Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Heroic Imagination and Stories

I was reading about Professor Phil Zimbardo's "Heroic Imagination Project"  when I reread an email from my friend Bruce in Japan. While talking with his class and Professor Allen-Tamai's classes the week before I had told some the story, "Boys Wear Pink" and  students had responded with some important, heartfelt stories of their own.  Here is a page from Professor Zimbardo's web site...

Lesson-3: Take Action

Last lesson’s Hero Challenge asked you to build your courage to face challenges in the moment. Reacting to a bad situation is one half of being a hero. The other is becoming proactive! This week is about building a life of heroism, making your journey through life a “hero’s journey.”

Now watch this video: Of course your life is not a movie, and none of us can jump from skyscraper to skyscraper in one fell swoop. In real life, heroism is about what’s inside your mind.

What would you do in this arena if you could do anything? Is there a social issue about which you are passionate?
Following is a video which describes the work of Dan Wallrath, a social activist who is building and donating homes to military veterans.

Now watch this video:


Becoming a proactive hero means connecting your head, heart, and guts. Things that you care about deeply and authentically are the key. At the end of this page, we’ll ask you to make a commitment to act in an area where you feel a need for change. Will you commit to use your compassion, courage and wisdom to make a positive difference? Just remember, as you continue along your heroic path, there are bound to be hurdles to clear. To clear them, use your courage, and persistence.

Before you start, remember:

Knowing that practice makes your everyday heroism improve means that there are no failures, just feedback, so try, try again to do the right thing. You are not given a particular allocation of heroic capabilities at birth that you can never increase — you can always increase your ability to act heroically through your effort.
People who bounce back from set-backs use a positive explanatory style: they recognize their power to influence their world, they see setbacks as temporary, and they keep things in perspective – a bad outcome in one area of life or at one moment doesn’t sour their entire outlook.

Call to Action - So what will you do?

What specific action will you take this week to make this change in the world? Opportunities are all around you. Good luck!
Prof Zimbardo's project was inspiring.  Then I saw that Bruce had written  this:
"I was just talking with Prof. Saito, reminiscing on your talk and meeting, and she added another interesting story to the pink shirts, red dress, bullying story theme.  It too is a true story--one that I hadn't heard--about Kenji Miyazawa (1896-1933), who is perhaps my favorite modern Japanese story writer-poet : see for example his short story "Restaurant of Many Orders" Translations & Such: The Restaurant of Many Orders [Miyazawa Kenji].     When he was in school, there was a very poor boy in his class. The boy's mother had only some red cloth from which to make his underwear (probably the good old "fundoshi"--or perhaps it included some larger undershirt) So he went to school and a bully spotted the red underwear, and as bullies do, he proceeded to bully and punch the boy because of this. When Kenji heard of this he found some red cloth (he too was dirt poor) and made himself some red underwear and wore it to school the next day. He walked up to the bully and said,  "So if you're punching him, I guess you'll have to punch me too".  Kenji was never big, or robust of health, but the bully backed down and gave up bullying the other boy.    Kenji went on to become one of the world's best, most beloved storytellers. "


The Restaurant of Many Orders [Miyazawa Kenji]
Once there were two young gentlemen deep in the mountains, among the dry leaves. They were dressed just like British soldiers and carried shiny guns. With them were two dogs that looked like polar bears. One of them said something like this:

“What’s wrong with these mountains? We haven’t seen a single bird nor beast! I wish something would show up so that I could shoot it. Bang! Baang!”
“Wouldn’t it be nice to put a couple of bullets into the yellow belly of a deer about now! To watch it spin about a couple of times before it fell down dead!”

They were deep in the mountains. So deep, in fact, that even their hunter guide had gotten lost and wandered off. So deep, in fact, that even those dogs that looked like polar bears both got dizzy, and howled, and foamed at the mouth, and dropped dead.

“Well there goes 2,400 yen!” said one of the men, peeling back his dog’s eyelid.
“Well mine was 2,800 yen!” said the other man, his head lowered in regret.

The first gentleman went pale, and he carefully watched the other gentleman’s expression as he said, “I think we should head back.”
“I think we should head back, too. The weather has gotten cold, and I’ve gotten hungry.”
“Well then let’s call it quits. On the way back, we can stop by that inn we stayed at yesterday and buy some game birds.”



Miyazawa Kenji died at 36 of pneumonia
“They had rabbit, too, didn’t they? It’ll be just as if we hunted them ourselves. Well, let’s get going, then.”

But wouldn’t you know, they had no idea which direction would get them back. The wind howled, the grass rustled, the leaves whispered, the trees creaked.

“I’m so hungry! I’ve had a pain in my side since a while back.”
“Me, too. I hope we don’t have to walk much further.”
“I hope so, too. Oh, what shall we do? I really want something to eat!”
“I really want something to eat, too!”

The two gentlemen carried on like that as they walked through the rustling grass.
Glancing behind, one of them saw an impressive Western-style house. At its entrance was a sign:

RESTAURANT
WILDCAT HOUSE


“This is perfect! There’s a place to eat right here! Let’s go in!”
“Well now, I wonder what a restaurant is doing in a place like this? But I guess they serve food here...”
“Of course they do! That’s what the sign says!”
“Well then, let’s go in. I’m so hungry I could faint.”

The two of them stood at the entranceway. It was quite impressive, made of white porcelain bricks. There was also a glass door with gold writing that said:

All are welcome. Please come in for a free meal.

The two hunters were overjoyed, and said:

“Well do you see that? What a wonderful place the world is. We had a bad time earlier today, but now look how lucky we are! Not only did we find a restaurant, but one with free food!”

“That’s right! The sign says that they’ll make us a free meal!”

They pushed open the door and went inside, entering a hallway. On the other side of the glass door was written:

We especially welcome our fat and young customers.

The two were thrilled to be especially welcomed.

“Hey! We’re doubly welcome!”
“That’s right! We’re both fat and young!”

Marching down the hallway, they next came to a door painted blue.

“What an odd house. I wonder why it has so many doors?”
“This is the Russian style. All houses in cold places or in the mountains are built like this.”

As they began to open the door, they noticed something written in yellow above them:

This is a restaurant with many orders. Please be patient.

“They’re that busy, all the way up here in the mountains?”
“Well, sure. Even down in Tokyo, none of the big restaurants are on the main streets!”

As they were talking they opened the door. On the other side was written:

We really have many orders. Please be patient with each one.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thank you for your post on the Heroic Imagination Project. We appreciate it! Please visit our website at http://heroicimagination.org for more information.