There's a documentary called "Finding Joe" about the hero's journey. I don't often watch things repeatedly, especially documentaries, but I've watched this one about four times in the last year or so.
It begins with a narration about a Golden Buddha in Thailand. The monks, upon finding out that the land was about to be under siege during a war, decided to cover the buddha in mud and cement in order to protect it. They figured that anyone coming to pillage the monastery would see the ordinary statue and think nothing of it. Time passed, the land was occupied for a while, and they were right. The Buddha remained safe.
Generations later, as the story goes, the statue was cracking. As pieces of the old mud and cement came loose, the Monks were astonished to find that the Buddha was in fact made of solid gold...
The message is that we are all born as the Golden Buddha, with infinite possibility and wonder. The moment we come in to this world, we are pure and beautiful and golden and limitless.
Then, we start learning things.
In order to protect us, or direct us, or control us... "life" begins to cover us with mud and concrete, for our own good, it would seem. Every "you should" and "you shouldn't" adds a layer. Every judgement and expectation adds a layer. Every dogmatic paradigm, every inherited belief...
Until the world is going on around us and our gold is all covered up. No one notices, because no one remembers the day when the Buddha was Golden.
And then, some time later, the mud and cement begin to crack. Inevitably, the shell crumbles and we realize what, and who, we are.
The documentary goes in to talking about the hero's journey, the philosophy and mythology of Joseph Campbell... all in the context of a good story and of our human nature.
What I love about the story of the Buddha in the beginning is the way the narrator smiles when he talks about the gold. "The gold," he says, "is so much more fun."
Once we realize our true nature, once we see what we're really made out of, we can never go back. We begin to work diligently to shake off the mess that hid us from the world and stand proudly in the reality of who we are, and it is here that we find our true authenticity and purpose.
Often, the hero's journey is that first crack in our shell. We are called to an adventure by the universe, even though we may choose to ignore it for as long as possible. Inevitably, something in our lives creates- even forces- the discovery of the gold beneath the mud.
Once the transformation begins, it's impossible to ignore.
And I love the gold. It is so much more fun.