, a boundary from your old life into a brand new way of living.

And taking this first step is the most difficult, because once you take it, there is no going back.

Oh, sure, you could take a step backwards or turn around and run back inside, but once the threshold is crossed, it is crossed. Much like ignorance, once the bliss of not knowing has turned into knowing, the damage is done and nothing can be done to undo it.

So, you may as well plunge ahead.

To emphasize this phase of the Hero’s Journey I want to talk about an old movie I watched last week titled The Boy in the Plastic Bubble. It was one of John Travolta’s first roles and it was very loosely based on the lives of two boys, David Vetter and Ted DeVita, who suffered from extreme autoimmune diseases.

Towards the end of the movie, Travolta’s character, Tod Lubitch, has spent the entire 17 years of his life within a clean room: a plastic “bubble”. He has been able to go outside by using a coffin-like plastic container that people can wheel him about in, and he also developed a “clean-suit” that allowed him to go to school and graduate.

Still, Tod wants more. He is unable to touch anything that hasn’t been sterilized. He has never felt the grass nor the trees nor the wind on his face. He has never hugged his parents without a barrier between them. And, of course, every teenage boy dreams of girls and sex and love and Tod finds himself in love with Gina who, over the course of time, also falls in love with him.

And what happens after graduation? Well, Gina is accepted into a university in another State and what will Tod do when she moves away? He still cannot leave his plastic bubble. His doctor tells him that his body has built up some immunities, but there is no guarantee as to whether it will protect him from the germs of the outside world or not.

So, Tod makes a decision and his decision is symbolic on numerous levels.

Tod gets up early one morning, before his parents are awake even - his parents love him deeply, but his safety has been their primary concern from day one. They keep him alive. Period. Anything beyond that is a bonus. So, Tod makes his decision and acts while they sleep so they have no control and no sway over him. This is what every child must eventually do to overcome the dominance of their parents.

Tod’s bubble is air-filtered and has positive air pressure compared to the rest of the house. There is a curtain of air that protects him from the unfiltered, outside air. Where this curtain of air stops, a yellow line is painted and he must never cross that line without his protective suit. The yellow line is a threshold.

And on this early morning, Tod steels up his courage, accepts the reality of the consequences and he crosses the yellow line with no protection. He cannot go back. The damage is done. Tod wants more out of life. If he only lives for a few more years, or months, or weeks, or even for only a few days, Tod wants to live. He is done living in his tiny, plastic, antiseptic world. He wants to ride a horse, he wants to touch grass and trees, he wants to hug his parents, he wants to love Gina physically.

Thus, Tod crosses the threshold into a wider world of existence without knowing how long he has to enjoy it and that is how the movie ends. As viewers we aren’t given the privilege of knowing what Tod’s life and/or fate ended up being. Actually...aren’t we all in that same situation? We don’t know how long we will be granted life for either.

Well, there we go, I’ve talked about another movie. It’s funny, the more episodes I produce of this podcast, the more I’m blurring the lines between my Spiritual Elements of Movies series and my Hero’s Journey series.

I have to say that Tod was lucky, in one sense, because he had a very definite and literal threshold and he knew exactly what it was that he wanted on the other side of it. Sometimes the threshold and the path on the other side are not easy to see at all and when that is the case it takes a little more guts and a “leap of faith” to bring you through the threshold unscathed.

That’s what happens in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, right? Indy has to make a “leap from the lion’s head” to make it over a deep chasm and he cannot see the path beyond at all. He doesn’t have a lot of choice in the matter, so he sticks out his foot, closes his eyes and falls forward...only to have his foot touch solid rock. The path is so cleverly camouflaged that it is invisible to the eye.

There is an overall point I am making here by giving you these examples and that point is this: even if you have heard and embraced the Call to Adventure, even if you have found your mentor and your talismans and know that your Supernatural Aid has your back, you are the one that has to cross the threshold. It is completely up to you to take that first step and begin your real Hero’s Journey. Oh, sure, you may have something or someone that pushes you over the edge or across the line, but until you accept what Fate has pushed you into you won’t go anywhere.

It is really this particular step of Crossing the First Threshold that I am trying to bring attention to with Think Spiritual Podcasts when I say Change Your Self, Change Your World. Regardless of your circumstances in life, regardless of how many people are helping you along your way, regardless of how fortunate or unfortunate you are, you are the only person in your life that can take steps in the direction that you need to go.

You are the only person who can save you.

And I have faith in you. I know that you can do it. I know it, because I did it when I didn’t think I could do it. I saved myself when I felt like there was nothing left to live for and no point in going on and when I had done things that I didn’t want to pay the consequences for.

Yes, it was a struggle and it was hard, but I am here today telling you that Crossing the First Threshold is worth it.

And there was not just one, but there were three specific songs that shored me up and gave me the strength to cross that first threshold as I began my Hero’s Journey.

Here’s some lyrics from the first:

I'm gonna live
I'm gonna survive
I don't want the world to pass me by
I'm gonna dream
I ain't gonna die
Thinking my life was just a lie
I want to give
I'm ready to try
Willing to lay it on the line
I want to be loved

And the second song:

Welcome to wherever you are
This is your life, you made it this far
Welcome, you got to believe
That right here, right now
You're exactly where you're supposed to be
Welcome to wherever you are

And sometimes when you’re on the verge of crossing that first threshold you need some really powerful emotional energy to push you onwards. Sometimes you need to get angry and this third song told me that it was okay for me to do so:

If there's one thing I hang onto
That gets me through the night
I ain't gonna do what I don't want to
I'm gonna live my life
Shining like a diamond, rolling with the dice
Standing on the ledge, I show the wind how to fly
When the world gets in my face
I say, have a nice day

All three of these songs helped me understand the chaos of emotions that I was going through eleven years ago and they gave me the beginnings of strength to carry on and to turn my life into something new and different and so much better than it ever had been before.

And all three of these songs are from Bon Jovi’s Have a Nice Day album; the album that I believe, quite literally, prevented me from taking my life all those years ago.

Links to these songs are in the description and I will embed videos for them in the post for this podcast on the think spiritual dot c a website.

So, as I said, I believe that you can do what I did and that you can save yourself regardless of whatever circumstances that you may find yourself embroiled in.

But I will be honest with you. When you step through that threshold and begin your Hero’s Journey, it will not be easy. In fact, you’re going to find yourself in the Belly of the Whale very soon. It sounds scary and it is, but it’s a good thing as well, because that’s where rebirth and new life begins.

However, as always, that next step will have to wait for the next Hero’s Journey episode of Think Spiritual Podcasts.

I have been your host, Mark, I thank you very much for listening and I encourage you forever and always to be brave, to be daring, to take the risk and step through your first threshold into a wider realm of existence and change your Self so you can ultimately change your world.

I will see you on the next episode of Think Spiritual Podcasts.

Change your Self; change your World.

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