Heroes are Rare
Reason number one: Heroes tend to face monsters, and monsters eat heroes. There are risks involved. You could get hurt, go broke, lose your reputation, be embarrassed.
- Being a hero is dangerous.
Reason number two: Heroes go against the grain. Even if it's change that needs to happen, people prefer to be complacent. It's safe. It's better not to rock the boat. Sometimes, heroes must directly face the popular status quo.
- Being a hero is unpopular.
Reason number three: There are no instructions for heroism. No matter how many books you read, how many leaders you interview, how many inspiring blogs your frequent, in the end, YOU have to figure out how to find and face your monsters. You decide how to prepare and what path to take into the wilderness.
- Being a hero is uncharted.
Our Over-Directed World
This last reason is important, especially now. The monsters we face in modern times are probably less lethal than they have been. In the past, overthrowing a tyrant could very well get you killed. Now, we have nasty but non-lethal legal and political channels. The spread of the internet means that, no matter what your cause, you will always be able to find supporters, so unpopularity is less of an issue as well.
But in the world of information overload and procedure, process, and practice, we come up short when we realize nobody can tell us how it's done.
We have been conditioned to follow instructions and social norms. In the past, perhaps it was more acceptable to just walk into the wilderness but now, there are paved roads that tell you where to go. The existence of a road in the wilderness implies that you should not leave the path.
And so we don't, even though the real dangerous obstacles to heroism are no longer there.
Small Heroics are Still Heroic
Being a hero doesn't mean changing the world through revolution and uprising. It can simply mean refusing to accept the limitations imposed by society. It can mean refusing to accept that you must work a 9-5 job for somebody else. It can mean affirming that you are a good mother, or a loving son, or a loyal friend in a world that lures you from connection with promises of numbing consumption and busyness.
The point is that you are doing something hard, aspiring to something better in yourself and in others. Maybe heroism simply means wearing a smile every single day of the job you hate, lifting the spirits of your equally downtrodden co-workers. It might simply mean showing up on time, every time, to your kid's baseball games when life conspires to keep you away. That is heroism, because, let's be honest, those things are HARD.
But realize that, no matter what sort of heroism you enact, there are no instructions. You're on your own.
Realize also that, not matter how small your version of heroism, you are changing the world. You are enacting revolution. You are sending the message that you won't bend over because life, society, or your job is difficult. You won't compromise on your integrity or your values because it is easier to do so.
No matter what your brand of heroism, you are inspiring people, and they may tell their own small legends about you.
“The adventure of the hero is the adventure of being alive” - Joseph Campbell
Be a hero.
(Photo credit: Goodnight London on Flickr)