Follow the Thread
What is the thread that leads you safely through the labyrinth of life? Once you know where you are in the great scheme of things (see previous post “You Are Here”), what is the path you follow?
Is it a set of philosophical or spiritual beliefs and practices? A path you’ve carved out for yourself or one given to you by a teacher?
As the saying goes, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears,” whether that be an actual person or a series of life lessons presented to you.
According to Greek mythology, a hero follows a thread.
As told by Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, the legend goes like this: King Minos of Crete had successfully waged war with the Athenians. He then demanded that, at seven-year intervals, seven Athenian boys and seven Athenian girls were to be sent to Crete to be devoured by the Minotaur, a half-man half-bull creature who lived in a labyrinth created by Daedalus, a cunning craftsman. One version has it that Daedalus had constructed the labyrinth so cunningly that he himself could barely escape it after he built it.
Theseus, a king of Athens volunteered to slay the monster. Out of love for Theseus, King Minos’ daughter, Ariadne, consulted Daedalus who told her to give Theseus a ball of string so he could find his way out once he had gone into the labyrinth. She also returned a sword to him.
As soon as Theseus entered the labyrinth, he tied one end of the ball of string to the door post and brandished the sword he had hidden inside his tunic. Theseus followed Daedalus’ instructions given to Ariadne: go forwards, always down and never left or right. Theseus came to the heart of the labyrinth and also upon the sleeping Minotaur whom he killed. He then used Ariadne’s thread to escape the labyrinth and return to safety.
Stephen Spielberg considered Joseph Campbell his teacher and mentor, and he used the hero’s journey as a model for his Star Wars series.
In one of the films, Luke Skywalker fights with Darth Vader, knocking off Vader’s helmet. What he finds is his own likeness: a suggestion that, at the heart of the matter, Luke’s true battle is with himself.
It has been said that our one and only task is to master ourselves, to make peace with that self.
In Campbell’s words: “The flax for the linen of his thread he has gathered from the fields of the human imagination. Centuries of husbandry, decades of diligent culling, the work of numerous hearts and hands, have gone into the hackling, sorting, and spinning of this tightly twisted yarn.
Furthermore, we have not even to risk the adventure alone; for the heroes of all time have gone before us; the labyrinth is thoroughly known; we have only to follow the thread of the hero-path… where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.”