Joseph Campbell & the Call to Adventure: Four Types of Explorers

At gymnastics class at New York’s Chelsea Piers, I found myself eavesdropping on a conversation led by a fellow classmate. “…it’s about venturing from your home and returning with new knowledge,” he said. “But this knowledge is not just for yourself. It’s to be shared.”

“Joseph Campbell?” I chimed in, recognizing the philosophy. Back in the autumn of 2011, I had spent Hurricane Irene cleaning house while watching Campbell’s The Power of Myth, a six-part television documentary that details “The Hero’s Journey” or “Monomyth.” As illustrated below, with the Hero’s Journey, Campbell identified a pattern of narrative stages that appear throughout various literary mediums, including plays, story telling, and religious practices.

My classmate nodded, in answer. Turns out he had applied Campbell’s principles to his own life and set out from California for New York to inhabit a new sphere. “But it doesn’t end there. You have to continue to seek out new frontiers and return with your gained knowledge.”

Just as he continues to pursue new physical spaces, so we ADHD’rs continue to venture into new landscapes of our own. That conversation got me to thinking about the nature of ADHD and what type of explorers might exist within each of us. From there, I came up with the following four categories:
Like my classmate, perhaps the most obvious type of explorer is one who travels the world, hopping between hostels or hotels, purchasing a plane ticket at a moment’s notice, or simply hitch-hiking between states. These explorers stretch their limits by befriending strangers, inhabiting diverse cultures, ingesting exotic cuisines, and acquiring new languages. And I admire them for it.
A philosophy I adhere to is this: Whenever you feel uncomfortable or nervous about an experience (be it a trip, meeting, new hobby etc…), go forward. You’re about to expand the limits of your comfort zone and, in doing so, learn more about yourself and this world of ours. Often our fear of unknown metamorphoses into thrills and memories that we never would have experienced had we not forced ourselves beyond that barrier of the discomfort.
The summer Olympics in London was a display of physical exploration. From swimmers to archers to gymnasts, these athletes pushed their bodies’ strength, flexibility, and endurance to be recognized as the physical champions. The July post “Olympics 2012: Which Sports Can Someone with ADHD Excel In?” examines the athletes that compete in the international games and which sports those of us with ADHD might excel in.
Beyond the Olympics, however, explorers of the body test their limits by climbing mountains, learning to control their breathing as scuba divers, and inhabiting space shuttles for extended periods of time. Others explore the human body by listening to music, sampling new cuisines, filling their homes with the scent of candles, and feeling the texture of sand or leaves between their fingertips. With every new experience or sensation, they discover more about themselves.
Transitioning from physical to the mental journeys, explorers of the mind covet ideas, philosophies, and questions. Although we may travel the world or push our bodies to their physical limits, what satisfies us most is the discovery of thought. These explorations can take place between people in the form of emails, conversations, or attended lectures/plays, or they can be solo journeys of opening books or even reading blogs.

I often perch atop a boulder in Central Park or, when outside the city, high atop a bough to distance myself from the physical world and retreat into the universe of the mind. Whether reading quotations, novels by authors who explore the human condition such as Charles de Lint’s or Haruki Murakami, or observing people from a far such practices inspire self-reflection that leads to broader understandings. The post, “For the Love of Reading: eBook Versus the Printed Page” explores this concept by emphasizing the importance of taking the “time to ingest what you’re learning, reading, and experiencing in the present moment.”
It’s no coincidence that the Hero’s Journey can be recognized in most religions around the world. Explorers of the spirit reach beyond the corporal and the metaphysical into the great unknown by investigating what can only be intuited and believed in. Whether theologists or Asian philosophists, these journeymen and women seek to understand why we’re here and what lies in wait for us when are bodies return to the earth.

What type of explorer are you? Are there explorers other than the World, Body, Mind, and Spirit?