OK, I’m the first to admit that I am not a good role model, and I am not in any way, shape, or form a person or personality that could be considered a “hero”.
And, fortunately for my sense of self-worth and current self-accomplishment, nobody has called me anything of the like lately.
But like the heroes of legend, I have had periods in my life where I fought personal dragons, where I had to deal positively with adversity, where I have had to make “crisis” decisions. So have you. So has everybody else you know. It’s part of Life. It’s part of yourlife.
Most of the time, we are not in crisis. We do not have to make immediate, life-or-death decisions for ourselves or others. We do not have to click that internal switch that says, “I’m going to do this no matter what it takes,” or “I know I’m going to have to change to meet this challenge; I will make those changes.” We just live from day to day, managing our lives as best we can.
Well, guess what? Every hero tale is part of a hero cycle. And at the start of every hero tale, the hero is just living his life from day to day. If you look at that hero tale as a heartbeat, the introductory section is that rest area of a sinus rhythm.
Then something happens. A young heroine loses her parents and has to cope with an unfriendly stepmother. A lovesick dimwitted hero must meet three challenges to win the princess. Messengers warn the local king of attacks on nearby kingdoms. A group of terrorists cause the destruction of iconic office buildings – with many people still inside. Your doctor tells you you have diabetes.
Something happens. It affects you. You must react.
You do what you have to do, what you have been trained to do, or what you are too afraid (or unafraid) to not do. Whether it’s calling the fire department, responding as a member of the fire department, moving away from home for the first time, or steeling yourself against the punch, poke, and vacuum of another blood test, it is something you must do. If it is something you have been trained to do, or something you have at some point expected to have to do, your conditioning kicks in, and you do it without thinking twice about it. If it’s something completely unexpected, for which you have no training, then you have to make a decision: do you travel the dark path, learn as you go, and strengthen yourself for the long run, or do you ignore that haunted forest and turn aside to the way-path, the well-marked path, the path that usually takes you to Grandma’s house… except that this time, the Big Bad Wolf is waiting for you there…
Whichever path you take, you are going to have a struggle. Either you battle the forest, picking your way through the brush and using the mosses and small animals as your guides, or you tackle the Big Bad Wolf and hope that you are smart enough never to remark how big his teeth are.
We all must brave the dark paths from time to time. We learn, we strengthen ourselves, we create resolve and force of will… If we subdue the Wolf, we’re called “heroes”; if we find ourselves the Wolf’s lunch, we may be called less pleasant things.
We don’t always subdue the Wolf.
But it doesn’t always devour us, either.
When the hero battles through his Challenges and is forged by the heat and pressure of the Crucible, he emerges with the knowledge, strength, and wisdom he needs to confront the true enemy, stand down once the threat is neutralized, and rule the kingdom with wisdom, grace, and patience. Until the next tale in the cycle.
When the hero fails, he is rescued by the huntsman, the Gods, his Guardian Angel, or even the preternaturally smart donkey. The failure does not make him less of a hero; each failure is another forging of the Crucible. Nor do our occasional lapses make us failures. They are the tests that mold us, that make each of us into the Heroes seen by others.