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How can a young person become a hero/ine?


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How can a young person become a hero/ine?


“Not in that he leaves something behind him, but in that he works and enjoys and stirs others to work and enjoyment, does man’s importance lie.” Goethe


A hero (heroine in female), “in Greek mythology and folklore, was originally a demigod, their cult being one of the most distinctive features of ancient Greek religion. Later, hero (male) and heroine (female) came to refer to characters who, in the face of danger and adversity or from a position of weakness, display courage and the will for self sacrifice – that is, heroism – for some greater good, originally of martial courage or excellence but extended to more general moral excellence.”—Quickie from Wiki [with minor modification].


My parents accomplished a heroic task that is often not available to today’s young people because many young people start out with so much more to begin with. It seems to me that in a more comfortable standard of living (America) available today that people so fortunate must develop other means for heroic action. However, we are rapidly approaching a time that may change this situation dramatically and thus challenge the new generation greatly on a more basic level of needs.


I was born in 1934 during the Great Depression. Dad drove a city bus in Amarillo Texas. My family moved to a very small town in Oklahoma before my first birthday; I had four siblings at the time we moved from Texas to Oklahoma to manage a small café and hotel that was then being managed by my uncle who wished to return to farming.


During the next 15 years my family managed that café and hotel. This operation allowed my parents to raise a large family in reasonably comfortable conditions throughout the depression and war years of World War II.


The psychologist Alfred Adler said: “The supreme law [of life] is this: the sense of worth of the self shall not be allowed to be diminished.”


For humanity, and especially for young people, this “supreme law” presents a paradox.


“The key to the creative type is that he is separated out of the common pool of shared meaning”. The creative type finds that for some reason, perhaps it is an unconscious reason, the world as others see it presents a problem. When the creative type perceives the collective solution to the problem is inadequate s/he attempts to fashion an individual solution. In doing so the creative type becomes “a painfully separate person with nothing shared to lean on.”


I claim that our (American) culture is anti-intellectual consumerism. It is anti-intellectual in that any intellectual energy expended on non-money making ventures is considered as a foolish waste of time and energy. Our culture discourages the egg-head, the pointed-head intellectual, and the wonk. Why else would it have such labels?


I claim that the young person can solve this paradox by developing a dual personality. S/he can learn to lead two lives. One life is shown to his or her peers under normal situations and the other life becomes a self-actualizing self-learning experience that is shared only with those few like-minded peers or perhaps adults who are capable of appreciating the distinction.

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How to become a hero/heroine?


As with any natural language question, its answer depends on the question’s words’ meanings. In this case, the significant word (gender aside) is hero. As a quality, heroic.


From a word-origin-y (entomological) perspective, there are to my knowledge two possible meanings. The first, with which I was acquainted as a schoolchild, if from the Greek myth of Hero and Leander. In this Hero is a woman (unlike later romantic languages, “o”-sounding names in Greek were usually feminine) whom Leander nightly swims the Hellespont to make love with, a dangerous feat that’s eventually the death of him. As Leander’s goal was Hero, his actions and motives are termed heroic. Thus, passionate bravery overcoming prudence, especially in pursuit of erotic love, is heroic.


The more common entomological interpretation of heroic is that the word derives from the Greek goddess Hera. Hera was associated with vigil-keeping, especially to prevent married women from having extramarital sex. Thus, guardians, especially of sexual propriety, are heroic.


From the perspective of modern academic mythology, the definitive position IMHO is that set forth books such as The Hero with a Thousand Faces, in which a hero is anyone who has undertaken, and not retreated from, a hero’s journey.


Then there’s the common meaning of hero, the meaning most people assume upon encountering it ordinary contexts. I think this meaning most closely matches the classical entomological “guardian” meaning. Thus, people who endanger themselves to protect others, such as soldiers, police, and rescuers, are generally granted hero status by default.


I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the concept of the existential, or absurd, hero. The IMHO definitive definition of this is set forth in The Myth of Sisyphus. Simply put, the existential hero is one who doesn’t delude oneself that ones existence or any action one can perform is ultimately other than absurd (ie: has any meaning), yet refuses the obvious, sensible response to such knowledge, suicide. Thus, a hero is anyone who survives not being a fool.

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What is the meaning of ‘hero’? I have taken one definition from the dictionary and have modified it to represent my comprehension of this concept of ‘heroic’. Heroic is a concept meaning a “determined effort [directed to achieve good or deter evil] in the face of difficulty”. In this definition I define ‘good’ as being that which promotes human life and ‘evil’ as that which promotes human death.


I think that there are degrees of heroic action. Some heroes are greater than others depending upon the circumstances of their action. To be a hero often requires courage and often causes personal hardship.


On a scale of one to ten I would classify the following people as heroes in most people’s judgment:

Mother Theresa (10)

Police and firemen entering the burning buildings in 9/11 attack (8 to 10)

My mom and dad (7)

Men and women fighting in Iraq: our side (5 to 10) their side (?)

Youngster really trying to make good grades in school (7)


The psychologist Alfred Adler said: “The supreme law [of life] is this: the sense of worth of the self shall not be allowed to be diminished.”


Heroic actions are our means for maintaining our self esteem. Without heroic action we cannot maintain our own self-esteem. Self-esteem is self-respect. We judge our self as to the degree of worthiness for respect. We rely partially upon the judgment of others but that respect from others is filtered by our own judgments to how heroic our actions are.


It appears that we must feel self-esteem or we suffer mental illness of one degree or another. I gain self-esteem by reading lots of stuff, writing about that stuff, and posting that stuff on this forum, i.e. I am a self-actualizing self-learner (6).

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Hero sort of creates a social paradox. On the one hand, the actions of the hero may go against the grain of the herd, leading to personal hardship. Yet, when all is said and done, the same herd will then define the hero.


For example, the soldier just starting to run into enemy fire to save a comrade, might be considered foolish. Common sense says this is very dangerous and stupid, except to the hero. He starts running as the social fool. Everyone is waiting for him to get shot, so they stay put. If he succeeds and rescues his comrade, the same people, who tried to discourage, change their tone and call it heroism.


The herd can relate to the final effect of the hero, using 20/20 hindsight, but not to the process before there is an end. They can empathize with the heroism, but not with the foolish effort behind the hero's journey. The hero sees the value at the beginning of the process, when there is the most to risk, when the herd is running for cover, and trying to get them to run for cover. But once the herd sees the math adding better, they are ready to empathize.


The one solider who becomes the hero on the battle field does it for all and it makes everyone feel a part. But when he is just about to run into enemy fire, it is one for all (hero) but also every man for himself (herd). Once he is a hero, it is all for one. This empathy motivates the herd, so they can become heros. In battle this change of mind can win the day, leading others down the foolish path of the hero.


The question is how can young people become a hero. The initial path of a hero is foolish, except to the hero and/or to 20/20 hindsight of the herd. If you expect the herd to accept your foolish path, you are not following the path of the hero. They will stay behind the tree in battle and maybe peak out. The herd will not be able to justify the personal risk or sacrifice, until after the journey is complete. The hero needs something bigger than themselves, or their personal sacrifice will weight too heavy, to begin the foolish journey.

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The hero needs something bigger than themselves, or their personal sacrifice will weight too heavy, to begin the foolish journey.



Exactly, the hero must create a motivation to go beyond the herd. The well being of the herd might be such a motivation. Most people think only of their own self-interest most of the time. A heroic life might be one of preparing one's self, beginning at an early age, to become an individual who seeks to see to the welfare of the community.


I can well imagine Barrack Obama starting at a very young age to prepare himself for becoming such an individual.

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