Supernatural Aid

In keeping with my running theme of basing blog posts off Campbell’s monomyth, I will now talk about the invaluable help I received in getting on the path to the metaphorical world of adventure.

Some time in the middle of winter quarter at a local community college, I began to feel that I wasn’t learning anything. I’d gone to college to get training and knowledge, for I wanted at the time to become a college professor.

But none of the classes seemed to be teaching me much. My political science class was taught by an avowed socialist who I foolishly antagonized. My drama class was a farce, no pun intended. The only class that seemed to make sense was a remedial math class. How ironic that my least favorite subject would become my refuge.

To cut a long story short, I declined to return to college after the quarter ended, opting to get a job at Burger King. The ratio between cost and return wasn’t balancing out.

But I was not without purpose.

I had made contact online with various persons involved in the Praxis program, which I meant to apply to at the time. One of those people was Derek Magill.

Derek Magill runs his own blog, has consulted for several high-grade companies, and is really, really good at what he does. He’s the Director of Marketing at Praxis, and I suppose it was his job to interact with people like me who were interested in the program.

However, I’m glad to have interacted with Mr. Magill online, having read his blog and his eBook How to Get Any Job You Want. I even found out about Ryan Holiday’s book Trust Me, I’m Lying through his blog.

Mr. Magill’s advice gave me the idea and drive to strike out on my own and try to find a job. Although I didn’t get into Praxis, his blog has been a valued source of information regarding career advice. His general theory of career success is to find where you want to work at, do valuable free work for that company, and then ask them to hire you to keep doing it.

It worked well for him, so I’m certain it could work just fine for me. Stay tuned.

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The Threshold Guardians Kicked my Butt, and I’m Glad They Did

It’s been two weeks since I was politely denied admittance to the Praxis program which I mentioned in my first post.

In short, it looks like the threshold guardians kicked my butt.

To enlighten those of you who haven’t read Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces, the First Threshold which the hero crosses in his monomyth (see the aforementioned first post) must face an obstacle, referred to as “threshold guardians,” in the way to his entrance into the world of adventure.

In this case, the threshold guardians were a couple of fine gentlemen who kindly showed me the door, throwing my metaphorical butt down the stairs of the first threshold.

In a word, “Ouch.”

I wanted to get into the Praxis program, I really did, but I think I know why I didn’t make the cut. Firstly, my interviews weren’t very impressive. That’s a big road block.

Second, I now realize (and they probably knew it before I did) that I was seeing Praxis as just another conveyor belt. Like the college student before me who expected a job right when they graduate simply because they have a piece of paper that says they sat through a bunch of classes and passed some tests, I thought that if I could just get into Praxis, I’d be set.

But these fine, indefatigable Threshold Guardians knew better. They had no time for such layabouts as I, so they picked me up by both arms, gave me a nice reality check, and threw me back over to where I had met up with my Supernatural Aid (more on that in a later post).

So there I sat (metaphorically and literally, as most of this was done while I was sitting), wondering what on Earth would become of me.

But then I had an idea: There are other thresholds.

So, remembering Moltke’s maxim that “No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy,” I picked myself up, put some cold water on my face, and set to work on another fork in the road, heading to another Threshold. With luck, the threshold guardians there will be a little more forgiving.

Either that, or I’ll be a little tougher.

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Why Read Fiction?

I’ve known at least one guy who just doesn’t read fiction.

This particular guy is an incredibly smart man. He’s a student of mathematics and physics, having formerly been employed by Boeing. But he plainly told me that he does not read fiction, preferring to instead read books on those areas of expertise.

Being a “Live and let live” type of person, I am happy to let my acquaintance read about mathematics and physics to his heart’s content. However, I am left wondering just how many educated, employed, successful persons share this view, that reading fiction is a waste of time that is better spent “learning” about “practical” subjects.

I instead assert that reading fiction is good both as a means of recreation and as a way to sharpen the imagination.

As children, we are encouraged to read, at least I was, and I was of course drawn to fantasy. I remember being curled up on the sofa for hours on end, absorbed in a Redwall book. I often found myself cajoling my dad into journeying to the nearest Barnes & Noble so I could use my hard-earned lawn mowing revenue to purchase the latest Bionicle pulp novel.

But as I got older, especially in recent years, I began to read fiction less and less. I had important things to do, like reading books on history, politics, economics, business, and theology.

I enjoy all of these subjects thoroughly, but I found myself seldom reading prose fiction. I was instead drawn to comic books and graphic novels, fine stuff in their own way, but not quite the same.

Before this year, I can remember reading two fiction books within the last three years: The Book Thief and Ender’s Game. Both were remarkable books, and I got such a thrill out of reading them from cover to cover. Ender’s Game blew my mind and The Book Thief made me genuinely  sad. But I soon was back to business as usual.

Eventually, out of some fervent desire to get back to what I was missing, I finally cracked. I picked up an old, dusty copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis, and sat down and read it in two days.

Up to this point I had rigidly been abiding by a complicated series of reading lists, where I just had to read these books in that order, never mind what I actually wanted to read at any given time.

But emboldened by my sudden, out-of-the-blue reading choice, I checked out 1984 by George Orwell from the library. Thus began the transformation. 1984 was an absolutely thrilling novel, and the only one to actually scare me in years. I swear I jumped in my seat while reading the thing during a ten-minute break in the Burger King break room.

I began listening to fiction audio books on my phone on the walk home, including The Iliad and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. I balanced these out with works of non-fiction, but the course was set. I was now consuming real, prose fiction again!

I have just finished reading The Pilgrim’s Progress for the first time all the way through. Now I’m happily rereading The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis, a remarkable work of epistolary satire. I hope to read a comic book next, just to spice things up, though I hope to continue on my fiction streak after that.

I’ve found that since deciding to make a concentrated effort to read more fiction, my creativity and critical thinking skills have improved fantastically. I feel I can solve problems more quickly, more easily overcome obstacles at work, and more effectively engage in problem solving.

To summarize, reading fiction is not only fun, but also useful for expanding the imagination and encouraging innovative and ingenious thought. If I can’t find a solution to that marketing problem at work, I’m bound to have something brewing the next day after having spent the evening reading.

Without imagination, there is no ingenuity. Without fiction, there is no imagination. Therefore, I will read fiction.

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Crossing of the First Threshold

In his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell states that all of the world’s mythologies follow the same basic structure, beginning with “The Call to Adventure.”

This is the beginning of a process in which the hero receives the calling to depart from the ordinary world, enter the world of adventure, and eventually return transformed.

The first post of this blog is not so much “The Call to Adventure” but instead “The Crossing of the First Threshold.” That is to say, I’d already answered the call to adventure before I started this blog, and now I’m finally entering the world of adventure.

My journey began when I graduated from high school, and then moved on to community college. I received the Call to Adventure when I heard about the Praxis program. But I ignored it at first, neatly stepping into the second step of the hero’s journey, or monomyth: “Refusal of the Call.”

Eventually, however, reality caught up with me: College is expensive. The things you learn there are often useless, dull, and Marxist. The long bus rides back home are no picnic either.

I had been home schooled before all this, many years of which involved a co-op, and it was a good experience. But I’d sat in a classroom long enough, and if I wanted to learn anything new, I could do it on my own.

I reached out to the guys at the Praxis program from before, and began talking online with some of them. The seemed like good guys. Thus the next step in the monomyth, “Supernatural Aid.”

This is where the hero receives help or a helper to guide him into the world of adventure, often imparting to him special knowledge and expertise that will be useful on their quest.

My quest? To become a entrepreneur, a writer, a businessman, a statesman, a reporter, a poet, a churchman, a big shot, a grunt, a leader, and a servant.

(I wouldn’t mind settling for “employed.”)

So I dropped out of community college, got a job at Burger King, worked for nine months, and then applied for Praxis.

Armed only with my social media savvy and a laptop, I have crossed the first threshold.

To be continued. 

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