Weekly Photo Challenge: Thresholds (in Fiction and Real Life)

In fiction, as in real life, people face challenges.  But how do we respond to them?  Do we try to run away from them?  Or, do we stand tall and face them?

Literature is full of heroes who are summoned for a great adventure, which promises glittering rewards–fame, fortune, immortality, love…  But once the hero accepts the challenge, he/she must leave the comfort and security of home and cross the threshold into the unknown.

 

Doorway, Morikami Museum, Florida

Doorway, Morikami Museum, Florida

Some heroes like Bilbo Baggins are reluctant to take the first step.  Other heroes are eager to strap on a sword, climb onto a horse, or set sail, and begin the adventure.

A Call to Adventure, from the permanent collection, the Art Institute of Chicago

A Call to Adventure, from the permanent collection, the Art Institute of Chicago

On this journey, the hero must pass through a series of thresholds or gates, guarded by an evil force–which can be terrifying or seductive or a combination of both.

Ogre, from the permanent collection, The Chicago Institute of Art

Ogre, from the permanent collection, The Chicago Institute of Art

However, if the hero stands firm and faces the ogre, he or she is in for a surprise:

 “The adventure is always and everywhere a passage beyond the veil of the known into the unknown;  the powers that watch at the boundary are dangerous;  to deal with them is risky;  yet for anyone with competence and courage the danger fades.”–Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces

The great mythologist Joseph Campbell reveals one of the great “lessons” of the quest:  by facing our fears, we learn that they are less powerful than we thought and they can be conquered.   Imagine that!  Still, we must be careful because our unexpected victories can go to our heads, and we can become overconfident.

From literature and the news, we learn about the dangers of hubris.   Some remarkable people can achieve unimagined success in business, politics, sports, and the arts.  But at the same time, they may start to believe that they have more power, skill, and intelligence than “ordinary” mortals.   Some of them become convinced that they are not bound by the laws of society.  In their drive to hold onto their success and fame, they succumb to the pressure to outperform others, to climb higher and to acquire more.  How many successful people can you think of who have achieved great success only to be toppled from their pedestals and fall into shame or oblivion by “sins” of hubris?  (Think of Lance Armstrong, Justin Bieber and Bernie Madoff.)  The lesson here is to accept our success and accolades with humility and grace.   And the acknowledgement that these external signs of achievement are not a measure of our intrinsic self-worth.

Humility.  From the permanent collection at The Chicago Art Institute.

Humility. From the permanent collection at The Chicago Art Institute.

What have you learned by crossing a threshold and accepting a daunting challenge?  Did you learn, like me, that you have greater strength and abilities than you ever imagined?   Did you learn that your fears loom larger before you take action and they shrink once you take the first step?

To see other posts on the “threshold” theme, click on the links below:

Rituals, anthropologists will tell us, are about transformation. The rituals we use for marriage, baptism or inaugurating a president are as elaborate as they are because we associate the ritual with a major life passage, the crossing of a critical threshold, or in other words, with transformation.

Abraham Verghese

Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/abrahamver522619.html#0uHMa6f1GJfi6jk8.99

Rituals, anthropologists will tell us, are about transformation. The rituals we use for marriage, baptism or inaugurating a president are as elaborate as they are because we associate the ritual with a major life passage, the crossing of a critical threshold, or in other words, with transformation.

Abraham Verghese

Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/abrahamver522619.html#0uHMa6f1GJfi6jk8.99

Rituals, anthropologists will tell us, are about transformation. The rituals we use for marriage, baptism or inaugurating a president are as elaborate as they are because we associate the ritual with a major life passage, the crossing of a critical threshold, or in other words, with transformation.

Abraham Verghese

Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/abrahamver522619.html#0uHMa6f1GJfi6jk8.99

Advertisements

16 replies »

  1. What a wonderful post Patti – I loved the message and the photos complimented it beautifully. And I did laugh at your examples (but you forgot Pistorius, the Bladerunner!!)

    Like

  2. Thank you for the thoughtful words that go with your photos on THRESHOLD. It is so true about ‘hubris’ and I see it here in Australia as well. Our longest-serving Prime Minister Mr. Howard was dumped in the 2007 election by not even retaining his seat in parliament! He refused to step down and let someone else take over after 12 years as Prime Minister. Hubris got him in the end and the people ended his reign as a good Prime Minister!

    Like

Don't Be Shy! Drop Me A Line.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s