Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Fallen Hero

The last few days, I've been thinking about a post I wrote a few months back. It was about being the hero or heroine in your own story and life, and I still believe there are a lot of good things about that idea, like taking action and responsibility to make things happen.

But I think there are also some potential pitfalls.

I recently started reading The Hero With a Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell, which talks about the universal traits of a hero -- the characteristics that show up in every story, regardless of culture, of every man or woman who has been preserved in story. It's fascinating, but I came across something even more interesting:

The Tyrant.

Campbell refers specifically to King Minos, who started his own story as a hero. His people loved him, he won the favor of the gods... and then he started acting in selfishness.

The short version, for those who don't want an instant education in Greek mythology, is that his self-centered living resulted in the Minotaur, a monster that lived in an underground stone maze and was fed human sacrifices. And despite causing the death of countless innocents, King Minos continued to see himself as the hero.

I think that's still true today. People live their stories believing they are heroes, though they act as tyrants.

One way you can identify them is that they don't believe in other stories.

You are cast in their story, the one in which they are good and loved and wonderful even while they cause destruction everywhere. Your lack of faith in the tyrant's heroism might be seen as betrayal or disloyalty. But your choice to live your own story is one that infuriates the tyrant most.

And I think that may be the biggest fault of this fallen, misguided hero... the violence he or she commits in attempting to force one story on all.

As part of our own story and in our own journey, let us be careful in casting people too much in roles they may not want to live out.

Have you been dealing with tyrants, too?


Sara said...

That's a good spin on the hero story.

I definitely know someone like this. In fact, it was quite clear when I met her that I was merely an extra in the story of her life, and that anyone else's story was simply in her way.

Yet, if you ask her what she feels is her biggest strength, she will tell you without flinching that she is a people person, a great listener and very empathetic.


Anonymous said...

Oy. now i feel like I AM the Tyrant. Boy, alot of blogs have been punching me in the face lately. In a good way, though, and I appreciate it.

Thanks you for punching me in the face today, I needed it.

Mike said...

I like your title "Fallen Hero" aren't we all? (I totally agree with T!nk, yeah, I'm the tyrant too!)

There is a Tree63 song called "Your the Only Hero", speaking of Jesus. As much as I've tried to be the hero, I've found that the Hero in my story is not me, but Him.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.