Adventure, Heroism, The Heroic Life

Abstract of a Heroic Life

Photo by James Jordan

This November I’ll speak at a first-of-its-kind conference, the Hero Roundtable. I’m probably the least qualified speaker there, but the founder urged me to accept. So I did.

I was asked to provide an abstract for my talk. Here it is:

I have never done anything heroic. I’ve chosen to follow the path the heroes took.

Every one of us was raised on stories of great heroes—active, cunning individuals who won against all odds. Those of us at this conference have never set aside those stories. We have dedicated ourselves to understanding what heroism is, and to enacting heroism today.

Yet the scholarship of the twentieth century has trained us to handle these tales with rubber gloves. Hero scholars almost universally take their cue from Campbell and treat mythical heroes as literary characters. These heroes are purely fictional, their lessons psychological.

I reject this approach. It’s ineffective at understanding or creating heroism in real human lives.

I believe we can live the great myths. I believe these stories were created not just to inspire but to instruct. The common themes of the ancient myths are a blueprint for determined individuals to become truly heroic.

The heart of this blueprint is an actual, physical journey. Not a literary or figurative journey, not viewing volunteerism or education as a journey. The road to heroship is to travel.

But it is much more than that. It is to go freely into places unfamiliar and unknown. It is to seek challenge, and live by your own ideals. It is to willingly place yourself in circumstances you are not yet capable of handling.

In short, it is to adventure.

The conceit of the hero myths is this: we are at our best when we’re tested past our limit. To adventure hones you as a person. It changes you morally: what began as a journey for yourself ends up demanding your social grace, your communal spirit, your empathy for those unlike yourself. It also changes your capabilities. You develop new and greater talents. The result is an individual who is both highly effective and yet highly idealistic, a person who makes the unbelievable possible.

In this talk I will share my own experiences attempting this journey, and discuss how others can attempt it.

The conference is surprisingly affordable, thanks to creator Matt Langdon. Seating is limited and I hope you will take a look for yourself and consider getting a ticket.

What do you think of the abstract? Is this a talk you’d want to hear? What parts seem weakest?