The Meaning of Heroism


I have always been fascinated by acts of heroism. As a child I was a fan of stories of heroism weaved in to cartoons like Mighty Mouse. I later moved on to the Lone Ranger, the Cisco Kid, and Paladin of the television show “Have Gun Will Travel”. These television shows were built around heroism stories. As an adult I would read about ordinary individuals who acted heroically in extreme circumstances and finally I was able to create a personal philosophy after watching PBS interviews with Joseph Campbell the acclaimed anthropologist and the author of the book “The Hero with A Thousand Faces.” His ideas gave the concept of heroism meaning for me.

For me the hero has always been a person with a sense of ethics morals and conscience.

Now as I have entered my six decade of life I have come to see that the study of these extraordinary individuals as well as the creation of authentic friendships with them can be an effective path to personal development. One of my daily exercises is to model and mirror those who have come before us – Heroes, heroines, visionaries, and sages.

Certain things celebrate life and living. They are about the soaring of the human spirit; the inquiry into self and the surrender of that self to wisdom, divine knowledge, love and the celebration and joy of being human.

What is an extraordinary individual? An extra-ordinary individual is a person that consciously behaves in a simple and basic manner. Such a person acts out general social norms when appropriate in their daily life, but seldom or never does so habitually. The extra-ordinary person will change their behavior to match changes in these social norms if it serves their own actualization process and society as a whole. They are generally concerned with moral or ethical dilemmas and often examine the meaning of their lives, questioning much, and often and with great concern. And most of all an extraordinary individual by means of their words and deeds is able to transform lives.

Such an individual can shift a common reality from what it was and turn it into something better, more authentic, more alive and even more…

Things are seldom black and white and it is the paradox of gray areas that make life most troubling but also most interesting, and fulfilling.

C. J. Jung theorized that transformation of the personality requires having an understanding of, and making peace with the unconscious, its specific structures and their active interaction as these become apparent during the process of achieving self-awareness. An extraordinary individual is often the actualization of Jung’s definition.

For transformation to take place there must be a shift of the unconscious structures that shape and define ego-consciousness as self-actualization begins to take place.

I have even begun to keep a list of visionaries, heroes and heroines. I decide who I wish to place on this list less by the fame of a person and more by the depth of their contribution to the advancement of human potential. I have sought for the most part to list those who have written, spoken or acted in ways that expressed political bravery, a unique and visionary personal action or some artistic vision. Their actions may have been commercially or personally motivated, or even been done because it was the easy thing to do. All bravery does not after all require suffering. Some acts however clearly required an action that transcended great obstacles. Some of those listed committed unique acts at appropriate times that saved the day or overcame an environment ruled by the darker impulses of greed, self-indulgence and cowardice. Certain simple acts or creation have caught my attention and told me intuitively that a certain individual needs to be on this list. Who’s to say after all, that a simple music composition will have less of an influence on history than a political decision that makes the front page of a newspaper?

In the end the focus on heroes has helped me to fulfill my potential on every level. I am thankful that this has taken place.

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Source by Lewis Harrison

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