Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Supernatural Aid: Step Three of the Hero's Journey

Once the hero has committed to the quest, consciously or unconsciously, his or her guide and magical helper appears, or becomes known.

I like to think of the guide being more like guides, plural tense. Even in the short time since I have truly committed within myself to making this journey, I have noticed people and interviews and books that point me in a direction I need to go. Take this evening for instance. I had downloaded what I thought was a new interview on Fresh Air with comedian Demetri Martin. But as I started to listen to it I realized it was from a couple of years ago ... and that I had heard it before. Yet it was speaking directly to me. Terry Gross asked Demetri how he went from being a law school student on a complete scholarship to being a comedian-in-training. He went on to talk about not feeling any passion for law school and one day asking himself two questions. One, what do I really like doing. Answer: Joking around with his friends. Two, how do I make money from that. Answer: Be a comedian.

Demetri Martin used to work as a writer on Conan's show. It just so happened that a couple of weeks ago Conan appeared on a two-hour edition of Inside the Actor's Studio and I watched it with rapt attention as he talked about knowing that he was called to be an entertainer and just pushing forward at every juncture, even when it was far from sure that he had made a sound professional decision one way or the other. Conan's parents were a scientist and a lawyer respectively. It couldn't have been easy for him to have gone to Harvard and come out and said, "Well, Mom and Dad, I'm going into comedy." Yet he knew that is what he was good at.

Going back to Demetri, re-listening to the interview reminded me that he was the son of a minister too. His Dad preached at a Greek Orthodox Church and he talked about growing up listening to his Dad's sermons. One thing he realized about his Dad early on was that he was authentic and more recently he has seen in his own life that people are drawn to authenticity in whatever professional or calling or interpersonal relationship they find themselves in.

That is a core question. How can I be authentic? Well, the only way one can be authentic is to work in a way that your labor reflects something of who you are as a person. I can be authentic only if I try and do what I love to do. Once I commit to that, somewhere down the road I can worry about how to make money doing it. One step at a time.

Oh, and speaking of other supernatural wisom, here is a link to Conan's commencement speech at Harvard in 2000: