Updated: Jul 2, 2019
The Ultimate Boon marks the climax of the story, when the hero has accomplished the task he set out to complete. It’s the moment that the protagonist finally becomes a true hero and puts the god-like status he achieved in the last stage to use. All of the knowledge, skills, and abilities gained throughout the journey are brought to bear in one final battle of good versus evil. This is where the hero is fully tested, and emerges victorious.
InThe Lion King,this happens when Simba ascends Pride Rock and triumphantly roars, asserting that, after years in exile, he is indeed the rightful king. The ultimate boon is Jake Sully leading the Na’vi to victory in battle against the humans in Avatar. It’s Tony Stark defeating Obadiah Stain at the end of Iron Man. In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,it’s when Indy brought the Holy Grail back to his father. At the end of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, when Luke defeats Vader, but does not kill him, it marked the conclusion of his passage through various trials and temptations to go from ignorant farm boy, to brash warrior, to balanced Jedi Knight.
Now, what do all five of these stories (and almost every other) have in common regarding this phase? The hero didn’t win alone. Simba journeyed back to the Pride Lands with Nala, Rafiki, Timon, and Pumba, who helped him rouse the remaining lions to the fight against the hordes of ravenous hyenas, while Simba took on their leader, his wicked uncle Scar. Jake brought down the bomber that would have killed the surviving Omaticaya clan, and possibly even Eywa herself, but it was Neytiri that struck the final blow to the single-minded Colonel Quaritch. Similarly, Tony didn’t actually kill Obadiah Stain, he moved him into position, and it was Pepper Potts that pulled the switch that overloaded the arc reactor. Indy wouldn’t have even made it to the temple where the grail was stored without the help of his friends, nor would Luke have gotten to Vader, and finally to the Emperor, without his allies to bring him to Endor. This isn’t a side note or random observation, it’s a part of the hero’s development that is often overlooked, and ties directly with the last two phases of the journey.
As children, we usually want to play as Captain America, or Batman, or Superman, but not many of us choose to play as Bucky, or Robin, or…um…Jimmy Olsen. Being the dashing, empowered hero is a desirable role, but we too quickly forget that the hero’s journey is about DEVELOPMENT, and as such we cannot ignore the role the hero’s allies play in his final victory. If you recall our discussion of the “Atonement with the Father” phase, the only counter to grandiosity is humility, and the only way to maintain humility is to see the value in the small things in life, and the only way to do THAT, is by remaining close to the people that help you to find joy in the life that you’re currently living. I think that’s part of the reason that Tolkien chose to make the protagonist of Lord of the Ringsa small, unassuming hobbit, and why all of the other members of the Fellowship were much more powerful in stature and/or ability. Further, I believe it’s why diminutive Frodo is separated from the rest of the group, with only another hobbit, his best friend and conscience, Samweis Gamgee, to aid him directly during the most perilous parts of his journey. This narrative not only placed more value on the tiny Hobbits, it also gave his allies a chance to shine in their own arc within the same tale, and assume their own place in the greater legend. This assured that not only did Frodo get to prove his value to the world, but his supporting allies got to do the same, and THAT is a key issue in life, especially for men.
In a lecture that he gave at the University of Toronto in the spring of 2017, Dr. Jordan Peterson spoke about his fascination with why the overwhelming majority of his online audience is male, which he knows since Google tracks metrics on users. He said it was baffling to him at first because what he was sharing on YouTube were just his psychology lectures, and since over 80% of psychology students are women, it didn’t make sense that around 90% of his viewers were men. He also makes careful note that this was the case BEFORE he became embroiled in the Bill C16 fiasco. What’s more valuable to him, however, is the fact that this also holds true for every single one of his live events. Additionally, when he’s on stage he gets to engage with his audience and gauge their reactions to what he’s saying in real time, which allows him to figure out what it is that they’ve come to him to hear. He says, “I’ve been talking a lot to the crowds…not about rights, but about responsibility.” He further explains that, as a society, in teaching kids all about their supposed “rights” but completely neglecting to teach them about responsibility, we’re only having half the conversation. He continues, “It’s almost impossible to describe how bad an idea that is. Responsibility, that’s what gives life meaning. ... Lift a load! Look at you; you’re useless! Easily hurt. Easily killed. Why should you have any self-respect? ... Pick something up and carry it, and make it heavy enough so that you can think, ‘Yeah well, useless as I am, at least I can move that from there, to there.’” He then says that when he talks about this to the crowds the men’s eyes light up, and as he expounds on the idea, he can see the proverbial gears locking into place. He adds that when he is speaking about ancient stories, he is helping the audience to put the important elements together and absorb the lessons, which is what the stories are designed to do. He then adds, “This responsibility thing, that’s a whole new order of this. Young men are so hungry for that it is unbelievable.” The application of this fact means that there is a rich field of untapped human potential for positive change.
Now, Dr. Peterson is not particularly political in any regard, but if he’s handed a problem, his advanced cerebrum wants to solve it, regardless of who is presenting it to him. So, when the conservative party leadership in Canada asked him to help them address their apparent disconnect with the country’s youth, he rose to the challenge. “Conservatives. What the hell are they going to sell to young people? Because being conservative, that’s something that happens when you’re older. They can sell responsibility. No one’s selling it. And the thing is, for men, there’s nothing but responsibility. … That’s for men. Women have their responsibilities, they’re not the same.” He then explains that his statement is founded in both the physiological and psychological differences between the genders, and makes the point that while women have an innate sense of responsibility for LIFE ITSELF, men have to LEARN what their responsibility, and thus their intrinsic value is, especially in relation to the rest of their collective.
This point was made by Joseph Campbell during his interview series, The Power of Mythwhere he explains that in ancient tribal cultures, a young girl is initiated into adulthood from nature itself with her first menstruation, because women are a “vehicle of NATURE”. He said that typically, she’d sit in a hut with her mother and the other women, and reflect together on her becoming a woman. A young boy, however, would have to be initiated into manhood and be transformed into a member of the tribe at a certain age through some sort of ritual, which would be informed and designed by that tribe’s mythology. Additionally, he’d have to be educated in the ways of the culture throughout his life to assure that when the time came, he’d be prepared to go through whatever ordeal was customary to his society. At that point, the boy would have to CHOOSE to become a man, and thus a “vehicle of SOCIETY”. Lacking cultural mechanism, we have the current problems that we face – a world of lost souls, longing for guidance. Human males roaming the earth as grown children without the fires of ritualistic tribulation to transform them into something useful, which would bless their lives, and their culture, with meaning.
“If they have nothing worth living for, then they stay Peter Pan.” Dr. Peterson continues, “The alternative to valued responsibility is impulsive, low-class pleasure. … Why lift a load if there’s nothing in it for you?” He then cautions that as our society further villainizes men and boys, the more they will opt out of the game. “’You’re pathological and oppressive.’ ‘Fine then. Why the hell am I going to play? … If I get no credit for bearing responsibility, you can bloody-well be sure I’m not going to bear any.’ But then your life is useless and meaningless and you’re full of self-contempt and nihilism. … Man has to decide that he’s going to do something.” He further expounds on this point, “What are you aiming for? You can decide, Man, but there’s some criteria.” He then states that the criteria for a worthwhile goal is being good for you in a way that facilitates you moving forward, and simultaneously good for the community. Within those bounds, however, a person has choice, and he encourages his listeners to make that choice. He said, “People will carry a heavy load if they get to pick the goddamn load.”
The stage of the Ultimate Boon is about our becoming a fully realized, fully integrated, fully capable, and mature adult. This is the point when we apply the lessons from all of the preceding stages and we go from potentiality to actuality. All of the work on ourselves moves beyond the theoretical and we actually (finally) DO something worthwhile. In that sense, you can think of “Atonement with the Father” as overcoming our greatest weakness, “Apotheosis” as having the lesson from that previous stage fully register or “click” in our minds, and “The Ultimate Boon” as the point in which we get to prove ourselves AS the hero of our story. I can honestly say that I reached this stage fairly recently in my development.
Once I had the brand name and vision for my new company in mind, I had to act in order to bring it to life. In the moment that I had my apotheosis, all of the possibilities of what my new brand COULD become narrowed very quickly into what it WOULD become. The first thing I knew I needed was a trademark, and to be sure I could get the one I wanted, I had to do research. The name, Hero’s Breath, was not only available as a trademark, but as a domain, and even a social media handle on EVERY notable platform; I didn’t even need a number or underscore. To get the trademark, of course, I had to identify a category and describe the services that I would offer, so after a few days of research and a consultation with my attorney, that was all taken care of. After a few more weeks had passed I rebranded my social media, registered my domain, and built a website. A couple of weeks after that I shot, edited, and posted a new introductory video for YouTube. Not long after that, I sat down with my good friend, Tom Jasinski to record the first episode of the podcast.
As you may already know, these blogs serve as the core material for the podcast, which Tom then adds extra layers of depth to (he’s handy like that), and we expand on it from there, together. To be perfectly blunt, there wouldn’t even be a podcast if not for Tom. As an entrepreneur, I know that podcasts are a medium I need to take advantage of, but it’s not something that I usually consume. Tom, on the other hand, imbibes of podcasts like water, so he knows what a good podcast should sound like, and I need to take this moment to gratefully shout my partner out for the vital role he serves on my journey, especially as it relates to this particular phase of it, but this is just the beginning. Like the blogs, the podcast itself serves as the starting material to sustain a larger vision I have for my company, when I eventually move on to leading workshops, both online and in the real world. I’m not entirely sure where things will go from there, but I’m on my way.
Now, of course Tom isn’t the only ally I’ve acquired along my journey, but if I start shouting everyone out here, this blog will get way too long, and I’m still guaranteed to forget to mention someone. What I’m able to do in my life is the result of years of healthful interactions with some very inspiring people, and I’m grateful to all of them for their help. To me, none of them are background characters – they’re all intrinsic elements to MY story, with a vital legend of their own…and so are you.
I can’t describe for you what the ultimate boon will look like in your life, because that’s up to you to figure out, but I can tell you that it’s one of the easiest stages to identify, once you understand that it’s not singular. It’s not often going to appear as ONE victory, like landing a big deal at your job – unless of course you’re in the type of field where your entire career can be made or broken on a single transaction. Typically, it’s the point in which you can see that your hard work is actually reshaping your reality in tangible ways. Additionally, your success is going to be directly connected to other people, so much so that an honest assessment of the situation will show you that you could not have made it to that point without them.
Life is full of variables, not just in terms of what can happen TO us, but what we can do to happen to LIFE. If you’re on course to becoming a fully developed adult human being, especially as a man, all those variables will inevitably narrow towards a single point when you take command of who you are, what you’re doing, and where you’re going. This does not mean that you can expect things to always go your way, more often than not, you can probably count on the opposite to be true. However, if you consistently work on becoming the best version of yourself that you can be, you can eventually come to trust yourself to figure out how to deal with the unpredictability of life, so that you’re not just a hapless victim of circumstance, and you can actually BE the hero of your own story. Then, you can be the person that other people count on to be one of the supporting allies of THEIR story, instead of a useless NPC, or worse, a villain. If I had to narrow this stage, and the two closely joined, sibling stages that preceded it into one phrase it would be, “Show up. Grow up. Aim up.”
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