Hearing (and living) lots of adventure stories lately. Recently regaled with Hamdi Ulukaya's story of growing up milking sheep at his family’s dairy in near the Euphrates River in Turkey. I listened to CEO Ulukaya's tale unfurl into Chobani Yogurt's entrepreneurial odyssey with all its adventurous twists at New Orleans Entrepreneur Week.
While I adore true-life epics--unless the protagonist of the tale is deceased leaving behind all their authentic private journals and letters--what happens often is so much of the nitty-gritty roller-coaster ride of life is portrayed as a flattened-out glide towards overnight success, or gussied up for its publicity effect.
Obstacles omitted, accolades exaggerated. Something gets obscured, even lost, in the veneer, and I'm not sure what's tossed out is not the pearl in the oyster.
Last week, I had an epiphany when I attended a talk on the three-act structure motif of "The Hero's Journey" for screenwriters (see the slides here: Hero's Journey Three-Act Structure for Screenwriters courtesy of New Orleans Video Access Center). The most vivid quotes (from my notes) were:
- "The plot is just a vehicle for inner transformation."
- "The character reluctantly surmounts a trial or obstacle but in order to prevail he must first conquer his own flaw or inner fears," as well as often an external embodiment of those fears and resistance in the form of an antagonist.
- "[In Act II,] Create highs and lows in the quest and the first hard setback."
- "The most difficult obstacle yet has to be overcome and the hero must do--or die."
And, most significantly:
- "The inner change of the character is put to the test."
Listening to the Hero's Journey talk while stepping back from being the star of my own life, I witnessed the stage from a spectator's distance. Rather than bemoan the obstacles in my life, these could be easily interpreted as what makes for a fascinating, unfolding mythic tale of an explorer. Then donning back the heroine's role, obstacles appear to keep individuated life in step with the dynamism of Life rather than stagnating.
I googled the active, verb form of "adventure" and received back:
ADVENTURE: "Engage in hazardous and exciting activity, esp. the exploration of unknown territory: "they had adventured into the forest". Synonyms: verb. risk - venture - hazard - jeopardize - dare - jeopard."
I googled "expedition," which is more the word that has been coming up for me for months. EXPEDITION:
- A journey or voyage undertaken by a group of people with a particular purpose, esp. that of exploration, research, or war.
- The people involved in such a journey or voyage.
Guess what? The synonym for "expedition" is "dispatch." And the name of this blog is Crossroads Dispatches!
Embarking on an expeditionary series hosted here over the next month (or so), and everyone's invited. We'll call the spontaneous scribing, "Everyday Adventure." Expect (as in expectancy more so than expectation) enchantment, experimentation, experiential engagement, and perhaps excruciating epiphanies (alas, perception doesn't always come cheap) to abound. Echoing Marcel Proust's aphorism, we won't be seeking out new adventures as much as welcoming the one we're already on with fresh eyes. This might emcompass a turnabout and facing and embracing obstacles as they come as part of the spice of the story we're inhabiting, for instance. It's playing improv with life (in improv the key words are: "yes, and....") to keep the story rolling.
Count this as Day Zero.
All I'll intend to be doing is breathing, living, morphing, shaping, and sharing stories, experiments and puzzles--mine as well as others--that elicit your own creative and uniquely woven yarn, not passing out step-by-step prescriptions. (How adventuresome would that be?) Lest I forget, I'll repeat this as mantra to myself: "Think questions, not answers. We're storytellers, not teachers," as presenter Ashley Charbonnet said at the start of the NOVAC Hero's Journey for Screenwriters talk.
Bonus: From Lazi Yogi blog (love that blog):
"Given the option, I will always choose the story with wild animals, magic, and divine intervention.
Being the fact that the Life of Pi is itself a work of fiction, both stories are of course untrue. Why not choose the story of transformation and wonder? :)
Art credits: First, two expeditions diaries: sketch of trout in William Clark's expedition diary from the Lewis and Clark expedition; and a page from Keri Smith, author of "How to Be an Explorer of the World" own personal journal (plus she quotes Thoreau from his own journals in that blog post); and the curious Hypatia of Alexandria via Wise Women Pinterest board.