Refusal of the Call

Further to my last post on Joseph Campbell

Those of you who enjoy stories and wasting time on the internet are probably familiar with the Refusal of the Call trope. I was, but I’d never read what Joseph Campbell, who came up with the concept, had to say about it:

“Refusal of the summons converts 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 Minos, he may through titanic effort succeed in building an empire or renown. Whatever house he builds, it will be a house of death: a labyrinth of cyclopean walls to hide from him his minotaur. All he can do is create new problems for himself and await the gradual approach of his disintegration.”

Aargh! This is the most perfect expression of how I feel (and also, the most perfect expression of Havi’s concepts of stuckness and walls and monsters.)

I’ve refused the call on several levels. Getting stalled with this project. Avoiding God. Every act of procrastination is a little refusal of the call. And as a young child I refused one of the biggest, most basic calls there is: the call to grow up, and grow up MY way, not the way I was told to. And all of these calls are linked, nested inside each other. It’s hard to respond to one without responding to all of them.

When I’m mired in the awful stuck feeling that comes with refusing the call, I tend to blame the call. It would all be okay if I didn’t have to grow up! I get convinced that the only way to hold on to any shred of myself is to keep refusing. But actually, the only way to regain myself is to stop refusing.

Otherwise, I’m a storyteller who doesn’t tell stories. I’m a knight who doesn’t go on quests. I’m Joan of Arc sitting at home in skirts and long hair, herding sheep, getting married, having babies, forgetting that she used to hear voices. I’m Frodo if he never left the Shire. I’m Luke growing old on a desert farm dreaming about flying. It’s awful, awful, awful.

And this is why I’m writing a lot of stories today. It’s Christmas Day, and if now’s not the time when anything can happen, then when?

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