Once the journey is completed, which is when each of us has achieved self-esteem, and before the beginning of the adventure to happiness, a call to adventure may be sent. If the call is sent, three things can happen: 1) the call can be unrecognized, 2) the call can be ignored, or 3) the call can be accepted.
The call is often unrecognized either due to laziness or a lack of attention. The lack of attention can be due to distractions or the belief that there is not such thing as a call or summons to the adventure; as such, one does not need to be attentive to the call. Joseph Campbell, author of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, and The Power of Myth series on TV, teaches those who do not recognize the call, if sent, will progress no further and will lead an ordinary life and inconsequential life, with no chance for an adventure.
If the call is recognized and eventually ignored, Campbell teaches that the individual will be denied the adventure and will lead a life of torment and despair. This life is much worse that that lived by those who do not recognize the call.
Finally, if the call is accepted, according to Campbell the individual will be offered a chance for an adventure that, if successful, will lead to happiness.
The great artists recognized the above actions regarding the call long before Campbell’s research. These artists portrayed these teachings in their own artistic ways. For example:
The everyday existence of those who did not recognize the call, or never were sent a call to adventure is seen in the following work by Degas:
This painting’s intent was not to depict the debilitating effects of alcohol consumption. Rather, the artist was capturing the psychological isolation of people in public. Both characters convey boredom with their lives and are situated at the top right of the frame, contributing to their lack of involvement with society. The characters do not seem in any hurry and appear resigned to their reality. Perhaps this is the artist’s conception of an everyday existence.
The daily existence of torment and despair of those who recognize the call and then reject it is portrayed in the following work by Munch:
This painting is one of the most recognizable in the world. It is a visualization of fear, the kind of terrifying fear felt in a nightmare. The long wavy lines carry the fear to all corners of the canvas. Behind the main character are two walkers on a road unaffected by the curves of the fear: even the railing is straight and unaffected. These walkers seem to exist in a separate world from the main character. This is a painting whose true subject is separation from others, literally, emotionally, and psychologically: a vivid representation of the refusal of the call.
The acceptance of the call and the willingness to forge into the unknown adventure is best portrayed in the following work by Homer:
This picture presents extraordinary subtlety. The painting presents the path, previously taken, leading to the fork in the road where the girl is standing. She appears to have made her decision to journey upward along the road less traveled. The sunlight is bathing the girl in warmth. The picture does not show us where the girl is traveling except that it is an upward climb into the distance. The group on the right appears to be providing the force moving the plank upward so that the girl can reach the path leading to the left of the scene. Perhaps this is the artist’s interpretation of the acceptance of the call, with aid from the group of girls, and entrance into the unknown, willingly accepted.
Next post, the poets’ interpretations.