Social Entrepreneurs as Modern-Day Heroes?

Are social entrepreneurs through business ideas our modern-day heroes?

I was reading a quote from the famed author, Joseph Campbell, which sparked off some curious thoughts about the relationship between the mythical hero and the possibility of real-life heroism:

The modern hero, the modern individual who dares to heed the call and seek the mansion of that presence with whom it is our whole destiny to be atoned, cannot, indeed must not, wait for his community to cast off its slough of pride, fear, rationalized avarice, and sanctified misunderstanding. It is not society that is to guide and save the creative hero, but precisely the reverse. And so every one of us shares the supreme ordeal not in the bright moments of his tribe’s great victories, but in the silences of his personal despair.

- Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces

Idea of the “Hero”

The magic of Joseph Campbell’s book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, is that he believes in the power of stories.

Not only for our imagination, but for inspiration in our own lives.

He has a great sense of awe and wonder about myths and stories. That they convey more than just words. They convey meaning. Deep meanings and representations to be shared between and for humanity.

George Lucas, the creator of the Star Wars movie series, had said that he was inspired by Campbell’s understanding of the power of the hero image and character. You can witness the impact it had on Lucas when you view and enjoy his Star Wars films, and see the trials and triumphs of the hero, Luke Skywalker. From these films, you can also see the impact that the “hero” representation has had on millions of viewers and fans worldwide.

Although the Star Wars films may not be for everyone (I like them though!), the idea and attraction of the “hero” story is universal.

Your Life is Your Heroic Story

I think that the reason we are drawn to heroes in stories is because we feel that our own lives are stories. And they are. Our lives are enmeshed with tales and challenges and problems to overcome.

Heroes in stories often give us the inspiration, the visions and the possibilities in overcoming the most difficult circumstances.

I like how Campbell linked our human lives to the lives of hero characters. He had said:

We have not even to risk the adventure alone; for the heroes of all time have gone before us; the labyrinth is thoroughly known; we have only to follow the thread of the hero-path. And where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.

Basically he imagines that our lives are adventures, too. That we often turn to heroes in storybooks or in films or in comics or cartoons because they give us a model. A model of behaving and overcoming.

Heroism in Social Entrepreneurship?

I especially think that the idea of the “story” is important for social entrepreneurs.

Where problems exist in our world, social entrepreneurs have to do some “make believe.” They have to dream and imagine and ask: “what if?” Then, they take action to overcome challenges in the hope of eventual success and impact.

Sure, I don’t want to overrate social entrepreneurship and business ideas. Nevertheless, I suppose there is an important element of heroism in that.

Do you have any stories that inspire your social entrepreneurship?