The Hero’s Journey

Joseph Campbell was an influential thinker, weaving together the stories of many cultures into a seamless narrative. His most famous book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, demonstrated that the travails of our individual lives and the teachings of the world’s great religions have a lot in common—namely struggle, divine help (usually disguised), and deliverance.

Many such stories begin with an unlikely hero (think of Moses being orphaned in the reeds), who through divine intervention is delivered to a powerful family. A series of unlikely events unfolds over the years, endangering his life more than once. But in the end, he triumphs and leads his people out of bondage and into the promised land.

In our own lives, a crisis can challenge us to take action, face difficulties, work harder, accept setbacks, and try again. No matter the outcome, we are stronger and wiser than when we began.

The book Navigating Grace is the story of people in recovery who became heroes—at least to me. Their stories, their courage, and their wisdom helped me to overcome my own addiction and find my way into recovery. The maverick priest, Vaughn Q.; a crippled saint, Mary B.; and boxer, Jimmy C.; all showed me a way out of the darkness of my own self-destruction. They were bearers of light.

These heroes guided me from chaos to coherence, and from doubt to faith. Navigating Grace is the story about a solo sailing voyage into the Atlantic that nearly ended in my death. Through seven harrowing days at sea, 200 miles offshore, I lost all hope, but mysteriously regained my life.

The heroes in my life taught me about resilience, persistence, and mercy, and I hope in some small way to pass on their message through my talk on October 11 at the Grosse Pointe War Memorial.

––Jeff Jay

PS: A video of the talk can be found here.

This post originally appeared in the Grosse Pointe News
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