Joe Versus the Volcano: A Hero’s Journey

One of my all-time favorite movies is “Joe Versus the Volcano” with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.

The horror of the opening sequence when Joe goes to work in the morning makes me cringe in delighted horror.

If you haven’t seen it, a very washed-out, sickly-looking Joe approaches a dark factory, marching along in a line of stumbling, automatons in dark business suits, trampling the lone, brave, bright yellow flower audacious enough to eke out an existence between the cracks of the dismal concrete pathway.

Once inside, Joe sits in an office without windows, tortured by the incessant flickering of fluorescent light bulbs going bad, listening to his co-worker’s constant sniffling and his boss’s endlessly repetitive telephone conversations. And all this not to mention the fact that Joe has a pointless, bureaucratic job devoid of meaning. It’s enough to make a sensitive soul tremble in terror.

And when I compare this movie to the typical, modern-day work experience, it doesn’t seem so far off despite its exaggerations, especially for a sensitive soul. Anonymous cubicles, fluorescent lights, limited privacy, meaningless work. It’s no wonder we have such trouble finding satisfaction!

But that’s not really why I love the movie.

What I see embodied within the film is the hero’s journey – a return to true self. Joe goes from being a hypochondriac to a vibrant, life-filled being because he is finally willing to say “No” to what no longer serves him.

He finds joy in life by engaging life – and by living with courage and curiosity. He is given the gift of a giant wake-up call (albeit a false one) that finally gets his attention. His misguided belief that he is going to die inspires him to consider a new way. He starts to speak his truth — he tells people what he really thinks — and he doesn’t hold back or play it safe. He quits his soul-sucking job and finally starts to LIVE.

Like Joe, salvation is possible for us when we take the time to discover our true selves, learn to see the joy in life again, and let go of what is dragging us down. So what are you holding back from? How are you playing it safe? What are you ready to let go of? How are you longing to be free?

Remember, it’s never too late to start now.


  1. Hi again, Jenna!
    Wonderful post… have not yet seen this movie!
    Your second to last paragraph is especially wonderful. As we dare to look at what is dragging us down, your questions are pertinent in the process of choosing and creating increased personal freedom, joy, love, abundance and Life.

    The great benefit to the planet and all humanity collectively too is that as more of us choose to create more freedom, joy, love, abundance and Life for ourselves, the ripple effect of this stepping into our own freedom affects all our other human ‘partners’ on Earth.

    You are doing wonderful work, Jenna.

    Thank you.


  2. Hi Jenna

    I’ve just had the chance to watch this movie for the first time and LOVED it! I agree with all that was said above and would like to add what I also loved about this film:

    The fact that once Joe began to live more Authentically, good things started to happen in his life as the Universe began to support him: Assistance from other people, money, surviving the ship wreck, even love & marriage! That once he was brave enough to take the leap of faith, miracles happened to him. After all, “We’ll jump and we’ll see; that’s life!

    Also, it’s a really fun film, I particularly loved the Orange-Soda drinking islanders!

    Dare to dream and find the faith to make your leap, no matter how scary the mouth of the volcano is……..

  3. Jenna…the sad truth is, some of us have no money, nowhere to go…we have no choice but to accept souk sucking jobs because the alternative is to be homeless…I have tried time and time again to get out of this meaningless work, to no avail.
    Without the jobs, which provide housing & at least partial if not full room & board, I would literally be on the streets.
    This year I managed to save enough to take off almost half a year at the end of the season, but once my spiritual journey to India is over at the end of next March, I honestly have no idea what will happen.
    I applied to a Buddhist retreat as I am on a spiritual journey and think it will really suit me, but if they turn me down…I have to do it all over again!
    The thought makes me feel sick.
    I am trying so hard to get a following for my photography and art but so far it has not taken off to provide even enough to eat on for a week let alone a month or a year…

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