Then what do we do? Do we reset the tragedy clock and hopelessly wait for it to happen again?
We all know that’s not a satisfactory answer. We know we can’t just sit back and let the “depressing ritual of mass murder” repeat itself with no end in sight.
But what can we do?
First, we all must acknowledge that each of us is responsible for mass shootings.
Maybe you and I didn’t buy the guns and ammunition. Maybe we didn’t pull the trigger. But still, we are all responsible. Not for the shootings themselves, but for what comes after.
We need to rethink how we react in the wake of mass murder. It’s not enough to offer thoughts and prayers. It’s not enough to shake our heads and slip into cynicism about our nation and the human race in general. These reactions won’t help the problem.
What can help? That’s the second step: we must take action in the tradition of mythic heroism.
Heroism, as depicted in great legends from around the world, from ancient myth to modern accounts, gives us a blueprint for how to act in the wake of crisis. The stories of real and fictional heroes are meant to remind us that heroism is about taking action and seeking solutions rather than succumbing to despair.
Mythic Versus Momentary Heroism
There is a difference between mythic and “momentary” heroism.
At its core, mythic heroism is about being a consistent force for unity, optimism, tolerance, and inspiration in your society. It’s about seeking solutions to problems and taking action to implement change on a regular basis. It’s about being an everyday hero.
Yes, we need people to be “momentary heroes,” those who act in the moment to help stop mass murders and other disasters as they occur. But that’s only part of the heroism equation, because such momentary heroism is only “treating the symptom.”
What we also need is proactive heroism. This national crisis requires all of us to be heroes in the mythic sense, and act consistently to seek ways to prevent such atrocities before they occur.
We must not wait for an opportune moment in time to be heroes, and afterward fade into complacency. We must work consistently to help create a national mindset that makes mass murder less likely.
How Mythic Heroes Can Help Fight Mass Shootings
Mythic heroes are the glue that hold a society together. We need people like you to step up and be that type of everyday hero.
So, how can you be an everyday mythic hero in the fight against mass murder? Here are just two suggestions:
1. Choose to see the humanity in everyone and care about the well-being of others: Heroes go beyond the boundaries of narrow-minded philosophies that demonize other people. They transcend artificial, human-made categories and labels in order to clearly see the common humanity we all share. Heroes break through barriers and create common ground.
We have a natural negativity bias, an urge to find fault in others. This is part of our hardwired survival mechanism. But we don’t have to fall prey to this bias. It takes a conscious choice to avoid the urge to scapegoat others and take personal responsibility for the world around us.
I’m asking you to give your fellow human beings the benefit of the doubt, and work to support their well-being. Isolation is a major motivator behind mass murder. We cannot just dismiss those who commit these crimes as “crazy.” There are is something in our societal “programming” that is pushing people to these heinous acts. It’s going to take a good, hard look at our culture to determine the causes, and isolation is rising as one of the suspected factors.
We need to understand how our society is pushing people to the fringes, and causing them to lash out. One potential solution is to look for opportunities to help reduce social isolation in your community.
2. Team up with other everyday heroes: You might think you can’t change the world alone. However, you can change your local part of the world by being a positive influence as a mythic hero.
In addition, you can multiply your influence by banding together with like-minded individuals. Seek out others who are dedicated to the everyday heroism movement. There are growing communities of heroism advocates worldwide. These include the Hero Round Table, the Hero Construction Company, and the Heroic Imagination Project, to name a few.
Take time to connect with people in these and other similar organizations. The more we join forces, the more we’ll be a force for well-being in the world.
Cutting Through the Gordian Knot of Mass Murder
Please don’t think I’m suggesting that everyday heroism is the only solution to mass murder. I’m not trying to be simplistic. Like any human behavioral phenomenon, this is a complicated crisis. This issue certainly encompasses mental health, gun control, and other potential causes. These things should be part of the complex conversation.
But the legend of the Gordian Knot teaches us that no matter how complex an issue, we have the ability to make the “simple” decision to act and strive toward solutions. Life may be complex, but deciding to seek positive change can be a small yet powerful step in a better direction.
It may be a long fight ahead of us, but the heroic instinct inherent in all of us is designed for such long-term struggle. We may never totally eliminate mass murder, but we can work to prevent as many such occurrences as humanly—and heroically—possible.
Don’t be a bystander in life. Be a mythic hero. Choose to promote goodwill, tolerance, and unity through your actions every day. Together, we can create change in our national psyche and do our part to reduce the occurrence of mass shootings.
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