Wednesday, March 11, 2015

How to be a Hero, Continued

Let's say you've reached the pinnacle of enlightenment. You're a Capital-H Hero and you've suffered and learned and risen above it all. Now you have to figure out how to put your impressive credentials to work.
You might think you would belong in the White House or the Vatican or at least Harvard Business School, but you'd be wrong, because you would start thinking of yourself as a Leader and you would develop a plan  to whip the world into shape.
It seems like a good idea at first, but here's so much to fix! People can't do anything right, so you introduce helpful rules for their own good: Eggs must be cooked hard. Scented laundry detergent is outlawed. Never use the word "moist". It is offensive. Why would any right-thinking person disagree?  Then things start to get out of hand.
Half the world wants to put you in jail. The other half wants to shoot you. If they do, then all that hard work and suffering and wisdom will have been for nothing.
The best way to remain uncorrupted and avoid assassination is to hide in a trailer in the desert or become a homeless person. At the very least, you need to refrain from pointing out everybody else's flaws. You should not do lecture tours or build a mega-church.
So, what's the point, you ask? Why would I want to undergo all this suffering just so that I can become homeless? No thanks.
Fair enough. I see your point. But I have found the Loopholes.
Loopholes, halleluiah! you say.  Life was looking really grim there for a minute.
Yes, sorry about that. I got carried away with the mythic stuff. Let's talk about your hero's journey now, in real life. The one that you've already started without realizing.
Your hero's journey is about turning pain into treasure. Everyone has pain of some kind. You can let it be meaningless suffering or you can turn it into a journey of the soul. A journey from which you return with something wonderful.
Your hero's journey may take you to distant places, but it is primarily an inner journey.
You might bring a vision of great beauty and light, wisdom that benefits all of mankind, something world-redeeming.
But you could also return with donuts (which, depending on who you talk to, is even better). The heart of heroism is giving, in whatever form you can.
The value in conquering cancer, sobering up, slaving all those long hours for the 7% bonus or finally mastering the intricacies of the TV remote is in sharing what you've brought back: strength, coping strategies, money, the ability to watch an entire season of "Dogs With Jobs" in one sitting. You have the potential to bestow priceless treasures. Why hoard them?
Each of us is an aspect of the whole of humanity, inextricable and essential and perfect in our imperfection. Each of us is connected to all others and everything we do affects others. Therefore you really don't have to do much to make an impression, do you?
Plug along. Do your best. Instead of getting discouraged, rest for a moment, give yourself a pat on the head, then dive into life again. And tell yourself this is not a crisis, not a tragedy. This is an Adventure.