Thursday, May 14, 2020

Arthur Brooks on "The Hero's Journey" and retirement

In the most recent installment of Arthur Brooks’ biweekly column in The Atlantic, which I suggest that you read, he talks about the classical hero's journey in literature, described by Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell as a lens through which many people see their lives:
It’s a nice narrative, especially if you’ve worked hard and done pretty well in life. The problem is the real-life ending, after the triumphant return...The hero’s journey is great when you’re in the middle of it. The trouble comes when your strengths start to wane, because now you’re off script...Joseph Campbell...notes that...“The first problem of the returning hero is to accept as real, after an experience of the soul-satisfying vision of fulfillment, the passing joys and sorrows, banalities and noisy obscenities of life.” In other words, the end of the true hero’s journey is coming home and finding a battle to be waged not with an external enemy, but with one’s own demons...your skills will decline, and life’s problems will intrude. If you try to hang on to glory, or lash out when it fades, it will squander your victories and mark an unhappy end to your journey.
Plan to spend the last part of your life serving others, loving your family and friends, and being a good example to those still in the first three stages of their own hero’s journey. Happiness in retirement depends on your choice of narrative.

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