Our physical universe can be characterized by two modes: life (existence), and death (nonexistence). Something is either living or it is dying, and the travel along the path between the two forms the story of the thing’s existence. Just like the world in which we live, our stories adhere to the most fundamental and eternal of all laws: everything must die. I think Joseph Cambell, through the application his theory of the “Hero’s Journey” also known as the monomyth, argues for the same. In a way.
In his book Hero with a Thousand Faces, Cambell describes in detail his personal theories of the world’s storytelling traditions. Based on his analysis, he theorized that virtually all of humanity’s stories, for as long as we have recorded them, are essentially they same. According to Cambell, almost all good stories have the same basis: the Hero’s Journey. In his book, he goes on to describe the cycle of the Journey as incredibly similar to the cycle of life and death. The hero must experience birth, life, death, and rebirth throughout their adventure in various forms. Life and death are not expressly literal, as in the hero themselves are killed or otherwise removed from the realm of the living, but can take on a number of myriad forms. Conflicts, characters, motives, details, and action all have a (re)birth, a life, and a death. And nothing is immune. In my eyes, Cambell effectively argues that the Hero’s Journey is really just what I’ll call the Journey of Life.
Everything dies, yes, but everything lives. Each and every component of existence, every single detail, is recycled, reused, and reborn into something just a little different. So too do our stories also embark on that eternal cycle.
Now there may be those of you whose takeaway from this entire post may be nothing but sadness. In closing, I would offer you this: what could be more beautiful than a never-ending story?
Damn right you’re iron, and do you know where iron comes from? Do you know how iron gets here? Let me tell you.
It does start with a star, but it’s not some dismal castoff from an eternal beauty, it’s so much more. Everything that makes our world came from stars, but nothing had as much effect on that star as iron.
See the sun burning in the sky? The light you see and the heat you feel are created when the sun fuses elements, the building blocks of our world, into new and heavier elements. The sun lives because more energy comes from that process than is needed to support it.
UNTIL IRON COMES ALONG.
Fusing iron — burning it to make a star shine — is nigh on impossible. Iron is strong and iron is heavy. Iron is so strong and so heavy that to make new elements from iron takes more energy than it produces. The star can’t keep up, it starts to die.
The iron that flows through your veins KILLED A STAR.
Those other metals that we so value, like gold, owe their existence to iron. As the star died it collapsed, crushing itself and making gold and platinum and other precious and powerful things. Then it exploded and scattered those metals throughout space.
Chief among them was iron. The iron whose formation was the death knell of the star. The iron whose intensity made other metals possible. The iron that was the last thing the living star could make.
Stars lived to make iron.
Stars died to make you.