On my Story Selling webinar last week, one attendee asked a question about ‘The Quest’. The Quest is one of the seven archetypal plots your can draw on for more powerful stories.
The question was: does the quest have to be a physical quest? I.e. a journey? Or could it be a quest to find an idea?
My initial answer was that it should really be a physical journey. BUT, there’s more to it than that. A quest is an internal journey as much as an external one.
I mentioned a few days ago that I’m reading a book called Kith, by Jay Griffiths. Griffiths has an insight on the quest. The following is paraphrased from the book. Emphasis is mine.
Embarking on the quest of your own life requires curiosity, attention and generosity. As Joseph Campbell illustrates, each person is on the ‘Hero’s Journey’, which may be arduous and frightening, but is ultimately worth every step: going out of the community, into the wilds or down into the depths alone but returning with the treasures of the psyche, brought out of darkness and into light.
Whether or not to go on the quest? You have absolutely no choice in the matter. How you travel though, is in your hands. The quest can provide encounters with a non-verbal world that calls, beckons, shifts, asks, offers. You may encounter a Scarecrow or a Tin Man along the way, and it is the quest that led you to the encounter.
But the one character more inviting than the Scarecrow or the Tim Man, more entreating than the Lion, more charismatic than Dorothy and more endearing than even Toto is – the road itself.
Follow the yellow brick road. Why is it so important? Because because because because because: the road is within you. The quest is not so much the path, but your readiness for it: your willingness, curiosity and courage. When you are ready, the path appears.
Mind how you go, the quest says, because the quest is the metaphor of mind. How the mind makes its journeys will influence how one’s life will turn out. The qualities demanded of the questing heroes are the qualities of thought, for the thinking mind is an inquisitive, questing thing. It is observant and insightful; it tastes and absorbs; it scents things and sniffs out a trail to follow.
What is it, this quest? If I try to look at it directly, in broad daylight and straight ahead of me, it is not exactly there. But if I look away, I can see it clearly from the corner of my eye: a twilight sight at the margins.
What matters not is the destination but the journey. The drawing-near is what matters. It is not about the finding so much as the seeking: the search matters more than the object of the search. It is the path from the actual present to the as yet unrealized future. The quest has vision but not precision. It has a hundred impulses of longing; it says, ‘Anything might happen.’
The quester is solitary, but never truly isolated. Each of us needs a quest, and a person without one is lost to himself.
A quest is a ‘finding your way’ story. We all have to find our way, one way or another.