Do you recall the story of the prodigal son in the bible? Two sons grow up in a mansion on their father’s very prosperous agricultural enterprise. One son goes off with his inheritance to explore the world while the other ‘good’ son stays behind to help run the family business. The wandering son ends up destitute—probably drugs! (this is what I always imagined) and decides to return home where the father ecstatically greets him and immediately reinstates him to the family enterprise while the ‘good’ son glowers with resentment in the shadows.
The Shero/Hero’s Journey
There’s also the classic Shero/Hero’s Journey story. The main character in any adventure story, longs for more than what’s going on where he/she is born and raised. He/she strikes out to explore and faces many hardships, enemies, near death-maybe several times, but overcomes them all and returns to the ‘tribe’ with a greater knowing of who he/she is, with far less fear, new skills and wisdom about the ways of the world and brings expansion/enlightenment back to his/her people.
There are Always Individuals Who Reject the Ways of the Group
This is how we are as a people. We gather and establish families, communities, businesses, etc., as a way of building safety and security. We write up rules of behaviour and laws so that everyone knows what’s expected and how to contribute to the group. There is always a selection of individuals that seem to reject the ways of the group and venture off on their own. The tribe very often calls these individuals rebels and trouble makers and all their mothers fear for their safety! These individuals feel they are betraying their loved ones and struggle with the belief there must be something wrong with them, why can’t they just go along with the group?
But the point of the wanderer, the rebel, the prodigal son and the she/hero is to go forth, expand and enlighten themselves first, realize the ‘rules’ are arbitrary and then bring what they learn back to the tribe, so that the whole group benefits. Their story of struggle and overcoming helps to dispel fear and inspire others in the group to break the rules and try expansive things.
Who is the Hero/Prodigal in Your Story?
I see these ‘stories’ up close and personal in me, in the people I know and in past and current societies, and cultures. Where do these stories play out in you? In your family? In your tribe? Can you let go of the guilt of being the wanderer? Can you let go of worrying about and/or judging your relative, the wanderer, who-just-may-return-as-a-conquering-hero?
I see the bible story much differently now. You can bet that the returning son had a whole lot of new ideas about how to run the farm not to mention some great stories to tell around the evening dinner table! Maybe his brother even took some time off to go on some adventures of his own.