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What makes a hero?

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A hero, in the mythic tradition, courageously leaves the comfort of his/her ordinary world to pursue a journey that ends up changing him, so he awakens to become a new being who heals his home community, family, nation. He faces daunting challenging antagonists at great odds. He does it by going through the process of rebirth, in which his old self dies and he becomes a new and better person --more balanced(emotionally, regarding both the masculine AND feminine archetypes,) wiser, with new strengths --knowledge, tools, weapons, allies, insights, access to higher truths ... to those kinds of "magic. "

A hero is not necessarily someone who survives being in a war, or who happens to pull someone out of a car wreck. We call the former a survivor and the latter a brave person.

The term hero has been diluted and abused by movie "heroines " who call the most average guy "my hero " because of some simple thing he does for her. Today's dictionaries do define a hero as someone with courage who risks his life. I don't buy it. That was not the definition until recently. In the 1806 edition of the Johnson Dictionary, hero is defined as "A man eminent for bravery." or, "a man of highest class in any respect, as a hero in learning"

There's a difference between signing up in the military and really earning a reputation for bravery. Courage is good. Bravery is better, eminence for bravery is better, heroic is even better. Just as in schools, the feel-good error of easy grading has led to graduating of illiterates, the mislabeling of heroism has affected our language so now, we truly face a dearth of real heroes.

Now don 't get me wrong, a hero can become a hero without fighting a single weapons fight, without killing or wounding anyone. Heroism can be and often is about fighting inner demons. But I get tired of hearing about John McCain being a hero because he survived all those years as a prisoner. I get annoyed when any GI who comes back from Iraq is called a hero. Maybe brave, maybe well intentioned. But I don 't think you should call anyone who volunteers to enter the military in the time of war a hero. That 's because there are real heroes who do go through the whole hero process. And they deserve to be called a name -- hero -- that is reserved for those who really do pursue the heroic journey. It is not enough to just enlist, follow orders and get through a stint in a hostile territory. It is not enough to survive capture, or live through a fire fight.

The true heroes and heroines among the GIs who have gone to Iraq have spoken out against the war. They have gone in as innocent brave souls, have seen wonders and horrors, made allies, fought and killed enemies, learned the arts of war and perhaps, arts of being a whole person, and they have come through the fire of war with new eyes, new heart and a different kind of courage. Not the courage to heft a powerful weapon. Rather, the courage to face truths that are different than they started with, truths that challenge the ideas about themselves and their world that they first travelled to their destination with.

The true heroes in Iraq have seen other GIs torture prisoners and have, against the "code of silence " reported these despicable acts, putting themselves at risk. This kind of heroism is not reported often. It is hidden, kept from the press, because the whole war in Iraq is based on the opposite of consciousness, the opposite of finding the higher truths

I 'm sorry for the families that have lost loved ones to death or injuries that will forever affect their lives. But being wounded does not a hero make.

I routinely ask people who are the living heroes they value and respect. Many people refer to parents, siblings or other family members. Sometimes they seem justified, describing people who have been on real heroic journeys. There are very few famous people mentioned though. Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama ....

In these times, we need real heroes, not brave people who get mislabeled as heroes. We need exemplars who set inspiring examples we can look up to. While it is a kindness to call brave soldiers heroes, it is a disservice to our value system, a disservice to our children, who need to learn what it really takes to become a real hero. They see real heroes in some movies. Even Harry Potter, fails the test in his latest movie.

The thing about becoming a hero is that the journey is the reward. When the hero returns to the ordinary world he departed from, with the "holy grail " he successfully acquired to save his world, he has already saved himself and has grown beyond that old world. In movies, the hero often gets a huge reward --a kingdom, the girl, a lot of money, power --but these are not the real coin of the realm for heroes. The true success for the hero or heroineis raised consciousness --knowing who he or she really is, deep inside, and being true to that person.


Rob Kall is executive editor, publisher and website architect of, Host of the Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show (WNJC 1360 AM), and publisher of, President of Futurehealth, Inc, and an inventor . He is also published regularly on the

Listen to over 200 of Rob's Podcast interviews here.

Rob is, with the first media winner of the Pillar Award for supporting Whistleblowers and the first amendment.

With his experience as architect and founder of a technorati top 100 blog, he is also a new media / social media consultant and trainer for corporations, non-profits, entrepreneurs and authors.

Rob is a frequent Speaker on the bottom-up revolution, politics, The art, science and power of story, heroes and the hero's journey and Positive Psychology. He is a campaign consultant specializing in tapping the power of stories for issue positioning, stump speeches and debates, and optimizing tapping the power of new media. Watch me speaking on Bottom up economics at the Occupy G8 Economic Summit, here.

See more Rob Kall articles here and, older ones, here.

To learn more about Rob and, check out A Voice For Truth - ROB KALL | OM Times Magazine and this article. For Rob's work in non-political realms mostly before 2000, see his C.V..

And here's a one hour radio interview where I was a guest- on Envision This, on 10/23/13. And here is the transcript. 

And Rob's quotes are here.

To watch me on youtube, having a lively conversation with John Conyers, former Chair of the House Judiciary committee, click here Now, wouldn't you like to see me on the political news shows, representing progressives. If so, tell your favorite shows to bring me on and refer them to this youtube video.

Rob's radio show, The Rob Kall Bottom Up Radio Show, runs 9-10 PM EST Wednesday evenings, on AM 1360, WNJC and is archived at Or listen to it streaming, live at

Rob also hosted a health/mind/body/heart/spirit radio show-- the Rob Kall Futurehealth radio show. Check out podcasts from it at

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Your piece on heroes was truly excellent. I wo... by Douglas Drenkow on Monday, Nov 28, 2005 at 12:28:26 PM
Thank you so much for the article on heroes, it wa... by Regina Carpenter on Monday, Nov 28, 2005 at 3:55:25 PM
Dear Rob: The human is a social animal like a bee ... by gramps on Monday, Nov 28, 2005 at 9:33:57 PM
A hero is someone who doesn't want to be a hero a... by Dom Jermano on Tuesday, Nov 29, 2005 at 5:38:43 PM