On Heroism

Writing heroes is easy, if you have the courage to do it.  Always keep the Seven Virtues in the back of your mind, and refer to them whenever you’re not sure if you hero is acting heroic.

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A recent brush with the struggles of a left-wing author left me awestruck by how otherwise intelligent people can waste so much energy pursuing vain and hopeless goals.  The gent in question had clearly invested considerable time and thought and energy on the question of how to navigate the rocky narrows of left wing thought.  As an ‘effing white male!’ he wanted to increase the representation of [insert latest approved label for non-white] characters in his work given that, as an ‘effing white male!’ he had no business writing characters that were other than an ‘effing white male!’.

That Gordian Knot can be easily cut by the application of a trace of Aristotelian Logic.  By the doublespeak definitions that rule contemporary culture, a white male cannot be other than racist.  Write nothing but white men and you are racist.  Write anything but white men and you are racist.  It’s a Kafka trap with two obvious solutions – either admitting to being a racist or reject the two definitions.

Both solutions entail a level of social cost that the gentleman in question refuses to pay.  And so he finds himself trapped in a web and struggling to find a way out while not upsetting either the strands or the onrushing spider.  While on a surface level the man deserves nothing but contempt for his cowardice, it’s worth remembering that an appeal to our better natures calls for a bit of charity.  None of us are as strong or prudent or as courageous as we would like, and while it was tempting to devote my own time to trying to pull the man out of the morass in which he had freely dived headlong, I could see the futility of the task.  No sense adding my wasted effort to his own.

The real shame of this situation is that all of that all of his energy could be better spent reflecting on the nature of courage, and practicing courage in his daily life.  Courage is like strength and intellect – it gets stronger the more you practice it.  And as a writer, the man has ample opportunity to reflect on the nature of courage.  By crafting stories that feature men who grapple with the nature and practice of courage, he just might find himself better able to implement it in his own life – and more likely to tell those who spun his Kafka Trap to go pound sand.

We are creatures of habit, we humans.  Small changes in our habits can stack up to big changes in our lives.  Just the simple act of living inside the head of a brave man, as writers of heroic fiction must, can shed some light and understanding on the nature of courage.  That act, writing courageousness in the face of danger, imprints in a small way upon the author, just as reading such tales imprints on the minds of the reader.  If anything, the act of carving such a character out of the stone of nothingness, building him up from nothing, should resonate far more deeply inside the psyche of a writer than it does the man who simply experiences courage vicariously as a passive observer.

And let’s be clear here – what we mean is not the emptiness of those who chant, “so brave”, when they laud writers who pursue approval by the mobs of braying leftists.  It takes no courage to write according to New York Publishing House specifications.  It takes no bravery to write for those for who reject virtue.  Debasing yourself to appeal to that sort is no signal of virtue, but a capitulation to the shifting mores of the day.  It’s going with the current, and drifting in the eddying circles of trendiness and fashion.  You don’t need to be brave to write works that appeal to the sensibilities of the senseless.

Writing a good, Christian woman, facing down the evil of a mob braying, “burn her!”, at a woman who stands to speak for the freedom of all men to defend themselves from said mob with a stout heart and cold steel (and a bit of gunpowder, to draw on recent events)?  That takes guts.

You won’t receive accolades from anyone east of the Hudson or west of the rockies.  You won’t get back pats from mobs of people looking for validation.  You’ll find a few scattered men who nod in approval, and a few sales among those who have not forgotten the old values.  But damn, if your spine won’t stiffen and your jaw tighten with a well deserved satisfaction that you did the right thing.

And you won’t have to live the life of a thousand deaths that comes with the crushing, paralyzing fear of, “What will the mob think of me?”

That’s the wrong question.  The better question is, “What will God think of me?”

And if you want him to think well of you, he provided a thoughtful roadmap in the form of the Four Pagan virtues, useful for those fantastic realms benighted by a lack of Aquinas and Augustine, and the Three Theological Virtues for those realms blessed with a visit from Saint Paul.  And if you’re up for a non-Western take on the matter, take a glance at the Seven Virtues of Bushido, and note well how they map to the traditional western virtues:

Almost like there’s a fundamental Truth to virtue to be discovered, rather than a vaporous meaning to be invented and reinvented to taste.

About Jon Mollison

Jon Mollison was weaned at the literary knee of Tolkein, Howard, Moore, and Burroughs. He spent decades wandering in the wilderness of modern genre fiction, wondering when the magic and wonder went out of the world of dragons and space ships. In his darkest hour, he encountered a wise man who handed him the open secrets to crafting works that emulate the stories of the great authors who built the genre. They are easily summarized in but two words: Regress Harder. Now one of the twelve champions of the Pulp Revolution, his self-published works represent a more direct lineage to the tales of action, mystery, romance, virtue, and pure unalloyed adventure than the bland imitations churned out by New York City publishing houses in recent decades.
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