Is it possible to “create” a heroic encounter?
Variants on this question come up a lot. To me it represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the heroic life. The answer is generally no, but more importantly the answer is you don’t need to and you shouldn’t want to.
You don’t need to because there are already so, so many moments in life when someone needs to stand up or speak out. And chances are you won’t take action in the moment. Most of us have more opportunities to be heroic than we ever respond to, so why try to create more?
You shouldn’t want to because that means questionable motivations. Acting heroically means taking unnecessary risk. If you seek to create more opportunities to do this, it implies self-destructive behavior. When I was 20 and took Chinese sword lessons, I’d always picture running into a mugger and defeating him with my wooden sword. But I never went out looking for muggers.
Heroism is emergent: a quality you can embody more and more with practice, but never quite reach. Pursuing it is more like pursuing enlightenment than going after a promotion.
As such, the project is not chasing chances to act a hero. The project is to develop a heart that’s ready to overcome fear. The easiest way to learn this is to go on a journey.
A journey will not give you a heroic encounter, but it may give you a heroic mindset.
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