The Allure Of The Heroic Man
At times you may get to the end of the day wondering what exactly you have accomplished. The trivialities and tediousness of office work and the mundane routines of socializing may make you doubt whether your life will ever have any real significance. Were you meant to strain and stretch yourself to enrich others? Were you born to settle with a woman who is no way exceptional? Is the steady, stable, plodding life that you now have as good as it gets?
The act of asking such questions puts you on the road to becoming someone different. It will give you the necessary impetus to start thinking of living a bigger life. It is the first step in the journey towards re-making yourself into a heroic man.
The very notion of the heroic man sounds silly and childish. Our modern conceptions of heroism are informed by the rather cartoonish figures that appear in novels, comic books, and films. For decades, we have come to think of heroes as men of action who possess superpowers and live among us to do good or as mere mortals who through strength, will, and intelligence are able to achieve superhuman feats.
A saner, more reasonable view of the heroic man is the one formed by the 19th century Scottish writer Thomas Carlyle. In his excellent book On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History, he writes:
“For, as I take it, Universal History, the history of what man has accomplished in this world, is at bottom the History of the Great Men who have worked here.”
To leave a mark, a legacy, a permanent and irrevocable stamp on society, to leave some sign that you existed and made a significant difference, is the mark of the true hero. The heroic man is one who makes it his purpose to be a great man. And great men, as history has shown, are made by the times in which they live.
It is therefore possible for you, as a man living in the early 21st century—a time of wide fragmentation, deep cynicism, profuse cowardice, and rampant ignorance, confusion, and stupidity—to become heroic. For the men who we now view as heroic had themselves to contend with the rank stupidities and difficulties of their own time.
The heroic man does not allow himself to be discouraged and disheartened by the challenges of his age. In fact, he embraces them. He uses the dullness, weakness, and short-sightedness of his contemporaries as a springboard to fashion new and interesting things: to achieve something that will endure, and that will stand as an example and model for all in times to come. Again, Carlyle says it best:
“They were the leaders of men, these great ones; the modellers, patterns, and in a wide sense creators, of whatsoever the general mass of men contrived to do or to attain; all things that we see standing accomplished in the world are properly the outer material result, the practical realization and embodiment, of Thoughts that dwelt in the Great Men sent into the world: the soul of the whole world’s history, it may justly be considered, were the history of these.”
A heroic man seeks to distinguish himself beyond the small setting of the group or organization; he wants to change the way people live their lives and see them. The inventor, the author, the artist, the emancipator, the industrialist—these are the kinds of leaders of thought and movements who go on to become great men: heroic men.
Set your sights towards becoming such a man and you will begin to think and feel like one. With such changed ways of thinking will come greater confidence and higher ambitions. You will begin to see that there are many things outside the confines of your current life that are within your grasp. Reckless, impulsive behavior is not the way to get them; calm, rational planning and steely, un-swerving will is.
Once you start living your life determined to make it count for something, things will begin to fall into place. The heroic men in history were recognized as such because people were drawn to them. Their actions and statements, victories and defeats, habits and routines were closely observed by persons who depended on them, were inspired by them, and loved them.
As a heroic man, you too will produce this kind of charm and allure. You will begin to gather around you a different set of friends and lovers. Doing so will be a vital part of your success. For you will find that the people you attract are needed to give you the moral, social, emotional, and at times, financial support to carry out your goals.
You should not go to the pages of fiction or the screens of the film theater to find the heroic man, but to the tomes of history. Where would we be if Frederick Douglass had decided to remain a slave in Maryland, if Hector Berlioz had decided against pursuing his music, if Steve Jobs had bowed to the pressures of social conformity? To be a heroic man you must not only be willing to break the mold, but to re-make it in your own way. It will be your ability to shape events and the world around you that will draw people to you, and it will be these same people who will ensure that you are recognized and remembered for your accomplishments.
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About Christopher Reid Chris was born in Washington, D.C. and lives in Britain. He works as a blogger, essayist, and novelist. His first book, Tea with Maureen, has just been published.