Friday, March 07, 2008

Obama walks "the hero's journey" . . .

Some readers understood right away what I meant last week when I said that John McCain has the misfortune to be running against Luke Skywalker. But others are still scratching their heads, wondering what in the world I was talking about.

I was talking about Barack Obama. I think his story has been so compelling for so many people because it taps into one of our most profound myths.

Obama's myth is a tried-and-true one. The late folklorist Joseph Campbell called it "the hero's journey," and it's found in every culture, from Moses, David and Odysseus to Luke Skywalker, Frodo and Harry Potter.

It's both a literal journey and an inward voyage of self-discovery. The hero begins as a callow youth -- often one who has lost one or both parents -- who has no idea who he really is.

The journey consists of a series of trials that teach him his true destiny and reveal powers that he didn't know he had. These trials are usually epic struggles against seemingly invincible monsters.

David fought the giant Goliath, Odysseus fought the one-eyed Cyclops, and Obama has been waging a marathon battle against the dreaded two-headed Billary.

At the end of the journey, armed with enhanced power and self-knowledge, the hero returns home and saves the world.

Martin Snapp, Contra Costa Times March 7, 2008.