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New & Views - Feb, 1992 Issue 

The Journey
By John K. Mercer
Presented at Mission Mountain School
Graduation 6/15/91
(406) 754-2580

For untold thousands of years, human culture supported children in the process of growing up through extended family systems and a series of cultural rites of passages. These are significant cultural events imbued with meaning and traditions and representing systematic change and development. These traditions and processes allowed the parent to provide love, support and encouragement while the extended family in the form of Aunts and Uncles and elders in the culture taught the children and guided them in the difficult process of becoming an adult. These events were often overseen by the religious and cultural elders.

In our culture today, many of these processes and traditions have fallen by the way side.... But often the result is a sterile education factory that does not support the delicate and painful process of becoming and compliance is sought. This journey is rich with human meaning and stories about it abound throughout human history in all cultures.... Joseph Campbell called these stories and the metaphor of the journey, the myth of the heroic quest. The elements of the story include that the somehow socially disadvantaged young man or woman needs to take a dangerous journey. He or she at first is motivated by self-interest or fear, but he or she then acquires allies and "a spirit helper of some sort that begins to help them find hidden resources within themselves". After difficulties, they slay the dragon, and bring their learned talents, strength and knowledge back to their community "and eventually to the children in the next cycle."

This I believe is the essence of people making. It is no accident that stories and myths containing these elements abound in the human experience. The young men and women graduating before you today have embarked on their journey of discovery.... Today they deserve our honor and respect, for they are truly heroes.

Copyright 1992, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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