“[A] young man is being initiated… The initiator is on the left and his assistant is behind the groom. The youth is told to look in this metal bowl and he will see his own face, his own true face. However, the bowl is so concave inside that what he sees is not his own face but the distorted mask of old age, which the assistant holds up behind him. With a shock he is introduced to what our American Indians call the ‘long body’ – the whole body of life from birth to death.
“Now suppose one of his friends, before he went in there, had said to him, ‘Now look, this guy in there is going to have a bowl and he is going to tell you that you’re going to see your own face. You’re not! He’s got another fellow there who’s holding this mask thing up behind you so that what you will see is nothing more than a reflection.’ If this happened, there would be no initiation. There would be no shock. This is why mysteries are kept secret.
“An initiation is a shock. Birth is a shock; rebirth is a shock. All that is transformative must be experienced as if for the first time.”
– Joseph Campbell, Mythos I: The Shaping of Our Mythic Tradition, “On Being Human”‘
I don’t know why it’s never occurred to me that I have never chosen what has stretched me, what has made me stronger. I’ve labored under the illusion that I had some control over it all my life, until last Thursday night.
There was no parting of the Red Sea, no Miracle Max. It was, in fact, a horrible evening. I found out, last minute, that I’d have to do a job I felt ill-prepared for, and I’d have scant sleep, as well. I had to cram a bunch of range gear in my Jeep–guns, a table, protective gear for eyes and ears, ammo, targets and accessories, etc., and I had to drive two hours back to Imperial Valley. And I was already exhausted.
Perhaps I would have been more gracious had I not been nervous about doing the job.
As I reflected on how this would stretch me, I realized that I would never have volunteered to do the job. I also realized in that instant that I haven’t ever volunteered for things that scare me. I have to be shoved into growth.
It has to be a shock.
My attitude was a skoche better.
It didn’t really improve till I got into the groove at the range, but now I see how excellent this opportunity was for me.
Still prefer advance warning, though.