When my wife needed help picking up furniture for a store she’s opening up, I of course said I’d help. That’s what us husbands do. It was a drizzly Saturday morning. We grabbed to go cups of hot coffee, dropped the kids off at a friend’s house, and headed out. For some reason that morning, I was thinking about Joseph Campbell’s work. Perhaps we’d go on a Hero’s Journey. I kept this in mind as we began our day.
Stages of a Hero’s Journey (as told through our furniture purchase)
Stage One: Call to Adventure:
The hero starts off in a mundane situation of normality from which some information is received that acts as a call to head off into the unknown.
My wife purchased a gigantic counter top for her store off of Craigslist. The owner lived in NW Portland, up past the Zoo. We borrowed an old pick up truck from a friend, and headed to the Great Northwest. Going across the Broadway Bridge, I had a sense that we were entering an adventure.
Stage Two: Threshold (Beginning of Transformation):
This is the point where the person actually crosses into the field of adventure, leaving the known limits of his or her world and venturing into an unknown and dangerous realm where the rules and limits are not known.
I think the hero in this story was a combo deal – my wife and I. We set out on the adventure as a team, met our first obstacle in a hard drizzle (no we didn’t have any tarps to cover the furniture). Our GPS also failed us and we got a little bit lost up in the NW hills. I know, you’re wanting more dramatic conflict. Well ok, let’s embellish a bit. As we were looking for house numbers, a gigantic spaceship plopped down in the road, blocking our path. I slammed on the brakes and came within inches of smashing a small, slender, and naked 3 foot tall alien. He put his hand up like he was saying “Stop in the name of love” or something. His hips kind of gyrated too. Was he dancing? Wait, was this a man or a woman alien? Two other aliens sashayed out of the spaceship, and they all started dancing in unison. No music though. None we could hear. Then all of a sudden, they all stopped, took a bow, and moonwalked back into the spaceship. The doors shut, and the spaceship took off into the sky like a bullet. I looked to my wife. “That just happened right?” I said watching the spacecraft shoot through the gray Portland clouds. “I don’t think so,” she said, looking up at the sky as well.
It was obvious, we had crossed the threshold into the land of adventure.
Stage 3: The Mentor:
Once the hero has committed to the quest, consciously or unconsciously, his or her guide and magical helper appears, or becomes known. More often than not, this supernatural mentor will present the hero with one or more talismans or artifacts that will aid them later in their quest.
We arrived to the house where we were to pick up the counter top. We met Jim (not his real name) and he offered a hand in putting the parts in the truck. Jim was in his mid-thirties, stocky in a gym coach kind of way. He wore an Oregon State sweatshirt and hat, and was super helpful.
The countertop came in five large pieces, complete with a sink as well that we didn’t need. There was only one way the pieces could go if they were to fit properly. And apparently Jim was a puzzle expert (I’m not too shabby myself). We fit the pieces in without an inch to spare and tied a few bungee cords together to hold it down. As mentioned, Jim couldn’t have been nicer and more helpful. Like a good mentor, he taught us better furniture packing techniques. After making small talk, we made the transaction and were on our way.
Stage 4: Road of Trials:
The road of trials is a series of tests, tasks, or ordeals that the person must undergo to begin the transformation. Often the person fails one or more of these tests, which often occur in threes.
Hmmm, things in Hero’s Journey story usually get really bad right about here. Our only issue was heavier rain that got the counter tops a bit wet. But once again, let’s embellish a bit. We were driving down Burnside Drive crossing 23rd Avenue when one of the bungee cords popped off the furniture, curled around into the driver’s side window (which unfortunately was open) and hooked me in the mouth like I was a Northern Pike. Surprised by what transpired, I then accidently swallowed the bungee cord. Not good. Kate surely wanted to help but she was too busy screaming. At that point I was so in shock that I forgot we were driving. We then smashed straight through the windows of Pier One Imports. Somehow, the impact of the crash loosened the bungee cord lodged in my throat. It popped out harmlessly and laid in my lap. We came through the crash mostly unscathed, except for being buried in three layers of wicker baskets.
Stage 5: The Ultimate Boon:
The ultimate boon is the achievement of the goal of the quest. It is what the person went on the journey to get. All the previous steps serve to prepare and purify the person for this step, since in many myths the boon is something transcendent like the elixir of life itself, or a plant that supplies immortality, or the holy grail.
Miraculously, the truck was also largely undamaged. We backed out of the store, said “sorry” and hightailed it out of there. We then went back over the bridge to the East Side, pulled up to my wife’s new store, borrowed a dolly from a nearby restaurant, and unloaded the counter tops. The hard work was done. We had made it through all the grueling challenges and temptations throughout the day. Wooo Hooo!!!
Stage 6: Return:
Having found bliss and enlightenment in the other world, the hero may not want to return to the ordinary world to bestow the boon onto his fellow man.
We returned the truck to the owner, who luckily didn’t ask about the wicker smell, and went back over to our friend’s house to pick up our kids. We then went to lunch at the Grilled Cheese Grill, told them all about our trials and tribulations, and celebrated a successful adventure.
NOTE: There are many more stages of the Hero’s Journey that we left out of our amazing furniture buying adventure. For more info on Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, go here.