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Mandela-- The World's Number One Hero-- Teaches Us Lessons On Being A Hero

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From http://www.flickr.com/photos/56639832@N03/9424997560/: Nelson Mandela by Paul Don Smith
Nelson Mandela by Paul Don Smith" populumcaptn="MsSaraKelly
(image by MsSaraKelly)

Nelson Mandela is gone. He was a hero to me and probably you too. Over the last few decades I've asked a lot of people who their hero is and more than any other person, outside of parents, the number one hero people have named has been Nelson Mandela. 

He was a true hero in the archetypal,  monomyth or hero's journey mythical sense, as Joseph Campbell described in his landmark book, Hero With a Thousand Faces.  Mandela was a man who left his comfort zone, became a new person and struck out in a new world, re-defining who he was. Perhaps it is because there are so many ways that Mandela fit the mythic hero's journey archetype. 

He was a hero because, as he walked the road of the hero's journey he learned he needed new tools-- such as violent rebellion-- and he embraced them. 

He was a hero because he faced death with courage and determination. 

He was a hero because even in the darkest times he held hope and continued to inspire. 

He was a hero because he emerged reborn after 27 years in jail. 

He was a hero because he experienced an apotheosis, facing his higher self and envisioning his nation's higher self, making the decision to forgive, to build unity and to face the truth. 

Mandela was a hero because he returned home. Heroes must not bask in the glamorous world of the hero. They must return home to their ordinary world. Mandela refused to stay president. He knew that it was important that others get involved so that his huge personality did not get in the way of the growth and progress of South Africa. 

It is rare that we get such a close up, in depth view of a real hero. 

Adam Serwer writes, in his article, The radical histories of Mandela and MLK,
"...remember that sometimes the radicals are correct, that in the heat of the moment, movements for justice can be easily caricatured by those with authority as threats to public safety, and those seeking basic rights and dignity as monstrous villains. And then after the radicals win, we try to make them safe and useless to future radicals by pretending our beloved secular saints were never radical at all.

This negative characterization of radicals is, perhaps, a part of the hero's journey that Campbell missed. The true hero stands up to injustice, especially when it is the policy of the top-down controllers of power. The true hero challenges the status-quo, challenges the existing rules, assumptions and policies. He or she rallies the people, shows them hope, gives them a different vision, a vision that portrays a possible future WITH justice. When a person stands up and preaches radical ideas, when he acts radically, demonstrating that it can be done-- it is common, perhaps likely, perhaps, even, in the short run, DESIRABLE, for the powers in authority to characterize him as a bad guy, a criminal, a terrorist, a traitor. 

Once a person achieves hero status, we should go back and remember those who characterized him as criminal. Mandela would forgive them, perhaps engaging them in reconciliation. Perhaps that too should be an added element in the hero's journey-- engagement with the former authorities, the ones taken down by the hero, AND reconciliation. Yes. Mandela, the world's most beloved hero, has so much to teach us. Perhaps that even includes a revision, or amending of the full completion of the hero's journey. 

I've dabbled with that the idea of tweaking the monomyth myself, looking at the idea of a bottom-up, Occupy heroic journey. Most blockbuster movies portray a single person as the one who saves the world or the "people." It's been done. In Oz The Great and Powerful, the main character saves the day by waking up, inspiring and empowering the people. Even in that way, Mandela, as a prisoner for 27 years, stood as an inspiration to the people who moved the anti-apartheid movement forward. 

We need more heroes like Nelson Mandela. They are very, very rare. We need to tell their full stories, particularly about their standing up to authority, their being characterized as criminals and terrorists, so that possible future heroes will recognize and understand the pattern. 


Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind.  Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives  one person at a time was too slow, he founded Opednews.com-- which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big)  to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet and the Psychopathy Defense and Optimization Project. 

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There is no one with the courage he displayed exce... by Timothy Gatto on Saturday, Dec 7, 2013 at 12:28:25 PM
It may sound strange but   I surely have... by Mark Sashine on Saturday, Dec 7, 2013 at 1:43:13 PM
Two comments on Mandela by people I respect. I tot... by Hosea McAdoo on Saturday, Dec 7, 2013 at 2:30:01 PM
One of the most profound lessons we all should lea... by E. J. N. on Saturday, Dec 7, 2013 at 2:40:07 PM
Thank you, beautifully written.... by Hosea McAdoo on Saturday, Dec 7, 2013 at 3:11:03 PM
Nelson Mandela was a murderous Marxist thug who no... by David McElroy on Saturday, Dec 7, 2013 at 3:43:16 PM
I pity you, so full of hate, and so terribly blind... by M.I. Lee on Saturday, Dec 7, 2013 at 7:03:44 PM
What is being overlooked in our grief over Mandela... by Mary Wentworth on Saturday, Dec 7, 2013 at 4:33:37 PM
Yes, that's true, which is why I mentioned in my f... by E. J. N. on Saturday, Dec 7, 2013 at 5:11:09 PM
Mandiba-my hero, along with Gandhi. What a wonderf... by M.I. Lee on Saturday, Dec 7, 2013 at 6:54:45 PM
Write your mythical Eulogies based on what you wa... by KurtB on Sunday, Dec 8, 2013 at 10:30:51 AM