The Test and the Call

Moyers: What’s the significance of the trials, and tests, and ordeals of the hero?
Campbell: If you want to put it in terms of intentions, the trials are designed to see to it that the intending hero should be really a hero. Is he really a match for this task? Can he overcome the dangers? Does he have the courage, the knowledge, the capacity, to enable him to serve?
  • From The Power of Myth, by Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers

I have been a long believer in the Test. If I had to explain it best, the Test is the temptation that comes along to derail our plans. It appeals to our impulses and desires and it will not go away until we make a choice. There is a payoff but the cost is always great. It interferes with our commitments that we’ve made to others, and the promises that we have made to ourselves. Our choice is our pass or fail and it will define us.

The Call is nothing as grand as a Calling. The Call is the gentle nudge in our brain that says, “Let’s go this way. Let’s try this out.” To follow the Call is scary because it pushes us out of our comfort zone and it leads us in directions that we and others may feel is not what we should be doing. The Call is more about what we could do. It is about possibility and exploration and the only way we will know whether it is right or wrong is by trying it.

The Test and the Call are similar. They both challenge us to consider another life, another objective, another action. They are both stressful when they come and infect our brain with doubt, fear, and the temptation of possibility.

Yet, failure is the most striking similarity of both and also their greatest difference. By failing either the Test or the Call affects us and takes us away from our possibility for maturity and growth.

The Test is passed by not following the things that draw us away from previous choices and commitments. The Call is passed by embracing our possibilities, and following them where they lead.

The trouble for all of us is figuring out which one is which when they come.