Pain And Pleasure Do Not Enclose Him

Please do not read The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogel. You will never enjoy a movie again. Well, you’ll never enjoy one in the wide-eyed childlike enchantment way that even hardened movie-goers experience. Instead, you will spend the two hours checking each stage of The Story. You see, Vogel’s book, published in 1992, but preceded by many years of notes and summaries, is the handbook of the Hollywood scriptwriter. In it he outlines the stages of The Story, common to all fables and myths and legends. The Hero, living in the Ordinary World, is Called To Adventure, which she Refuses, but after Meeting Her Mentor, she Crosses The Threshold, and with the aid of Allies, undergoes The Supreme Ordeal, receives The Reward, and Returns, as Hero, bringing “The Elixir” to the Ordinary World. Get the picture?

Vogel explains at length that he has essentially scriptwritten Joseph Campbell’s 1949 opus, The Hero With A Thousand Faces. A multilingual mystic who made a mark on mid-Twentieth Century America, Campbell wrote a beautiful book which more or less deconstructs the popular stories of mankind and in doing so establishes the pro forma by which all such stories are written. His early influences were Nietzsche and Joyce and Mann, and in later years he edited the Eranos Yearbooks, a series of arcane essays on life ‘but not as we know it’ as interpreted by European mystics and philosophers, also intriguing.

Vogler’s Supreme Ordeal stage of the story, the impending death of the Hero, is split in Campbell’s original into several parts. One is headed Apotheosis. It’s the deification stage, where the Hero is transformed into something more than human. In early fables it was usually into a god. Now it can be anything vaguely super-human; Bruce Willis in a elevator shaft comes to mind. As Campbell writes: “ is he who holds the world, the lotus. Pain and pleasure do not enclose him. He encloses them…” Perhaps this is the pivotal moment for us. We want the Hero to win. The Hero obliges us by shedding a human weakness or three. Nice job, if you can get it. Now, about that movie you’re about to see…

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