The Hero Must Leave the Home

The very first sign of a potential hero’s journey is that he or she must leave home, the familiar, which is something that may not always occur to someone in the first half of life. (In fact, many people have not left home by their thirties today, and most never leave the familiar at all!) If you have spent many years building your particular tower of success and self-importance – your personal “salvation project,” as Thomas Merton called it – or have successfully constructed your own superior ethnic group, religion, or “house,” you won’t want to leave it. (Now that many people have second, third, and fourth houses, it makes me wonder how they can ever leave home.)

Once you can get “out of the house,” your “castle” and comfort zone, much of the journey has a life – and death – of its own. The crucial thing is to get out and about, and into the real and bigger issues. In fact, this was the basic plotline of the founding myth that created the three monotheistic religions, with Yahweh’s word to Abraham and Sarah: “Leave your country, your family, and your father’s house, for the new land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). We seem to have an amazing capacity for missing the major point – and our own necessary starting point along with it. We have rather totally turned around our very founding myth! No wonder religion is in trouble. 

From “Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life” by Richard Rohr