“The ordeal is a deepening of the problem of the first threshold and the question is still in balance: Can the ego put itself to death?”
-Joseph Campbell, The Hero With a Thousand Faces
When last we left the Photographer, he had some tough decisions to make. His truck, through no fault of his own, was in pieces, just at the moment he was about to go back to school to learn auto collision repair skills.
I speak from experience when I say that going back to school is tough. There’s the diminished income, the diminished free time, and the difficulty of being a beginner at something, which, as I’ve discussed recently, can be remarkably difficult even when the stakes are not that high. It’s a bad time to suffer the loss of something a person loves and depends on like the Photographer loves and depends on his truck.
After several days of careful consideration and number crunching, he decided to buy it back from the insurance company and have it fixed on his own. He got an independent estimate on the value with which to challenge the insurance company’s figures. He went over the estimate, line by line, with the body shop, discussing what they would do to make it drivable, and what he would handle on his own. It’s likely the truck will bear its scars quite visibly for awhile. The driver’s side door may be a different color. Some dents and scratches are unlikely to be fixed for the time being.
In Campbell’s monomyth, the Road of Trials is a series of tests the hero must pass in order to continue. It’s the process by which the hero learns the rules of the special world he has just entered, the knowledge of which deepens his ability to move between the ordinary and the special world, and to thrive in both.
It has occurred to me, three posts into writing about the Photographer’s ordeal as a hero’s journey, that it may seem odd to some to be talking about going back to school and fixing up a truck as though it were in the same vein as Jason’s quest for the golden fleece. But truly, it is. The Photographer has been in love with cars and trucks since birth. It’s a subject that excites him like nothing else. I once wrote about how being in love with anything is the opening to a spiritual path that, if followed, takes us beyond what we thought our limitations to be. For many, the task of fixing a vehicle after a car accident would be very prosaic. For the Photographer, it is truly a quest of mythological significance, an initiation, the beginning of his own Road of Trials in the quest for meaningful work aligned with his true nature.
At this point in the Photographer’s story, I’m reminded of the story of Conn-Eda, who I wrote about some years ago. On Conn-Eda’s Road of Trials, he rides a small, shaggy horse who, at first glance, seems a poor companion indeed for such a trip. Yet, Michael Meade makes the point that on this particular road, it’s exactly the small, shaggy horse Conn-Eda needs. Riding this horse signifies that he has put aside his ego and let this unimpressive horse take the lead. And lead it will, through fire and water, into places the everyday, sensible and intact ego would refuse to go.
I imagine the truck with the different color door will be the Photographer’s shaggy horse, and I imagine it will lead him to interesting, wonderful places.