Heroes and Heroics

02021-10-20 | Uncategorized | 16 comments

“We have to let go of the heroes and replace them with heroics.”

That’s the sentence by Woody Holton that will stay with me. It comes from this podcast: The Story of America’s Founding You Weren’t Taught in School.

In fact, that podcast should be required listening in every school!

Hero worship is what children do – adults should be able to differentiate between a person’s heroic deeds and their failures. There was Picasso the amazing painter and there was the man who said “For me there are only two kinds of women: goddesses and doormats.” Having said that should in no way dim the importance of the artwork. We make mistakes, we say stupid things, but we can also create wonderful and deep words of wisdom – think of Jefferson who had 600 slaves and freed none, but wrote the preamble to the Declaration of Independence.

I imagine Buddha or Jesus made some awful statements in their youth – it’s just that social media wasn’t there to preserve it forever.

Admiring heroics instead of worshipping heroes is important. Equally important is, perhaps, pointing out someone’s mistakes rather than calling the person a failure. Discard hero but retain heroics, use it as a verb, an action, not a noun. A movement, not a pedestal. Doing so allows a person to be so much fuller, and adds texture and angles. Think diamond rather than glass shard.

“We have to let go of the heroes and replace them with heroics.”


  1. MTCallahan

    Jefferson was on my mind earlier today, considering just what you’ve brought up here. Using a wide lens, he is perhaps “the” founding father. His fingerprints are all over the building blocks of this country and we certainly owe him a debt but, some of his personal actions are hard to accept.

    Looking back, how do we revere (not a Paul joke) his contributions but learn from what we now know were missteps? Accepting faults in a human is easier than a crack in a hero. But sometimes, heroes are needed in our world.

    • ottmar

      I would argue that looking for a hero is like trying to find something permanent in a universe that is constantly changing. It’s impossible and not entirely useful. I think the step we need to take as a culture is to refuse to proclaim a person a hero because of a heroic act AND to avoid “cancelling” a person because of a social media post from a few decades ago. Both of these extremes do not seem very useful to me.

      I have this exercise I have been doing for a long time. I let myself call a questionable traffic maneuver by a fellow operator of a vehicle stupid but try very hard not to call the person themselves stupid. It’s a small shift, I know, but rather consequential. Same basic idea though: the action not the person.

      • MTCallahan

        Maybe part of what people see in the hero is a sense of permanence in a world of perpetual change. Most people simply aren’t comfortable with change, as any software update will show you.

        Maybe the chance to see that neither heros or constants are realistic is just what we all need. Perhaps that new feature in iOS 15 really is an improvement?

        Reason over road rage is good, too.

        • ottmar

          That first sentence you wrote is gold. It’s all there.

          “Maybe part of what people see in the hero is a sense of permanence in a world of perpetual change.”

          We are always looking for a sign of permanence to hang our view on.

          Journalist to monk, are you allowed to use email? Monk to journalist, of course we are, but we can’t make attachments.

    • Melissa

      Those cracks in our heroes are commonly known as where the light gets in. They’re critical in recognizing that heros ARE human, not only a collective of archetypes or a story in history.

      Sometimes truth is needed in our world.

      We learn through compassion (using the word “missteps” to describe matters that bring us here today is an excellent beginning). The human condition individually, and humankind collectively, longs for insight too often unreachable until those cracks are exposed…unless they’re exposed.

      Perhaps landing on compassion is an ironically painful conclusion under these circumstances, and many feel that context has no place in matters of compassion.. Nonetheless as all sages know, it’s eternally effective.

      Heroic acts are around us every single day in everyday life at every street corner, every job description, every culture, every country, unsung.

      I agree: less heroes, more heroics.

      Realizing cracks in our heros helps us understand why they’re needed at all: they’re just like you, they’re just like me. They ARE you. They ARE me. We each have the capacity to develop heroic compassionate attitudes toward life and each other. It’s contagious, the best medicine, the best food for the soul. The best example for our children, neighbors, family, friends and lovers. Indeed, all living creatures.

      Sounds simple, I know. Because it is.

      This story should be viewed with a 360 view..

    • Luna

      Aren’t HOPE (imagination, creativity, courage, inspiration, deep sense of belonging), GENTLENESS (Loving Kindness, vulnerability, authentic support—emotionally, physically, spiritually), PATIENCE, REALLOVING, COMPASSION, INTEGRITY, APPRECIATION, FORGIVENESS,
      AFFECTION, ATTENTION, LOVING CONNECTION, and an unshakeable healthy sense of BELIEF in the things we will never understand as humans,, what we really need to call “Heroes?”
      As it was so beautifully said, we all can act in seeming contradiction in our lives at times. So truly no human can be on the top of mt. everest for long without needing oxygen or dying. Then what? We learn from our cimb, climb back down, and prepare until the next climb up again.
      Perhaps it IS not the who or the what, but the HOW. The heroics give examples of symbolic climbs and HOW each gave or helped someone or something bigger than themselves, for the Highest Good of many. There are many things to learn while climbing…..the qualities I mentioned above.
      I tend to Believe that’s why We All Are Here…..to BE and DO simple, daily heroics, getting “better in the climb” each daily step, recognized or not, large or mundane. And heroics for me is a combination of the bigger-than-human electricity of Thoughts with the magnetic power of Feelings on the waves of Deliberate HeartJoy Intentions❤.
      Somehow this combination for me seems to create an “unseen bridge” for that “bigger than human” part to land in the physical realm. And the heroics seem to be HOW to maintain daily integrity of self,, alignment with that Limitless Loving Innovation Source, indivually so as to keep upgrading self and Be part of the HealthyGrowingCollective.

      • Luna

        …and yes, it seems that we humans can be more afraid of the SPEED OF CHANGE than death. I wonder why resistance to uncertainty was so conditioned into us when it’s at the ❤ of exactly what we want…

  2. Melissa

    I become boggled down reflecting on the complexities of this subject (so much for simplicity): from childhood conditions creating personality disorders handed down inter-generational (with attachment styles often disfiguring our leaders); from an obscene need for a shift in a material-based value system to a consciously self-evolving knowledge-based value system.

    A systematic degradation of our psyche occurs without meaningful discourse to intervene (thank you Ottmar).

    Power is seductive for every wrong reason. We overglorify it. I’m often horrified by it.

    A burgeoning…or rather an explosion of heretofore misunderstood workings of our brain and the effect our environments have on its development is crucial

    We inherit our politica/societall viewpoint too often without understanding why we believe what we believe and placing unfounded value on that belief.

    In the end, its child home education…learning how to properly grow and respect a human being’s mind, body, heart and soul, especially critical between the ages 1 and 6. Nice when it lasts a lifetime.

    Here today I’ve been taken up and away from the knowledge that truth is a very, very big crack and nearly forgot that it’s all an illusion. Suffering is inherent to life itself.

    Thanks so much, Ottmar.

  3. JaneParhamKatz

    And then, what do we do with villains? Can we make the same disassociation of globally harmful and brutal deeds from the human Person who did them?

    I try, but I have trouble.

    • Melissa

      I have no idea what to do with the person. I do know what to do with the experience: learn from it and and spread the knowledge.

  4. Steve

    When I read what you wrote about Thomas Jefferson, I couldn’t help thinking about Miles Davis. Miles had a domestic abuse problem with all his lovers, and this is portrayed in the film “Miles Ahead” … Everybody has something … Miles music is still my favourite from the 20th c.

  5. Anne

    Serious problems need Serious people

    • Luna

      Hmmm…Anne, please define “serious people.” And what qualifies a “serious person” more qualified to handle “serious problems?” Does being judged by a society as “something other than serious” make one less or more valuable? Why? We get to see so many humans who “look serious” and hurt lots of people…even in public positions. Their morals, values, emotional intelligence/well.being, and even psychological health is not there or badly damaged, and yet we glorify and use less strong words and spins to water-down describing these tantruming adult-two-year-olds and what “they” are and do. Why? And why do we insist on “mentalizing” things instead of calling-out truth bluntly to obvious “wrongs” such as the examples of TJ or Miles? “Domestic abuse problem”, seems a “dance.around.the.truth” way to say an abuser or brutalizer.
      And TJ was a slave owner, a hypocrite. Like ALL of us humans are, in small ways or big. Without condoning or believing in violence of any kind, and yet judgement is violent. Shaming is violent. Blaming is violent. Gossip is violent. Yelling is violent. Neglect and apathy are violent. Being unloving is violent. So Who on earth really Is a “hero”, or for that matter a “serious person?” It seems all we are left with ARE “heroic acts” of bravery, courage, and vulnerability that give us Inspiration to keep rising to that upgrading in ourselves.

      • Anne

        high IQ, EQ, scores..,..ego development/ maturity level insights.

        Excellent psychological assessments available now with strong research behind the scoring/methodology.

        Special skill sets (imo- superpowers) are needed.

  6. Melissa

    Luna, I had tears in my eyes reading your entries. Every single word hit my heart as ringing true.

    Your mind should be cloned, if cloning is to occur.

  7. Melissa

    In the absence of a comments section, I’ll post here:

    I heard The Rose on my morning commute and became emotional from the sheer beauty.

    You never cease to amaze me, Ottmar.

    I was nearly killed twice with the storm conditions on the interstate. Both times I reflected that it was your music that kept my attention so acute and present. I thanked a higher power both times, told my deceased parents “not quite yet” and thanked you, Ottmar.

    Normally on a rough commute I want silence or soothing music. Mostly Slow. Of late, In the Arms of Love. I’m not sure I’d be alive to post this had I been listening to those, I’m in such a place of familiar luxury.

    The Rose is creating a sense of betrayal to the allegiance I’ve developed toward In the Arms of Love…just as I felt when transitioning there from Slow.

    I’m someone who feels little need to seek greener pastures when I’m lying in the middle of flowered fields. You’ve simply pushed my fence line wider and wider to encompass more blossoms, Ottmar, and I’m a happy bee.

    Work is an empty ghost town. Your music is a wonderful companion on these days.


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