The Heroic Life
Can Heroism Be a Religion?
I was twelve, and I believed in heroes.
I wasn't popular or very brave. I lost at sports. I wrote and drew and walked in the woods, alone.
But I wasn't inactive. Even in a house in a depressed Wisconsin town, 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 shared a purpose.
Together these misfit bands would save the world. We fought monsters, and that was all right. It was never the action that won me. It was the idea, the simple belief, that just a handful of people can change the world.
As kids we all believe in heroes. You can't grow tall without this sacred myth. I just fell in deeper than most. Since I had no real life, no network of friends, the character in books and games took their place. Their story became my life.
Life changes, of course.
By twenty I had real friends. At twenty-three, responsibilities. I taught meditation at my temple and I had a real place in the world.
But I always believed. And I couldn't tell, at first, that no one else did.
Adults don't believe in heroes: one by one we give it up. World voyages on Greek ships, magic wands, and phoenix quills. Fantasy, we say, and it is. But even the heroes we can create, the ones we promised our younger selves that we'd become, get banished. Heroes are a ninety-seven-minute, two-hundred-page anodyne consumed on Thursday nights.
An escape, a relief, then back to the real world.
I didn't give up that belief in heroes. A small number of souls with a shared purpose can overcome, can overcome.
In 2011 I closed the doors of my temple. I walked away from my professional job. I took three thousand dollars, a laptop, and not much else, and I set out to adventure.
I had no idea what it takes to be heroic. I have never done a heroic thing. But I believe that wandering will change a person—that if you don't know your purpose, get away from everything familiar and you will find it. To journey is the purpose.
So travel became my spiritual practice, adventure my creed. These things improve a person. We each have a chance to make a destiny for ourselves. If you don't know how, travel. Travel and you will find it.
That's the way the heroes lived.
Heroism is not a matter of belief, but of action; not of hoping, but doing. It is a faith in one moment only. My adventure brings me to times of great joy, peaceful refuge, and new friends—and it takes them away again.
I salute the gods, but I do not ask for their help. All we are given is blood and the earth. Blood and earth is all we get, yet we have the power to change the world.
This is my version of a philosophy of heroism. Please critique. All thoughtful comments welcome.
Drew Jacob is the Rogue Priest, a philosopher and adventurer. Travel is his spiritual practice. To find purpose in life, one needs only to wander. The journey will show the rest.
To pursue that ideal Drew has undertaken his own journey. He wanders across two continents, hoping one day to meet the gods. It is his own attempt at adventure.