A little over a year ago, I was hanging out with my now-roommate at his then-apartment when he showed me Journey. Enraptured, I watched him play from start to finish, absorbing myself in the austere beauty of the landscape, the gorgeously simple character design, and the soul-bursting soundtrack. I nearly bought a PS3 just to play that game, but my frugal nature and lack of a television ultimately led me to abandon that design.
However, the soundtrack was within my reach, and, being a soundtrack junkie, I found myself drawn to it repeatedly. “Apotheosis” in particular is simply a masterpiece, and might be my favorite composition of all time. On regular occasions I would pull it up on YouTube to share with someone (and then listen to it 10-100 times over), and on one such occasion I found this in the recommended videos bar:
I watched it all the way through, reading every comment and feeling fresh wonderment. The very creation of the game was a journey, with Austin Wintory and the game developers traveling together like the chirping characters they designed, working off each other and challenging each other to be better until they reached the apotheosis of their project.
It got to the final piece: “I Was Born For This.” I had never much cared for this piece in relation to the rest of the soundtrack, but then I started reading the lyrics and their translations.
And then he mentioned The Hero’s Journey as his inspiration for the quotes that he’d gathered for the lyrics.
That’s when I lost it, tears streaming down my face. I had listened to the soundtrack countless times, but hearing it coupled with the story of its own creation turned some key in my subconscious.
Every creation is a Journey. You partner with your idea, but you get no words with which to communicate, only musical chirps which could mean anything. With nothing more than that and a common destination, you trek across forbidding landscapes. You learn from your predecessors, taking wisdom from their triumphs and failures and moving on. You hide from the hunting beasts of Doubt, Resistance, and Surrender. Sometimes your creative juices flow and you and your idea surf joyfully across the sand. Other times you run out of flight and have to trudge along slowly until your energy returns.
And the mountain will always defeat you. No matter what, you will reach your destination, finish your work, and it won’t be exactly what you envisioned. You’ll see the flaws, all the little ways it could have been better.
But you finished it, and that is in its own way an apotheosis, an elevation of the piece from an unformed idea to its apex as a completed whole. Once you have finished the brief moment of celebration, you find yourself back at the start, ready to take a new Journey with a new idea.
The developers and composer had a unifying goal in the creation of this game: to create awe and beauty, even in forbidding and dangerous places. The result was a work of art that grabs you by the soul, takes you somewhere strange and wonderful yet familiar in a primal sense, and transforms you, even if only for a moment.
This video transformed my perception of the work I do. It made me realize that I need to focus harder on the Journey than the destination. To learn as much as I can, take as many Journeys as possible to better guide my ideas to their apotheoses. To travel with them and experience with them as much awe and beauty as I can, so that they bring that experience into their final form. To go again and again into the Belly of the Whale, to let the mountain defeat me, to let old notions and habits and crutches die so that each time I can emerge changed, even just a little bit. It may sound a bit grandiose, but what good story is told through the embrace of mediocrity?
From your first scribble to your last painting, your first letter to your last word, your first step to your last dance, your first game of pretend to your final curtain call, you are on the Hero’s Journey. Do everything you can to turn it into one worth taking.