What’s Your Hero Construct?

Mankind’s common instinct for reality has always held the world to be essentially a theatre for heroism.

William James

Welcome to the Theatre of Life. Whether you realize it or not, you are front and center on the stage. With every thought, action, movement, feeling, and intention, you are acting out a self-scripted heroic structure.

The question that becomes then the most important one that man can put to himself is simply this: how conscious is he of what he is doing to earn his feeling of heroism? I suggested that if everyone honestly admitted his urge to be a hero it would be a devastating release of truth. 

Ernest Becker

A hero system is how you earn your self-esteem, your worth, and your sense of fundamental “alright-ness” in the Universe, that everything is going to be just fine. Truth be told, many of us have unconsciously subscribed to hero structures such as careers, power, influence, fame, material goods, etc. Most of the hero systems we operate within are flat-out meaningless, if we at least had the courage to admit it.

The fact is that this is what society is and always has been: a symbolic action system, a structure of statuses and roles, customs and rules for behavior, designed to serve as a vehicle for earthly heroism.

Ernest Becker

Everything we chase in life is no more than a symbol for something embedded deep behind that. For example, this blog is a symbol of my hero structure: that contributing to humanity is the most worthy way to spend my time. It makes me feel creative, compassionate, wise, inspired, and full of love. I had previous hero structures of money and power when I worked my life away in investment banking, just to feel like I was doing something worthwhile. Just so I could tell my friend I had a career and wasn’t flopping like a fish after college. Then, I worked for a tech company because I wanted to launch a start-up that would change digital interaction forever. In both of the latter career paths, I came up very empty. My hero structure was nothing but a structure of ego, nothing but an illusion that society presented me with as an opportunity to earn my worth, financial security, and significance. Don’t wait to ask yourself this question:

At what cost am I purchasing the assurance that I am heroic? Am I sacrificing my health, money, time, relationships, my soul? We each have a unique answer. Depending on who you are, this cost might be worth it. For most of the corporate zombies in America, it surely isn’t, at least deep down inside of them beyond the answers and fears of their egos.

Ernest Becker, in his ridiculously mindblowing book The Denial of Death, reminds us that heroism is first and foremost a reflex of the terror of death. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. In light of Coronavirus, the human animal within us is triggered. We remember: Oh shit! I am not invincible. And many of our hero structures are compromised, at least temporarily.

But he has to feel and believe that what he is doing is truly heroic, timeless, and supremely meaningful. The crisis of modern society is precisely that the youth no longer feel heroic in the plan for action that their culture has set up.

Ernest Becker

In what ways have you bought into societal structures that are telling you how to spend your time? In what way are you earning your form of heroism? There is no wrong answer. All I ask is that you be conscious of your decision. Do not “humbly and complainingly follow out the roles that society provides for [your] heroics and try to earn [your] promotions within the system: wearing the standard uniforms—but allowing [yourself] to stick out, but ever so little and so safely, with a little ribbon or a red boutonniere, but not with head and shoulders.”, as Ernest Becker would say.

…To become conscious of what one is doing to earn his feeling of heroism is the main self-analytic problem of life.

Ernest Becker

We are all living a myth in which we are the hero. To whom are you a hero right now? Why? Is this the only way you can earn your heroism? This is worth your highest and deepest contemplation. Look at your current career path, the way you treat people, your dreams, your fears. Really, look no farther than how you spend your day. What does this say about your hero system?

Coronavirus is a trying time for the world, and I send my love and compassion to all of those affected and to those whom have passed. In every act of destruction in life, it is an opportunity for creation. As it shoves the re-realization of death in our faces, Coronavirus is reminding us how to live. How to be a hero to ourselves on a daily basis. To breathe, move, sleep, eat well, sing, dance, love, and really check in with ourselves on how we are showing up in the world.

Who do you want to be a hero to?

When we quit thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness.

Joseph Campbell

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