Anyone who has undertaken any endeavour in life, from the most epic of quests to the simple tasks, like cleaning out an old drawer, knows that life rarely organizes itself. Quite the opposite—life has the strangest habit of falling completely apart without some form of intervention on the part of the people living it.
See, most of us actually have very little choice involved in the origins of life. We didn’t choose where we would be born, how tall we were, what our natural talents would be, or what situations we would grow up in. The whole thing just seems to be thrust upon us. And the natural character arc it places us on is one of trying to figure out what to do about it all—one of trying to figure out how to take all the chaos of our lives and shape it into some form of order.
But usually, something strange happens… something that has played out in stories for thousands of years. See, nobody can handle chaos forever, so we find some form of order that we can perpetuate every day. From the things we ear and eat to the way we think and spend our time, to the people we see, we control chaos by finding orderly, repeatable answers to the questions life asks us—in other words, we create an ordinary world.
But then something happens: we try to start a new creative project, or set a fitness goal, or decide that we want to change our diet, and suddenly find it nearly impossible to keep up. We want to change, or know that we should change something, yet at every turn, find it impossibly easy to slip back into the ordinary choices we made previously. The ordinary world, the one that saved us from having to face the chaos of life, has started limiting us.
I think this is one of the central lessons that stories teach us, one of the main reasons we have to keep telling them in order to make sense of our world: too much order is a bad thing. We inherently know that too much chaos is a bad thing, too much randomness, and so we all construct worlds that can limit how much of that chaos we’re exposed to. But while every hero begins in an ordinary world, no hero can stay there—they must face a call to adventure, one that brings their ordinary world out of order and into chaos.
So whether you’re facing down the chaos of the year, or stuck with too much order in your life, too much a good thing, know this: you’re in the company of every great hero, fighting to find the balance of chaos and order, fighting to find their place in the world.
May the road rise up to meet you!