Our society unwittingly gave us–among many other things– the most paradoxical gift of all: a confusion about heroism. Human beings are naturally anxious because we are ultimately helpless and abandoned in a world where we are fated to die. Since the terror of death is so overwhelming we conspire to keep it unconscious. We defend our natural impotence by creating a hero system that allows us to believe that we transcend death by participating in something of lasting worth. We achieve ersatz immortality by sacrificing ourselves for a timeless cause.1
This convoluted idea of heroism is universal, primordial and transcends any political, cultural or geographical boundaries. Our stories and myths, construct and engineer heroes; they are masons, artistically sculpting our self-identities. Once resolute, the identity then spawns a stable character. This character harbors our vulnerabilities, accentuate our ego and camouflage our fears; consequently, pouring our freshly brewed reputation into the established social construct. Once framed and attested by society, reputation transforms our identity and dictates our actions.
Our reputation becomes the emissary of our immortality. It’s what we cultivate throughout our life to actualise posthumous heroism. It is the product of acts we perform tirelessly for the society, to italicize our character. This thought was captured beautifully by Margaret Mitchell in her Pulitzer crowned book Gone with the wind – “Until you’ve lost your reputation, you never realize what a burden it was or what freedom really is.”
I shared salads at dinner with a prisoner in shackles accompanied by eleven armed guards, I spent weeks admiring the moonrise from different spots, I almost got locked up for having a late night conversation sitting on a divider, I saw dolphins jumping in wild waters and slept admiring the cosmos. I met strangers, who seemed familiar. We wondered together about most basics of things. We swapped stories without care for – ‘how can you do this?’; we desired to know – ‘why did you do this?’.
There is a difference – how implies judgment and assumption that our reality is the only reality whereas, why opens up the possibility to glance into a new world that is as intricate and elaborate as ours. We may never understand it, but we can accept its existence and marvel at its beauty, knowing it exists. One of the most valuable lesson I learnt till date is this difference between understanding and knowing. We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.
We have a dire need to derive morals from stories. Even though it might not have had one to begin with. One man’s propaganda is another’s inspiration. Embracing a story without seeking morals is the most heroic and foolish thing one can do.
“Run from what’s comfortable. Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious. I have tried prudent planning long enough. From now on I’ll be mad.” – Rumi
 The Denial of Death, is a Pulitzer decorated work by Ernest Becker from 1973 and is still considered as one of the finest work in philosophy and psychology.