The Monomyth revisited or Chess Player’s Story Arc as Hero’s Journey
The typical chess player’s story can be looked at in terms of the writings of Joseph Campbell who wrote extensively on myth and the Hero’s Journey a repeating motif in myths and stories told across cultures and across the ages and which is echoed even today in just about every Hollywood blockbuster and most bestselling books.
In a word: the first work of the hero is to retreat from the world scene of secondary effects to those causal zones of the psyche where the difficulties really reside and there to clarify the difficulties, to eradicate them in his own case and to break through to the undistorted, direct experience and assimilation of what C. G. Jung has called the archetypal images.
- Joseph Campbell, “The Hero With A Thousand Faces”
Most chess players start as recreational players learning from childhood friends or from parents or family members. Some come to love the game and soon find that they are winning all of their games against those who first taught them the game. Chess becomes too easy and for the first time they experience dissatisfaction and look for some greater challenges.
In the mythic tradition they are caught in the Ordinary World. They learn of a chess club from their friends. This is the first Call to Adventure. They go forth and reach the first Threshold of a New World. To continue their journey they must pass their first test with the Threshold Guardians that they find there. In most cases they are the gruff players that they may encounter who may beat them mercilessly while heaping scorn upon them. This experience is often a literal one in my experience. You have to absorb those first beatings and continue to come back for more, at which point you slowly start to earn the respect of those denizens of this new world.
With the personifications of his destiny to guide and aid him, the hero goes forward in his adventure until he comes to the "threshold guardian" at the entrance to the zone of magnified power. Such custodians bound the world in the four directions — also up and down—standing for the limits of the hero's present sphere, or life horizon. Beyond them is darkness, the unknown, and danger; just as beyond the parental watch is danger to the infant and beyond the protection of his society danger to the member of the tribe. The usual person is more than content, he is even proud, to remain within the indicated bounds, and popular belief gives him every reason to fear so much as the first step into the unexplored. - Joseph Campbell, “The Hero With A Thousand Faces”
The first shock that many experience when starting on their journey is the discovery that they are not the strongest chess player in the room in this new world. In fact, often they are the worst chess player in the room. Many chess players are shocked and never recover from this experience and they return to their Ordinary World of recreational chess and are never heard from again. This is the Refusal of the Call.
Often in actual life, and not infrequently in the myths and popular tales, we encounter the dull case of the call unanswered : for it is always possible to turn the ear to other interests. Refusal of the call turns the adventure into its negative. Walled in boredom, hard work, or “culture”, the subject loses the power of significant affirmative action and becomes a victim to be saved. His flowering world becomes a wasteland of dry stones and his life feels meaningless – even though, like King Midas, he may through titanic effort succeed in building an empire of renown. - Joseph Campbell, “The Hero With A Thousand Faces”
For those who have not refused the call, the first encounter of the hero-journey is with a protective figure (often a little old crone or old man) who provides the adventurer with amulets against the dragon forces he is about to pass.
- Joseph Campbell, “The Hero With A Thousand Faces”
Destiny favours the bold and to aid our hero in his journeys he is likely to encounter the wise old man or woman who provides him with supernatural aid. In my own personal journey there have been several such mentors: Milan Vukadinov, Ray Stone and recently Viktor Gavrikov. But we shouldn’t neglect the appearance through the printed word of such luminaries as Alexander Kotov, Jonathan Tisdall, Mark Dvoretsky and others who can help us on our journey.
In the rich tapestry of life we often fulfill different roles and in some ways we are the hero undertaking the journey and in other cases we are the supernatural aid who speeds some other hero or heroine on their way in their own heroic quest.
What such a figure represents is the benign, protecting power of destiny. The fantasy is a reassurance—a promise that the peace of Paradise, which was known first within the mother womb, is not to be lost; that it supports the present and stands in the future as well as in the past (is omega as well as alpha); that though omnipotence may seem to be endangered by the threshold passages and life awakenings, protective power is always and ever present within the sanctuary of the heart and even immanent within, or just behind, the unfamiliar features of the world. One has only to know and trust, and the ageless guardians will appear. Having responded to his own call, and continuing to follow courageously as the consequences unfold, the hero finds all the forces of the unconscious at his side. - Joseph Campbell, “The Hero With A Thousand Faces”