Monday, September 17, 2012

Bohemian Quests

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.” ~ Anaïs Nin, The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 7: 1966-1974

“[T]he most important reason for going from one place to another is to see what's in between, and they took great pleasure in doing just that.” ~ Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth

“I am always in quest of being open to what the universe will bring me.” ~ Jill Bolte Taylor

In his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell outlined a narrative pattern that has appeared in many heroes’ tales outlined in twelve steps.  These cultural tales begin with an ordinary person call to adventure.  Many times, the hero is reluctant and has to be push forward.  We then follow them as they go on to achieve great deeds on behalf of a group or for humanity. 

I’ve always asked the questions about Campbell’s hero’s quests – who determines who can be a hero?  Are we not each capable of becoming one?  What are considered great deeds?  Sure discovering the cure for cancer is heroic, but isn’t the hospice nurse who midwives death a hero too?  Finally, who has the time to go on a formal quest?  Isn’t one who has financial and social responsibilities to a family, capable of a quest too even if they can’t give up a year or two?  What if you can’t afford a pilgrimage to a cool place – can’t you have a quest in your backyard too?


Bohemian Coffee House Baltimore, MD 
To me, the underlying purpose of a quest is to stretch us to look at our soul differently.  I see it also as a mechanism for reconnection with our soul’s true calling.  According to Campbell, the hero goes off on their adventure after they are called; meets new people; goes through some tests and trials; and comes back different and is able to share this experience with a group of friends.  I have often wondered what would happen if we looked at our day long journey as a quest?  How would our view of the mundane be different?  Would we live differently?

This is why I came up with the term Bohemian Quests. 

A Bohemian Quest is about looking at the ordinary or the boring or the humdrum in an uncommon way.  A Bohemian Quest is about changing your perceptions – shaking things up.  For example, at lunch I take a 30 minute walk.  I usually go one particular route and the houses and shops now have become a familiar blur.  But if a purposely change the direction of the walk a paradigmatic change always occurs in my perception.  I always manage to say – “there’s a church on the corner?”  “I didn’t know there was a coffee shop there?”

A Bohemian Quest is about creating quiet space to listen to our heart without the cell phone or e-mail blasts distracting us.  This may occur in a bookshop, a coffee shop or hiking in the woods.  Here, you can meet new people.  A Bohemian Quest may include signing up for a watercolor class or changing up your chore list from kitchen, bathroom and grocery store to grocery store, kitchen and bathroom.

Julia Cameron prescribed 3 tools for becoming a creative person: Daily Journal, Walking and Having an Artist Date.  I would describe a Bohemian Quest as fulfilling an artist date.  The purpose of the date is to spend a few hours a week doing something out of the ordinary.  It’s about feeding, refueling and nourishing the inner creative you.  It is about making your brain see things a little different from the way you usually do things. 
Cameron provides several examples.  Here are some of my favorites: hang out at a coffee shop and listen in on conversations, see an art film, go to Joanne Fabrics, go and see a live band concert, go to a park and sit under a tree, go to a flea market, go to poetry night reading…..

Take a Bohemian Quest

 Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey stages are:
1.        THE ORDINARY WORLD.  The hero, uneasy, uncomfortable or unaware, is introduced sympathetically so the audience can identify with the situation or dilemma.  The hero is shown against a background of environment, heredity, and personal history.  Some kind of polarity in the hero’s life is pulling in different directions and causing stress.

2.        THE CALL TO ADVENTURE.  Something shakes up the situation, either from external pressures or from something rising up from deep within, so the hero must face the beginnings of change. 

3.        REFUSAL OF THE CALL.  The hero feels the fear of the unknown and tries to turn away from the adventure, however briefly.  Alternately, another character may express the uncertainty and danger ahead.

4.        MEETING WITH THE MENTOR.  The hero comes across a seasoned traveler of the worlds who gives him or her training, equipment, or advice that will help on the journey.  Or the hero reaches within to a source of courage and wisdom.

5.        CROSSING THE THRESHOLD.  At the end of Act One, the hero commits to leaving the Ordinary World and entering a new region or condition with unfamiliar rules and values. 

6.        TESTS, ALLIES AND ENEMIES.  The hero is tested and sorts out allegiances in the Special World.

7.        APPROACH.  The hero and newfound allies prepare for the major challenge in the Special world.

8.        THE ORDEAL.  Near the middle of the story, the hero enters a central space in the Special World and confronts death or faces his or her greatest fear.  Out of the moment of death comes a new life.

9.        THE REWARD.  The hero takes possession of the treasure won by facing death.  There may be celebration, but there is also danger of losing the treasure again.

10.      THE ROAD BACK.  About three-fourths of the way through the story, the hero is driven to complete the adventure, leaving the Special World to be sure the treasure is brought home.  Often a chase scene signals the urgency and danger of the mission.

11.     THE RESURRECTION.  At the climax, the hero is severely tested once more on the threshold of home.  He or she is purified by a last sacrifice, another moment of death and rebirth, but on a higher and more complete level.  By the hero’s action, the polarities that were in conflict at the beginning are finally resolved.

12.       RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR.  The hero returns home or continues the journey, bearing some element of the treasure that has the power to transform the world as the hero has been transformed.

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