You have it too good. I have it too good. We’re pampered. We’re spoiled. We’re entitled. You, me, all of us, have been conditioned to accept mediocrity. Our lazy brains want us to, and the politico-media-academia-donor/corporate establishment complex (which I’ll just call the ivory tower from here on out), wish to instill in us this laziness so that we don’t challenge their power as they bleed us dry economically, culturally, and spiritually.
For all our talk about “achieving dreams,” (a healthy holdover from our earliest days), we’re also a culture that celebrates mediocrity. We celebrate those that are and try to convince others to be the worst versions of themselves because doing otherwise would be inherently anti-egalitarian, and that would be mean. Worse, we demonize and sometimes even persecute those that don’t accept this. This occurs because we have not had a real existential threat as a civilization in almost 80 years, so the public at large has no incentive to not take the path of least resistance. Jealousy and inadequacy being what they are, people stuck in their ways hate their betters that are not.
To be better, to go against the grain, by definition, you have to have a strength, will, and fortitude that most people do not have. This is one of the reasons why the ivory tower hates Donald Trump. He makes his own reality and takes the normally hard hits the world delivers alongside those of the ivory tower and not only survives, but thrives and emerges strengthened.
What separates the wheat from the chaff though? What separates the heroes from the ordinary people, the ones that win kleos versus the ones that are forgotten?
The works of the hero are one thing, but what is the hidden element, the element necessary to complete the work?
That element is toil, suffering, a descent into hell, even. To the Greeks, one of the things that signified a hero was not his valor or honor, but the fact that he was made to suffer, like Hercules had. To become a hero, you may quite literally need to descend into hardship, frustration, or even hell.
This was a concept known as katabasis (or more broadly, descent) to the Greeks, and it is an integral part of the classic hero’s journey. In the Middle Ages, to become a knight was to undergo a form of katabasis – first with the hardship of the physical training from the age of six, then the mental challenges of education – in ethics, literature, mathematics, proper social behavior, and in the spiritual challenges of Christian theology and the purification of the soul. This was made evident in the knighting ceremony, where, before being dubbed, a knight-to-be was expected to spend the night in prayer and then bathe his sins away in a ritual bath, then, presented with his equipment, the new knight was often slapped on the cheek, or, less often, tapped with a sword on the shoulders, symbolizing the last blow he was expected to receive without returning it (Knights in History and Legend, pg. 37).
The boy-squire had emerged out of his descent, his katabasis, as a man, a knight.
In the epics throughout history, from the Odyssey to Star Wars, we see that the hero needs to face a series of struggles which often include a descent into some type of hell, whether it be literal in the case of Odysseus or physical, mental, or spiritual challenges, as seen in Luke Skywalker’s anguish over the forced battle with his own father and his struggle to redeem him from the corruption of the Dark Side. In my own upcoming epic novel, the protagonist is forced into war at the death of his mother, forced to grow up, only truly becoming a man by descending into katabasis in the form of physical hell in his duel to the death with an elite enemy combatant.
At the end of the journey, the boy emerges as a man, his masculine status earned through the struggle, the deeds worthy of his kleos having been done.
The hero is created, but he only gets there through personal struggle, including the nadir of his well-being in the form of his katabasis, his descent. Even Christ went through a literal katabasis before his Resurrection.
Now ask yourself – “what is my katabasis?”
You certainly know that you want to be a success and can envision yourself being successful, even if you don’t know in what you’ll do or how you’ll do it.
What about your failures and reverses? What about your descent, your katabasis? What can you possibly expect?
What is your katabasis? What kind of descent will you have to go through before the good times roll in? Fortune is a fickle ally at best, don’t count on her to give you a light katabasis.
As a writer, my descent may be years, or maybe forever, of poor sales, obscurity, perhaps even having an SJW mob on me for thoughtcrime. My descent may be one of endless frustration and poor morale, or perhaps even a slew of poorly-received works. All of these are possible. The journey, including what form the katabasis will take, cannot be predicted with any degree of certainty. The only thing you can be certain of is that you may very well need to enter into a state of katabasis to complete your journey and emerge victorious. Otherwise, you may experience the ultimate katabasis – living life as a mediocre zombie, a permanent cog in a system that hates you and a reality not of your own making, a permanent state of descent. This is my greatest fear.
Once again, we can turn back to Donald Trump. Why is he hated by the ivory tower and its SJW Year Zero revolutionaries?
To get there, he went through several descents. He lost a fortune in the early 90’s. He had numerous failures in business and in his personal life. He kept moving. His katabasis was an object of external struggle that kept him grounded.
When people bring up Donald Trump’s failures, I automatically know they are losers because failure is the price of success, and that could require going into katabasis. The difference is, Donald Trump constantly emerged from his failures and descents. These people would not because they don’t understand the masculine life, the hero’s journey.
Donald Trump also made sure that his kids all had a descent of their own, requiring that they put the gruntwork in and earn their status, instead of running things from the ivory tower. As such, they turned out great:
It certainly is a luxury that driving a CAT or laying wire were the katabasis of Donald Jr. and Eric, but as I mentioned, fortune is fickle. The point is, they put themselves through the descent so that they would emerge as stronger men and earn their status.
So it must be with you.
When contemplating your Great Work, ask yourself what your descent, your katabasis is and could be.
And if you have a policy avoiding it, of planning never to face it, you will live in hell anyway, without the benefit of a knightly, masculine emergence.
If you’re brave enough to take on your descent willingly, read Stumped, because it’s brimming with hands-on training in skills you’ll clearly need.