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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 12/7/13

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

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Nelson Mandela by Paul Don Smith
Nelson Mandela by Paul Don Smith
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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. 


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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. 

Check out his platform at

He is the author of The Bottom-up Revolution; Mastering the Emerging World of Connectivity  

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,

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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 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 (more...)

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