The Hero and The Adventurer

“The shortest distance between two people is a story.”
Terrance Gargiulo

There’s a lot of talk about being heroic these days. I’ve participated in a lot of discussions on the subject, and I even agree with it, to a certain point. I think it’s very important that people believe in their own ability to seize thier potential and create their own destinies.


When you choose a narrative, you also choose the problems that goes along with it. And a Hero is born for struggle. Oh, sure he’s born for victory, for fame, for glory. But primarily, he is born to struggle. Struggle, and redemption.

If you choose the Hero as your archetype, you get everything.

Choosing a Narrative

We’ve talked quite a bit about your power to choose your story, but what we’ve never addressed is the fact that choosing a narrative at all gives that story the power of direction over your life. You chose that pattern, and now consciously or unconsciously you’re going to live up to it, simply because that’s how your life is now framed.

So if you choose to be a hero, especially if you know anything about the so-called “Hero’s Journey”, most especially if you have a quest, every daunting obstacle will become a “trial.”

Now, I’m not dissing heros. If you’ve got trials, obstacles, challenges, simply seeing them as one more test of worthiness is a really good, healthy way to handle them.

But I grow less and less convinced of the

inevitability of struggle.

But as long as you see life as a struggle, it will be. It’s important, in the same way that a butterfly breaking out of its cocoon must struggle in order to gain the strength to fly.

All I’m saying is that struggle is not inevitable.

But when you built it into the narrative, it’s hard to see that. You could, theoretically, dodge the narrative if you were an earnest disciple of Chaos Magic, but oh Lordy, is it tough when you’re trapped inside the story you wrote.

And so, although I may have heroic aspects of myself, I have moved away from heroism as a narrative for my life, and moved into what I call “The Adventurer”.

The Adventurer

The Adventurer is different from the hero in that there is no quest, or if there is, it’s only the passing fancy of the moment. The Adventurer lives by his wits and likes a challenge, but because he doesn’t fall in line with societal expectations he is often rejected for his perspicacity. Because of this, and because of his thirst for adventure and challenge, he moves from place to place. Although he often makes good friends, the connections are fleeting, unless they choose to journey with him. He follows his own personal code, and is totally upright within it, although he may seem duplicitous or uncaring.

There are many overlapping characteristics with both the Trickster and the Wise Fool.

Most importantly, to me, the Adventurer does not struggle under some great destiny. He has no trials, no terrifying depths to plumb in his own soul; he simply swings from own adventure to another with the ease and grace of a trapeze artist. The gap between does not intimidate him.

He gives up honour, glory, greatness; the boon that only the hero can grant the world—- but he owns his own soul; he understands that struggle is only a struggle for as long as you must have things other than they are.

Here’s hope for the heroes:

I think there’s plenty of room for these narratives to co-exist side-by-side. After the hero’s journey, for instance, when he comes back into the real world he’s often disillusioned; he has changed too much to ever be comfortable here again.

If you’ve ever felt that way, I would argue that is the ideal time for a transformation between the Hero and the Adventurer. You don’t need to reassimilate; you don’t need another quest. Simply accept that you can make your way on your own now, and cast an eye to the horizon, going whereever your heart desires.

“Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”

Helen Keller


6 thoughts on “The Hero and The Adventurer”

  1. I’m either quite terrible or brilliant with narratives (depending on the version of my story i’m telling).  Because  it happens so easily at times – a tantalizing turn of phrase is enough to entice me into a new narrative so smoothly I am not entirely aware of choosing it – it’s more like standing under an indecisive sky as the weather passes over me .  I love the way you write about it here – it’s not a new story but you’ve put an outfit of words on it that i like better than the more common ways to interact with it.  i think the part where each narrative comes with it’s own constraints – it’s own attributes that impose limits as much as freedoms gets left out of the conversation a lot – when people talk about reframing, they often are only exploring the positive shifts – and not the whole story – the undersides and nuances.  those stories feel lifeless and lack-luster to me – like the whole of the good bits got taken out and  turned into the disney version of life.  the thing I have been most grateful to my life for teaching me is just how possible it is to make up your own narrative all together – what it feels like to hold that together against the onslaught of the overculture’s narrative about you distilled into random interactions with people who miss the story you’re telling about yourself.  Being disabled being the most fierce object lesson in this realm.  and not because the disability itself meant anything to me, but because the contrast between what it meant to other people and what it meant to me was so aggressively different.  If I was climbing up a mountain or taking a long canoe trip that involved portaging or moving to africa or walking the camino de santiago or taking up aerial silks and me and my tribe were just going with the rush of it and someone stopped to say: ‘but, you’re in a wheelchair’  as though that alone made their point obvious – and all I could think was ‘so?’. and I honestly wanted them to explain to me what that meant about doing what I could do .  it honestly meant something to them and it honestly meant nothing to me.  if there could be two such intensely different stories about something that appears so tangible and unchangeable then how many stories could there be for all the stuff of life more abstract and internal?  or even for other things as solidly manifest as a physical was never about believing i could do anything i wanted to – that kind of inspiration feels quite limp and one-dimensional to me.  And it was never about ignoring the fact of the disability itself. and it was never about pretending it didn’t impact me or my choices or my identity in some way – but i couldn’t help but realize that *how* it impacted me was open to interpretation and that i had stumbled into the grey area of what it meant and how it affected me by being oblivious to what it was *supposed* to mean.  It is a lot easier to just take the accepted story and live it.  I can’t do this and I can do this tucked into neat little binary code for how to live life in a wheelchair.  not knowing where those distinctions are in any given situation until i’m in the midst of it and figuring it out makes relationships and life situations and choices a bit messier but also much richer.  and it was a natural extension from that part of my life into all the other parts of my life.   My marriage is unconventional, my living situation is unconventional, the way I structure my work life, my private life, my day to day activities – and not just that – they are always open to restructuring when a new idea comes to me and i just feel like it.  In any given situation I tend to have a broad sense of permission for what I could do with it – and I surround myself with people who contribute even more options and possibilities and support and permission when my own ideas don’t reach far know, I’m in love with this way of living life – collecting narratives, shifting them around to suit circumstances – to reach for new experiences, to take life on as an adventure – I’m partial to romantic adventures, myself.  oh shanna, you never fail to stimulate me.

    1. Oh, Erin, I feel like you just wrote me a love-letter. 🙂

      It’s an interesting point, and I don’t know if you realized you were making it; that being disabled showed you how false the narrative was in your case, and so you were able to be much more clear-eyed throughout life, not taking on faith what “the narrative” supplied for life, love,  work, marriage, and living arrangements. One of the things I find so interesting about the internet era is how few rules still really apply (at least here in the first world) and how people are slowly waking up to that. It’s another point about constraints; without the framework of ‘it’s always been this way’, the possibilities are quite literally mind-blowing, and it takes a really strong sense of self-hood in order to withstand so much ephemeris. And even amongst those who can handle it, fewer still even care to push the limits that way. 
  2. I was trying ot make it on purpose – I can live it much better than I can explain it but it is dying for me to give it words…I agree – living in the ephemeris (that’s the conjugation? how gorgeous) is a challenge – especially since ‘strong sense of self’ and ‘rootedness’ or ‘fixedness’ tend to go together – whereas the nature of dissolving certain boundaries is a way of being unrooted – my own process of separating the two and rebuilding them to suit me – being both strong in my sense of self and unfixed – is an ongoing process you have been unutterably potent in supporting me through.I push across boundaries despite myself – which is how I learned that dissolving all those boundaries is a true risk – people’s tendency to hesitate and withdraw from the dare is valid – because freedom and self – destruction in this case dance a delicate dance with one another – you *need* a container as a context to create within – but also you’re pushing limits and boundaries and how far do you go?  what is the boundary between your freedom and your undoing? they say there’s a fine line between genius and madness – and this is in that realm when you get to the real fringes of whatever your area of exploration is – how far can you go and still find your way back wtih something useful?  although most of us aren’t really teetering at that edge with our choices – even though it still feels like it – truth be told, that place where it’s most ephemeral and all the fixed points dissolved really freaks me out – like that feeling of telling scary stories that really unsettle you – taking you into places where what is certain and fixed isn’t anymore – upending your usual markers for what is and isn’t and how to respond.  things like the fluidity of sexuality and gender or the vastness of space or how the mind works and  ‘pixels’.  but it’s also a fear so genuine that I *want* to free fall into it – loose my mind in those places by way of storytelling.  

    1. I actually think that’s why I resonate so much with the god Shiva, the bent I have towards creative destruction. Lots of people are terrified of it and I think rightly so because so much of life is what you might call a cognitive adaptation; we do what other people have decided, think what other people have thought because understanding, beyond a shadow of a doubt that nothing is so ‘real’ it can’t be meddled with, nothing so ‘true’ it can’t be wrong, and basically, all the things that comfort us are nothing more than lies we tell ourselves to preserve us from abject terror.

      And yet, those lies, they shield us from — what? We don’t know– we’ve never been off the map.  Perhaps there are, indeed dragons and other monsters that long tradition has protected us from– but somehow I doubt it. 

      When you go through the rabbit hole, though, for some time you are at an extreme disadvantage– all those patterns of thought and deed you haven’t shed yet. That might be what end up getting you hurt as much as anything else; you think you’ve broken free, but the old ways still cling to you, in ways you don’t yet realize. I think that’s where a guide might come in handy, to point it out to you where you’re holding the old patterns. 

      I think we all will find that at the bottom of it, there’s nothing to fear, and that the boldness of ignorance serves us well.
      1. I think you got it – that we’re most vulnerable when we take the plunge and think we’re free – making bolder choices and living a riskier life but don’t see what still clings to us – the dragons we haven’t yet slain – and that guides are essential there. I used to have BIG FEAR that thinking too flexibly would cause me to go mentally insane – and living too freely would break me irreparably.  and it might have been true if i had just blasted through my fears without any insight or support.  but that’s what my council is for – when I’m dissolving boundaries and unfixing myself from the usual rules – they’re the anchor in place of the limiting idea – when i think back to all the edges I was afraid of – all the things i thought would break me if i stepped into the free zone – it was the attack inside my own brain that did any damage – not the new situation – and when me and my council got me through the brain attack – the new situation was…liberating, and so..nourishing to me – or it wasn’t and that was no big deal.  

        1. Yeah, exactly…it’s not the wider free-falling world that’s going to do the damage; it’s the contorting and panicked thrashing as you claw for equilibrium. Once you accept that the only peace you’re ever going to feel is accepting the chaos, you’re fine.

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