Uses of Heroes | Experience

The demands of our lives can often limit the ways in which we experience the world, as can the conditioning of the society that we live within. It is easy to become carried along; to lose ourselves in the sea of pre-described experience that is made available to us, and to accept that this is all there is, or all that we should expect.

Part of the joy of youth is in the sense of adventure and creativity that we show towards life. There is no urgency about youth, and no real demands are made on our time. We can enjoy languor without guilt; passion without embarrassment. We don’t yet know the conventions of society (or don’t yet care about them) so are free to make up our own rules.

The process of adolescence can serve to detach us from this state, as we begin to become aware of, and to conform to, the various pressures of societal conventions. The process of becoming who we are as adults can be seen as a struggle against this conditioning; a struggle that, in a sense, attempts to reunite us with the uniqueness of our childhood selves.

The fact that the conventions always flourish in one form or another only proves that the vast majority of mankind do not choose their own way, but convention, and consequently develop not themselves but a method and a collective mode of life at the cost of their own wholeness … conventions are soulless mechanisms that can never understand more than the mere routine of life. Creative life always stands outside convention … The mechanism of convention keeps people unconscious, for in that state they can follow their accustomed tracks like blind brutes, without the need for conscious decision. This unintended result of even the best conventions is unavoidable, but is no less a terrible danger for that.1

In going against convention, we may be treading an unknown path, or an ill-advised one. In doing so, it is often helpful to have another to look to for inspiration or consolation. In lieu of (or in addition to) such persons in our immediate environment, we can look to heroes for this function.

In glimpsing the world of someone that we admire, we are reminded of something fundamental, something that is all too easy to forget: that other worlds - other ways of experiencing the world, other modes of life - exist outside our own. To many this realisation can be both bewildering and frightening. To some, it can be an inspiration.