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
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
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
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
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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
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
It is rare that we get such a close up, in depth view of a
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
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
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 is an award winning journalist, inventor, software architect,
connector and visionary. His work and his writing have been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, ABC, the HuffingtonPost, Success, Discover and other media. He's given talks and workshops to Fortune
500 execs and national medical and psychological organizations, and pioneered
first-of-their-kind conferences in Positive Psychology, Brain Science and
Story. He hosts some of the world's smartest, most interesting and powerful
people on his Bottom Up Radio Show,
and founded and publishes one of the top Google- ranked progressive news and
opinion sites, OpEdNews.com
more detailed bio:
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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