11 - Apotheosis - Hunger and the Beginner's Mind
The word “apotheosis” comes from the ancient Greek word, “apotheoun” which means “to make divine”. In simplest terms this stage is the culmination of the lessons learned throughout the journey, especially when considering the hero’s reconciliation with his shadow self. In stories this is often represented as a literal death and rebirth, and symbolizes the stage of life when who we are as children die so that we can become a fully integrated and effectual adult.
Although The Matrixwasn’t a specifically religious film, the protagonist of Neo was meant to symbolize Jesus Christ, and that’s because at its core, Christian belief is one that exemplifies how an ideological death and rebirth is essential to our personal development, in which we relieve ourselves of our old, earthly identity for one that is closer to divinity. Nowhere is this better displayed than in the Christian ritual of baptism, at which point a candidate is symbolically swallowed up by the grave, represented by the water, and emerges clean and new. From then on, the initiate is thought of as a new person, one who is worthy to be associated with God, and usually does their best to live up to that new identity. Beyond the spiritual face of it, in practical terms, and in line with Campbell’s analysis, the stage of apotheosis is about maturity.
Childhood is a special time in our lives, when the world seems capable of harboring magic. This isn’t because children are stupid or gullible, it’s because they themselves shelter the seemingly magical power of nearly unlimited potential to become almost anything. However, all that potentiality is fairly low resolution because of the wide variables of possibility. As we grow older, those variables get narrowed down, and we start to get a handle on who we are, what we’re capable of, and what we want to do with our lives. Eventually, we must cease to be mere potential, and must actually BECOME something, which is what’s known as maturity.
As we mature, we shrink in potential, but we grow in ability, and the child that we were essentially dies in the process. However, this sacrifice MUST be made if we are ever to do anything meaningful with our time here on earth and become the heroes of our own story. If we don’t – if we refuse to grow up and relinquish the grandiose visions that we once clung to in our childish fantasies, then we are doomed to languish in a self-imposed hell of our own design. Our options are then to either remain a lifeless NPC, or to allow the depression, bitterness, and rage of all that unrealized potential to transform us into the grandiose villains of our tale. If you want to know what that looks like outside of a comic book movie, look no further than the violent delinquents of Antifa.
Within their ranks, you find a communistic cadre of unwashed, unemployed, angry, belligerent, bigoted, juvenile, directionless fascists, waving flags adorned with the hammer and sickle, yet are completely ignorant of, or indifferent to, the roughly 100 million people who died under the ideology it represents. Most of these thugs were coddled and over-parented as children, being sheltered from anything mildly offensive or even remotely challenging to their myopic worldview. They never had to suffer the pains associated with real personal or spiritual development, so they don’t have an identity of their own, therefore they cling desperately to the hope that they will remain a useful member of the collective so that they will be taken care of by the mass of faceless ideologues with whom they entrench themselves.
Now, don’t think for a second that I hate these people, because I don’t have nearly as much anger towards these sick, lost souls as I do sympathy, especially because if I was fifteen years younger, I would most likely be among them. And therein lies the point of the hero’s journey, and the essential lesson to be extracted from all preceding stages: absolutely anyone and everyone is fully capable of expressing both the most superlative divinity, and the most debased savagery. Remembering this fact forces us to think and act with a little more humility, which is the antidote to grandiosity. Fortunately for me, I wasn’t coddled by ineffectual parents (yes, I’m literally blaming Antifa mostly on bad parenting) and I was taught some tough lessons growing up by a hard-ass father, which coupled well with the loving support of a nurturing, stay-at-home mother. What’s more, I had one more thing working in my favor, which I mentioned in my last blog, that even when I lived in the depths of depraved ignorance, my unwavering determination to lead a meaningful life kept me focused on a brighter horizon.
Dr. Jordan Peterson talks about living a meaningful life quite extensively in his books and lectures. It was at one such lecture at the University of Western Ontario back in the spring of 2017 when he said, “You don’t change the world by going and waving signs at people that you define as more evil than you.” To which he added, “You look at the twentieth century and you think, ‘Well who brought on the horrors of the communist systems and the horrors of the Nazi system?’ And the answer is; people just like you.” Then he addressed the notion that people don’t want to face that fact and admit it to themselves by saying, “It’s not surprising because the price that you pay for wisdom is radical disillusionment and the confrontation with Evil, and no one wants that.” However, without such a confrontation and disillusionment of our former perspectives, we simply cannot have a meaningful life.
While some stages of Campbell’s analysis can be altered in scope or their order of appearance rearranged, the stage of apotheosis can only occur after atonement with the father, for the simple fact that it cannot happen until the hero has taken stock of his worst qualities, accepted that they are a part of him, and healthfully integrated these aspects into his identity. This absorption then allows the hero to become a complete person, and rise up to be more than just a man, but as a symbol. The hero becomes a like a god, standing as living proof that anyone can endure the pain needed to shed one form for another, and grow to new heights in pursuit of the highest ideal, and ensure that humanity’s time on this planet is, to reference Professor Mackey’s vignette in Waking Life,not merely an “endless and futile addition of zeroes”, but a story of progress.
Once I realized that I needed to leave Market America and start my own brand, a lot of other things fell into place and started happening all once, but I should backtrack to shortly before that point. From the time that I decided to fix my life up, I endured quite a few ups and downs. As things with Lauren’s new man eventually progressed to the point where he was ready to move in, I was finally able to move out of our apartment and back home to my parent’s house where I could lick my wounds and pay much less in rent and utilities. I also went through a few jobs, and was then working at a café in an office building near home when I decided that my time in exile was over, and I had to make a return to the health and fitness field. I made a deal with my parents to hold off on paying rent for a year while I got my new business up and running, although I wasn’t even sure what that would be yet. After I announced to my friends on Facebook that I would be returning to massage and Pilates, I was inundated with help by the people that I hadn’t completely isolated with my years of functioning alcoholism. My Pilates mentor, Patti, put me in touch with the people I needed to speak with so that I could get my national PMA certification renewed, and my old boss Carolina, DEMANDED (not offered) that I come back to work at her studio, Sole Pilates. What’s more, a dear friend and Masonic brother gave me the phone number and extension of the person at the New York State office who I needed to speak with to get my massage credentials renewed, and THAT person gave me additional help which I couldn’t have found on any website. Additionally, another friend then helped me get a job at a wonderful massage practice, Hands On Healthcare, where I was thoroughly reacclimated to my profession.
Simultaneously, I started two YouTube channels, “More Than a Machine” and “Monster Health and Fitness”, with the former being devoted to mental health and personal development, and the latter being focused more on physical fitness. For a while I vlogged on both, conducted interviews with inspiring people on both, and worked on finding my voice on both, but eventually I realized I was spreading myself too thin and needed to narrow my focus to just one brand. Not long after coming to this realization, I had a rather synchronistic encounter with two total strangers on a hiking trail that helped me to choose between them, (the brands, not the hikers) and Monster Health and Fitness became the one in which I combined all my endeavors. However, it wouldn’t be the final iteration (obviously).
One day in late July of 2018, while talking to my good friend, Chris, one of the owners of Mission Nutrition, he made me aware of the need to trademark my brand, and put me in touch with his patent attorney, Pina, over at the law firm, Carter, DeLuca, Farrell & Schmidt, LLP. She is a super-savvy lawyer, and after one phone conversation with her it was painfully obvious that I needed to change my brand to something less problematic and (if I’m being completely honest) pedestrian. I agonized (obsessed) for weeks over what to change my brand to, but never coming close to a solution; that is until I stopped trying, and the answer found me.
In mid-August I attended the LI Retro Gaming Expo where I did a cosplay along with Lauren and my daughter. (Of course, the irony of finally doing a family cosplay AFTER we divorced was not lost on us.) Now, maybe it was being around all the people dressed as various heroes, maybe it was spending the day immersed in the geek culture and being absorbed in the symbolism, or maybe it was simply because I was, for the first time in a long while, relaxed and really enjoying myself with other people with whom I shared a tribal connection. Whatever the reason, as I drove home that afternoon, the idea finally emerged from my subconscious. Like a seedling pushing its way up to the surface through layers of mistakes, years of accrued pain, and heaps of previously unabsorbed lessons, the name of my new company, as well as its mission, breached my conscious mind. As soon as I got home I opened my phone, where I kept a list of proposed brand names, and typed in “Hero’s Breath”. My hands shook and the room began to spin as an overwhelming feeling of synchronicity washed over me, and for a moment I actually struggled to breathe. I immediately texted Lauren with my idea and she simply responded with “YES! That’s IT!” The moment was upon me. I ran it by a few more friends, all of whom emphatically agreed, so I contacted Pina, and the rest is trademarked history.
Apotheosis happens, as the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:52, “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” The moment when my new brand came to me was merely the point between the years of hard-learned lessons and suffering that preceded it, and all of the decades of unending toil that will follow after it. None of it is easy, but by traversing through the various stages of the monomyth I was able to recreate for myself a new identity that is far superior to the old one, and the names of the two preceding brands reflects this transformation. “More Than a Machine” was an affirmation, that I was not, nor would I ever again allow myself to be, an NPC. “Monster Health and Fitness”, with its frighteningly adorable mascot, “The Jaeger Daddy”, was about the acceptance and integration of my darkness (something I’ll probably cover more in the next round of blogs). My new brand, however, was to represent my being reborn and having taken a full, deep breath as the new man I had now become. Like Captain America emerging from the ice, I was ready to take on new challenges, not as a weak, sickly ideologue, nor even as just a man, but as a symbol – the face of a brand devoted to the highest ideal.
Apotheosis is “merely” the quantifiable moment when all of the hard work that you put into becoming a better person culminates and you are reborn as something more than what you were. You reach a greater level of maturity, and from that point on you are more than just a man, you are a symbolic ideal. You must be ready, willing, and able to sacrifice the last of your selfish desires and expectations, and accept your burden of responsibility of the role as the living assurance that any person can successfully repeat what you’ve done. Don’t look for it, don’t try to make it happen, but as Dr. Peterson, Gary Vaynerchuk, Tai Lopez, Eric Thomas, Tim Ferris, Grant Cardone, Dan Pena, Peter Sage, and so many other powerful minds constantly reiterate, put in the work.
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