“It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else’s life with perfection.” ∼ Bhagavad Gita, Chapter Three verse 43
As a young man I soaked up the plentitude of movies featuring the hero who stood up to evil against all odds.
Whether it was the Die Hard, Lord of The Rings, Terminator or Star Wars franchise, I immersed myself in their adventure, excitement and musical overtures. Something stirring and evocative would rise up within me every time I watched them, a desire to be the hero myself, to do something amazing that would capture the attention of a community in need, but most especially the maiden who I had my eyes on.
At 22, when it felt to me that aerospace engineering was missing something, I jumped into the world of personal training. Here was a way I could play the hero and it would be able to cover up the deep shame and guilt that I felt inside.
The pride that can come with being the hero is only a temporary cover for any of those deeper feelings that need to be accepted. Although I achieved much of what I hoped to achieve in that profession, there remained a deep sadness within me. Perhaps being the knight in shining armor was not all it was cracked up to be.
I needed to save myself before focusing on anyone else.
I can confidently say that I am not the only young person to have fallen into this programming. Instead of following an inner calling because it feels good, many of us unconsciously seek a way to play out the role of the hero in society, to do something that looks good to others.
This kind of programming is less about selfless acts and service and more about supporting the raising of a nation of people willing to risk life and limb for the personal glory and pride that so often goes along with heroism.
Being a hero is not a bad thing. But I do wonder if we can be more aware of our true motivations behind our actions which requires being honest with ourselves.
In the story of the Knights of the Round Table, we hear how only a few knights achieved the grail, which is a metaphor for a spiritual—not material—treasure. The knights who sought attention, worship and praise soon fell from the path, victims of their own pride. When a knight followed their calling in service to others they found the grail and made that their sole focus on the journey. In fact, depending on the version you read, there were few who achieved the grail that even returned to the world they had once inhabited to be received as heroes. This did not affect them because it had never been their goal.
Another challenge with the Hollywood heroes is that they can encourage people to go looking for a fight that will make a hero of them. If we buy into the need to be a hero of some kind of fight, we also need enemies and this only perpetuates the cycle. The enemy can take the form of an individual who appears to threaten our way of life, or it could be a group such as corporations or the people who have betrayed us. We need to protect ourselves from those who would hurt us, and heal the wounds from those who have, but all too often we help to create our enemies through our judgments and righteousness.
In a world that recognizes interconnectedness we will experience a whole other perception of reality and those we would call “enemies”. We begin to recognize our own shadow in those we meet with in life and see the spark of goodness that exists within everyone. We learn great lessons from those who attempt to knock us off course. It does not mean that we don’t stand up for what is right, it means that we do it with a focus on the change we wish to see instead of getting caught up focusing on the person getting in the way of that goal.
I believe—and feel free to disagree—that the true hero undertakes the path that feels authentic to them, a path of service where the outcome to them is irrelevant and that they do the best they can each and every day. They are not fighting against something but making a stand for something, something that makes them come alive, something that brings beauty to the world.
They are peaceful warriors.
They don’t do something to look good, they do it because it feels good. This hero listens to the guidance of their intuition and forges new paths, growing in courage with each and every day. They recognize that the small every day deeds of kindness and compassion are acts of heroism that ripple out through space and time.
We may hear about them on our news, we may not, but that does not make their acts any less valuable to humanity in a world where we are so deeply interconnected.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Matthew Ashdown
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Helgi Halldórsson at Flickr