Yes, We Need More Heroes Like Reagan and John Paul II
After a career shift, I stopped and pondered what I was supposed to do next. Having always had an interest in stories and film, I decided to train as a screen writer. I was going to write movie scripts.
I set off to take some classes and do my research. One of the important sources was the classic text The Hero With A Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell.
Campbell was a self proclaimed “mythologist.” He spent a lifetime collecting and studying legends, myths, fairy tales and stories from cultures around the world. What he discovered from digging deep into the different cultures is that there is a great Story of all stories. There is one myth to rule them all. Campbell called it the “monomyth.”
The “monomyth” provides the pattern for all the great stories. That model is the hero’s quest. The world changing film maker George Lucas studied Campbell’s work and his Star Wars saga is the result. The other great myth maker of our time is Lord of the Rings author J.R.R.Tolkien. He didn’t need to study the work of Joseph Campbell. He learned about the hero’s quest through a lifetime’s study of the myths of ancient Britain and Northern Europe.
The Story of Everyman
The hero’s quest captivates the hearts and minds of people from every race and nation down through the ages. It is the story of every person who has faced a challenge. It is the story of anyone who has overcome great odds to accomplish something great. And it is the story of every boy and girl who has had to go through the tremendous adventure of growing up.
In other words, the hero’s quest is about the journey of life itself.
I went on to develop what I had learned about the hero’s quest to start a business training and personal growth company called Ordinary Hero. What is the hero’s quest? The hero leaves his ordinary world, hears the call to adventure and crosses the threshold. He enters the world of adventure and goes on a journey to obtain some great goal. Once he obtains the treasure, he uses it for the salvation of other people in their ordinary world.
Two Real Life Heroes: Reagan and John Paul II
I was reminded of the hero’s quest while reading The Divine Plan — a new book by Paul Kengor and Robert Orlando. The Divine Plan is an inspiring account of the friendship between Pope John Paul II and President Ronald Reagan. The authors chart the secret alliance between Reagan and Pope John Paul as they worked together to bring down Soviet communism — what Reagan called “the evil empire.”
Kengor has written extensively on the relationship between the president and the pope. His book A Pope and a President is a more detailed study of the same subject. The Divine Plan is a shorter, punchier and more readable account. Kengor and Orlando also focus more on Pope John Paul and President Reagan’s shared belief that they were part of a providential design. After they both survived assassination attempts in Spring 1981, they were convinced that they had been spared for that purpose.
Ronald Reagan was a straightforward Christian believer. Brought up in the Disciples of Christ denomination, he eventually belonged to a Presbyterian church. Even though he was not a Catholic, Reagan connected deeply with the leader of the largest and most ancient Christian church. Reagan and Pope John Paul II’s friendship shows how an authentic Christian faith transcends denominational barriers.
Guided by God
I found myself deeply moved and inspired by this book. In John Paul II and Reagan we meet two men who, without any shadow of a doubt, were heroes. The Scottish historian Thomas Carlyle said. “the history of the world is but the biography of great men.” In a series of lectures on heroes and the heroic in history Carlyle pointed out that the great men were not only supremely gifted in one way or another. They were also inspired and guided by a greater force.
The same idea comes through in the discoveries of Joseph Campbell. In story after story from cultures around the world and from every time period, the hero is specially gifted. He not only has the courage to set out on his great adventure, but inspired and strengthened by a higher power.
Kengor and Orlando emphasize the guiding light in the lives of Reagan and Pope John Paul. The homespun American movie actor and the actor/philosopher/priest rose to great heights and became kindred spirits. That’s because both of them were heroes at heart. They set out from their ordinary worlds — a small town in Poland and a small town in Illinois — to embark on a quest that would change the world. More importantly, they were linked by their shared trust in divine providence.
Stature and Courage
In our own bewildering and fast-changing world we need men and women of heroic genius. Likewise, in our society, so soft and complacent through our great affluence, we need people who will see the evil in the world. Then set out to do what they can with what they have where they are. In our world of confusion, fear and violence we need people with the stature and courage of Pope John Paul II and President Ronald Reagan.
Yes, we need another hero. We need lots and lots of heroes.
Visit Dwight Longenecker’s blog, listen to his podcasts, browse his books and be in touch at dwightlongenecker.com