The Heroic Life

I believe that a better life is possible. Many religions teach that we must live for an afterlife, for heaven or for karma, but I believe we can live for tomorrow. We can change our fate, we can transform, we can find new lives that bring us to our dreams. It’s not that the opportunity is not there: it’s that taking it requires frightening risks that most of us avoid.

Taking those risks is what I call the heroic life.

I’m no hero. I’ve never done anything heroic in my life. But I believe every human heart has that spark of heroism, and that when we set out to change our own lives, to live our own stories and journeys, we also inspire and help others.

Can Adventure Be a Religion?

I was twelve, and I believed in heroes.

I was not a popular kid. I wasn’t very brave. I lost at sports, or just stayed home. I wrote and drew and walked in the woods, alone.

But I read books, and I played games. My house sat in a depressed Wisconsin town, but my mind traveled the world. I crossed the continents, real and imaginary, with small groups of dedicated individuals. They didn’t always get along, but each had a story, a reason to be there. And they had a shared purpose.

Together these misfit bands saved the world. We fought monsters, and that was alright. It wasn’t the combat that won me. It was the idea, the simple belief, that just a handful of people can change the world.

I never gave up that belief in heroes. Not superpowers, but a simple tenet: you can do anything. A small number of souls with a shared purpose can overcome, can overcome, can overcome.

It became a calling. I set a quest. I don’t know if I can complete it, or even if it’s possible. Maybe it’s too big.

I intend to meet the gods.

Are they real? And real or not, do they ever open the door?

Travel is my spiritual practice; adventure is my daily creed. For I believe these things change a person. We each have a purpose, a destiny we make for ourselves: if you don’t know what it is, travel. Travel and you will find it. 

That is the heroic faith.

It is not a faith of belief, but of action; not of hope, but of doing. My adventure brings me to times of great joy, peaceful refuge and new friends. And it takes me away again. “Love it the first time,” I chant, for heaven may be a dream. What I know is this happened, these precious days existed, and shaped my heart for all my life.

And in the end?

We may have no soul. I give all of me to this world, the world I know. I salute the gods, whether prayers are answered or rebuked. I carry on, I offer myself. When I die, if there’s nothing more, I’ll slip to that black sleep with a smile on my lips, and know I lived my story.

But today.

Today we have the earth, and you can change it.

That is my faith.

Four Core Beliefs

At the heart of the heroic life are four basic beliefs. They define the mindset of changing yourself to change the world.
  1. Everyone has a purpose in life. There is something you’re good at, that you love doing—something that gives your life meaning. Know what that thing is, and pursue it.
  2. If you don’t know your purpose, you should travel. Travel changes the mind and it also introduces you to exponentially more possibilities than staying put. If you don’t yet have a passion in life, go on a journey. You might meet the love of your life, find a master worth learning a craft from, or simply find a culture that fills you with inspiration.
  3. Ideals, not rules. I find ideals far more useful than rules. Rules are a poor substitute for a moral compass, and they don’t require critical thinking. So choose your values, your ideals. Maybe Respect? Bravery? Peace? You get to choose, but choose. And then stick by them.
  4. You can do amazing things. Has anyone ever said something that stopped you in your tracks? Have you ever seen a master at work—a musician, a martial artist, anything—doing something better or faster than you thought possible? It’s almost supernatural. But you can cultivate those amazing moments. You can become so good at something, and so full of knowledge, that it’s uncanny.

These four principals build a life that’s about more than just getting by. It’s a life of passionately following what you believe in and accomplishing great things. The entire process bristles with the energy that comes from a sense of purpose. These are the experiences that give meaning to a human life.

More than that, the heroic life is meant to change the world. Your goal might be wealth, love, fame, or something else. These are fine goals. As long as you live your life by high ideals your successes will benefit those around you as much as they benefit you.

That’s why it’s called the heroic life.

Favorite Posts

The readers of Rogue Priest have been a tremendous resource in clarifying, defining and expanding my vision of the Heroic Faith. There have been many posts and discussions that helped shape it, but here are a few of the favorites.

The Heroic Life

What is the Heroic Life? — as it stands today.

Travel is the Root of Heroism

“Creating” Heroic Encounters — (hint: don’t do it)

I Don’t Like Joseph Campbell

The Tragic Joy of the Heroic Life — greatest thing I’ve learned

Lessons in Sacred Awe

Personal Experiences

Why Heroism is My Religion

Traveling at 30

Domestic Violence: the Unheroic Rescue

The Ghost and the Sea — contemplating mortality

Living It

I don’t believe a philosophy counts unless you live it. So when the Heroic Life took a definite form, I decided to try it.

July 4, 2012 I started an 8,000 mile journey. I began at the source of the Mississippi River and will end at the mouth of the Amazon River, two continents away. My goal: to meet the gods. I don’t know if I will succeed, but I know the journey will change who I am.

It’s my Great Adventure.


27 thoughts on “The Heroic Life

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