Yeah, I’ve used this image before, but it’s the best I know of heroism today: battered and outdated. I photoshopped in the confused crowd of male symbols as representing our modern state of directionless atomization.
Here’s the hero in a younger, more cohesive time; notice the unity of male purpose.
Now back to our regularly scheduled post:
“The courage to face the trials and to bring a whole new body of possibilities into the field of interpreted experience for other people to experience—that is the hero’s deed.”—Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth
A year or two ago I wrote a post titled “Hardwired For Heroes,” referencing Steve Jobs, but really about our instinctive yearning for leadership figures.
We humans live in highly fluid, more or less adaptable communities. It gives us our biological-ecological advantage. Granted, one we’ve squandered often enough in the past—and some would say run the risk of squandering yet again, though this time on a colossal, world-wide scale. Nevertheless, for good or ill, community is the vessel which will ferry us into the future.
Within community, our community, there is a natural hierarchy we all more or less sense. When the group is in form, harmoniously, organically functioning, the leaders lead (that kind of stuff is right out of the Tao Te Ching) and the rest, to the extent of their ability, more or less follow.
But times change. The group grows, evolves, acts upon and is acted upon by the environment. Conditions change, and leaders need change with them. Heroic hunters and heroic warriors give way to heroic builders, explorers, leaders of a different make. Tasks called upon by the evolving conditions elicit new leadership, unless that is the group grows rigid, ossifies, refuses to recognize change and face the future and its challenges, preferring instead to harken back to the past with its well-established ways and hence criteria for leadership.
What’s more, leaders themselves resist the march of time. They hang on to power and status passed their prime, frequently refusing to acknowledge change and the passing of their day.
It is an old, archetypal tale, that of the tyrant king Holdfast sacrificing youth and damming up the waters of life in his ego-bound hubris. A wasteland of inauthenticity results, and the people cry out for a hero, a redeemer who will supplant the aged king and release the pent up energies of youth and life once more.
As we do today.
False heroes arise. They beguile our empty yearning for the real thing. We succumb and regret our gullibility when the veil is lifted. The community disintegrates under their spell, the directionless crowd a prey to their charms.
All the while the germs of new leadership take root. Quietly, away from the noise and tumult of the mob.
They tap into the forgotten soil and draw their strength and vision from it.
They will flower with the dawning of a new day.