Calling All Reluctant Heroes

Calling All Reluctant Heroes


I’m sitting here in a warm coffee shop on a Monday morning while my hometown of Boise, Idaho wakes up. It’s cold outside but this place is comfortable and friendly.

It’s hard for me to believe that just outside these doors and across the “sweet land of liberty” known as America there is a ferocious war going on. This is a battle for our collective soul. It’s a great question that we are struggling to answer about who we really are and if we are willing to step out of comfort zones to prove it.

Truth is, I hate war. War is stupid. War leaves wreckage behind it. I want no part of the battle that pits families and friends against each other and spills their blood on the soil.

I’m reluctant to say anything. I have achieved a comfortable recluse status and I enjoy my life of writing and teaching and nature and friends and thinking. If I stand and pick up my sword to fight—to speak out about right and wrong—I know what it will mean. It will mean the end of comfortable neutrality.

Know what I mean?

In the Blessed Are the Weird book, I wrote a chapter titled “Misfits”. Here’s a paragraph that is taking on new meaning for me:

One of the primary archetypes in many legends is the Reluctant Hero. A reluctant hero is an ordinary man or woman—usually with a great wound or chaotic past that makes them resistant to any idea that they might be worthy to perform acts of heroism or service. During the tale, they are called into action against their protests. They rise to the occasion, and although they are often beaten and bloody by the story’s end, they avenge a wrong or vanquish a foe. They often deal with inner demons, weaknesses, and doubts about whether or not they will succeed in their mission. Their misgivings, insecurities, and general ordinariness allow us to identify with them and believe that perhaps we, too, might be heroes-in-waiting.

What I’m suggesting here is that you and I are being called out of our comfort to be the heroes we’ve been waiting for.

This is actually our time. Right now.

But if that’s true, what can we do?  If you are at all like me, you can have your heart stirred by burning rhetoric and then go home later and wonder, “Now what?”

I can’t sit here and write out a policy prescription that will fix the broken mess that we face. I’m not a politician and generally loathe political discussions because it means expending tremendous energy on a cynical game when the real action is happening somewhere else, behind the scenes.

I do know that sitting comfortably on the sidelines is no longer an option. I do know that sharing political memes isn’t enough. Having outraged conversations with likeminded friends won’t do the trick.

Truth is, I don’t want to mess with it. I’m mostly libertarian—live and let live. Know what I mean?

The trouble right now is that we have to “mess with it.”

This brings to mind an exchange between Frodo and Gandalf in Lord of the Rings:

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

This isn’t happening in some other place or time. It’s now. It’s here.

For me, this is not a political issue. It’s not Democrat or Republican, Left or Right. It’s not Hillary or Trump. 

This is a human problem.

We are asking ourselves whether or not we have learned any goddamned thing over the last twenty or thirty thousand years—anything at all.

The truth is, the world wants its soul back.

A great and deadly menace has arrived at the borders of Middle Earth.

The only way to stand up against the tsunami of fear and soullessness is to get radically clear about the most basic things that make us human, and then refuse to take any action that violates our birthright.

It’s lovely to live in our version of Tolkein’s Shire; enjoying a way of life that is envied by the rest of the world, sleeping peacefully in our beds at night, sipping lattes at Starbucks, and letting the people “over there” deal with their problems.

But our time is calling for heroes—quiet, reluctant, peace-loving heroes—to stand up and decide. We have to decide what it means to have a soul.

Many of us say that we believe in love. We hum along when John Lennon sings “…imagine all the people, sharing all the world… yoohooo-ooooo.” We want the world to be a better place.

Now it’s time to prove that we want that more than our own comfort.

“But how?” I can hear everyone who cares asking, “How?”

I don’t know, but I do know that we have to ask that question over and over again until “what” and “how” becomes clear.

If you are hearing this call to stand up, rather than just throwing up your hands at the enormity of what we face, please join me in asking

  • What makes me human?
  • What do I love?
  • What will I never give up?
  • What requires me to say ‘no!’?
  • What am I willing to die (and live passionately) for?
  • What shall I do?”

Ask these questions over and over again until the shape of right action emerges from the smoke and fog of war—until we know for sure what must be done.

You are a hero-in-waiting. You and I were born in such times and now is when we can choose to shine.

As Tolkein said in the voice of the wise old wizard Gandalf, “Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.”



Jacob Nordby is an award winning novelist, essayist, and podcast host. He is the author of the new release, Blessed Are the Weird – A Manifesto for Creatives. He leads a worldwide conversation on social media via his Facebook author page and Blessed Are the Weird community page. He is the founder and teacher of the Creative UnBootcamp online course for writers (and those who want to be), and founder of the indie press Manifesto Publishing House.

Click here to find Blessed Are the Weird on Amazon

  • Debbe Faulhaber
    Posted at 22:50h, 30 January Reply

    I cried when I read this. Last night, speaking to the man i share my life with I told him that I could not sit idly and watch this happen. I had to do something. But what? I spend more time alone then with others. This what I think is going to take me out of that comfort zone. It is going to put me in front of people who will most likely be aggressive when they disagree. (Angry people freak me out.) It is going to require me to invest a lot of time into fighting the oppression I see building up. Am I reluctant? I am terrified. There is more fear circling the wrong I see, than my ability thankfully. Sometimes the fear does not go away, and you have to do it afraid.

    How I love that YOU posted this. I have a photo in a frame with a quote by C.S. Lewis. It says: “Since it is so likely that (children) will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.

    I have heard of brave nights and heroic courage.

    Bless you Jacob.

    • Jacob Nordby
      Posted at 04:50h, 31 January Reply

      Bless you back, Debbe
      I appreciate you for taking the time to leave a note.

      Blessed are the weird! 🙂

  • Laura Bruce
    Posted at 02:56h, 31 January Reply

    A Tolkein fan since high school, the stories mean more to me than our modern-day reality. Reading this is an excellent way to end my day. Made me cry also – but I’ve been crying most of the day already. Will be looking for more of your writings, Sir Jacob! and sharing. 😉

    • Jacob Nordby
      Posted at 04:50h, 31 January Reply

      Thank you, Laura!

  • Marianne Jones
    Posted at 06:50h, 31 January Reply

    This is truth. I’ve stepped up. I’m doing an act of love and gratitude a day, at least one and I’ve joined the ACLU and donated money. I am doing the work to be the person the world needs and removing from myself all that is not love. You and the safe environments you create that I have participated in have played a big part in me getting through this fear to the love. Mahalo and aloha nui !

    • Jacob Nordby
      Posted at 17:34h, 31 January Reply

      Right! Excellent. Thank you, Gemini Fire Monkey. 🙂

  • Cindy Wingate
    Posted at 12:23h, 31 January Reply

    Thank you for the truth you speak, for caring about this family of humanity we are all brothers and sisters of – sliding notes under the ‘reality’ threshold, reminding us to shake out and check our inner-strength and matching intuition.. for moth holes… pulling on a cosy hand-made nose snuggler of hopefully- flecked- with-courage… ready to head out the door and find a hand to steady, to comfort, to reassure

    • Jacob Nordby
      Posted at 17:33h, 31 January Reply

      Thank you, Cindy

  • Justin Abel
    Posted at 13:52h, 31 January Reply

    I too sit and share the memes and comment on posts, but barring an all out war I find myself reluctant to act. However, there is something that can be done from the shadows (perhaps with the assistance of my precious). One can sign the petitions that are circulating. Then share them and as your courage increases you will find yourself calling your congressmen and one day joining in the marches and peaceful demonstration.
    Admittedly I have only accomplished part one of this journey…two and three are coming soon

    • Jacob Nordby
      Posted at 17:33h, 31 January Reply

      Boom! Thank you for this note, my friend.

  • laure galjart
    Posted at 14:12h, 31 January Reply

    Great post Jacob!
    I thought you were more of a ‘love&light’ type, blissfully ignoring the state of our reality. There’s many layers to the manipulations and hence mess we find ourselves in. It’s hard to know the truth But I know a few things for sure: 1. There’s an agenda to divide and conquer. 2. It’s mainly a spiritual war which manifests itself as the atrocities in our world. 3. When you fight something you give it energy.
    Hence we should focus as much on our inner spiritual work, healing our wounded inner child, understanding our fears etc as on unity, emphasizing our similarities and overcoming, even celebrating our differences. Being in all our thoughts and deeds aware that we don’t fall for the trap of division. In order to know what’s going on, it’s necessary to focus on the dark but we should not get stuck there. Once we understand what’s going on we should focus on creating the world we want to live in. And that means we need to gather the courage to act, and become, reluctant as we may be, the heroes the world needs now.

    • Jacob Nordby
      Posted at 17:33h, 31 January Reply

      Ha! Well, I still have love and light in there but have learned that this can’t (and shouldn’t) expunge the fierce warrioreyness. In fact, I’ve come to know that love has many faces and all of them require courage.

  • Molly Kurland
    Posted at 18:11h, 31 January Reply

    I appreciate reading your approach to this, I was wondering how you view all of this, given that you have not posted much political. It has been agonizing. If I read the news too much I become paralyzed by anxiety and can’t sleep. And I’ve been doing my best to evaluate how to proceed, to figure out what my role is in all this. I can’t listen to all the trumpets blaring at me to spend every day on something political. It’s too much. So, I’ve been doing what I can. I make a few phone calls and send a few messages. But what I like the best are attending events in my community where people gather to focus on what we can do right here, right now, to make this a better, safer place to live.. And I also am doing whatever I can to uplift the people around me – hugging people a lot and being loving, because whatever is going on, love always helps. Also, I find for my own sanity, it helps to be present and focus on gratitude. There is so much I am grateful for and I make note of that constantly, throughout the day. Finding the balance is what gives me the strength to continue and do what’s uncomfortable. Thanks for this piece, Jacob.

    • Jacob Nordby
      Posted at 18:13h, 31 January Reply

      Thanks for your note, Molly.

      I have been incredibly reluctant for a lot of reasons, but it doesn’t mean that I’ve been passive.

      This has all the earmarks of an historic moment–they don’t come along like this often in human history.

  • Kate Harrison
    Posted at 18:45h, 31 January Reply

    You have described exactly how I felt lying awake last night. Scared of doing something but more afraid of doing nothing. Being lovers not fighters doesn’t mean we aren’t prepared for battle now it truly matters. I feel we’re all waiting for a leader with a plan we can follow. Will someone have the courage to act first?

    • Jacob Nordby
      Posted at 20:58h, 31 January Reply

      Thank you, Kate.

      I feel strongly that we are being called to lead with our lives right now. It’s time to real-ize who we are and step out–plan or no plan. I appreciate you joining the conversation here.

  • Peggy Silcox
    Posted at 19:29h, 31 January Reply

    Thank you Jacob for putting the words to what I’ve been thinking and saying since November. Probably like most people here I’m a collaboator, not a confronter.

    It turns out to I can do both. I marched in the women’s march (was that just a week ago?). A very large group of people collaborating and organizing to confront.

    I’m finding ways to support the confronters. I’m donating to SPLC and Planned Parenthood. Most importantly I’m looking for ways to support journalism. My sign in the march said “I journalists” and I thanked every journalist I saw.

    I’m stepping up the support, subscribing to papers I don’t even read.

    If there are times I need to speak out publicly I will but there is plenty of work to be done supporting the front line troops.

    May we all get through this stronger and more guarding of our democratic system.

    • Jacob Nordby
      Posted at 20:59h, 31 January Reply

      Yes, “may we all get through this stronger…”


      Thank you

  • Peggy Wertheim
    Posted at 19:50h, 31 January Reply

    Beautifully expressed and my thoughts (and my life) mirrored. Leaving the quiet inspiring acres of woods, which fuel my creativity and nurture the peacefulness of my life, I knew the time was now for me to stand up. Off I went to the WMW. And in answering the questions you posed, I will continue to stand up and speak up and participate! Thank you again!

    • Jacob Nordby
      Posted at 21:00h, 31 January Reply

      Excellent note and thank you, Peggy.

  • Joanne Sprott
    Posted at 19:56h, 31 January Reply

    Thank you, Jacob, and thanks to all the commenters so far. You all have expressed the various different ways we can process the emotions we feel and take action in whatever ways we find appropriate.

    Yes, we do not have direct power over the fear-based powerful as such, but we can short-circuit the divide and conquer by reaching out to those who are not feeling prosperous right now and thought that the current leadership would help them. Thinking of A Bug’s Life here. Only in uniting will we have the power to create large change.

    And when it seems overwhelming to go to big marches or run for the senate or something, remember that all politics and civic action are rooted in the local community. There are many things we can do locally that will change things that can percolate up to state and then federal level. Begin, like Frodo did, at your own doorstep.

    For global reach, just turn on your computer. Much easier than in the old days. Our influence for peace, for personal spiritual transformation, for just sending energy through the ethers is all amplified by the internet. Do not underestimate the power of the collective consciousness to change the world. It already has. There are folks out there agonizing from all sides of the issues who are trying to wake up. These strong emotions often provide an opening for seeing things in a different way, just as they can close people down. Do not underestimate the power of your meme, your book, your article, your heart-to-heart talk with a friend.

    Thank you, Jacob. 🙂

    • Jacob Nordby
      Posted at 21:00h, 31 January Reply

      “Begin, like Frodo did, at your own doorstep…”


      Thank you, Joanne!

  • Eileen Mulvey
    Posted at 21:05h, 31 January Reply

    Many thanks! You were able to help me with my scattered thoughts on what this human condition has done to my fractured brain. I realized my brain is just fine. I’ve been fearful & worried before & with guidance from the universe & a power greater than me, I’ve worked my way through it. I’m still here. The world continues to spin on its axis. I won’t allow my fear to convince me I’m stuck. I will use my fear to be the springboard from which I can do what I’m supposed to do.

    • Jacob Nordby
      Posted at 21:08h, 31 January Reply

      You said: “I will use my fear to be the springboard from which I can do what I’m supposed to do.”


      Thank you

  • Jason Fomich
    Posted at 22:03h, 31 January Reply

    The secret to the reluctant hero’s success is their humility. Only through this humility can they be led by something greater than self. (Pride and arrogance generally will result in extensive collateral damage and ultimately failure since we are easily deceived and manipulated .) Therefore by focusing on God, who created us and all things , will allow us to grow in our discernment of His will and purpose. Only then can we be in the proper position to be utilized effectively. Otherwise we are no different than the masses of protesters who all believe that they are the only ones that have the correct answer. The road to hell is paved with good intentions and our world appears to be intent on building a superhighway system under this premise. It is a spiritual issue and by growing ever closer in faith and love with God you will be ready when called upon for whatever role you were created to fulfill. By each of us doing our part at the right time and under the proper circumstances can victory be secured.

  • Peggy Gillard
    Posted at 02:20h, 01 February Reply

    A timely and important essay. Yes, we all must step up to and out of those comfy little zones we get stuck in. Long ago, when Gandalf was a child, I was a young teen activist resisting the Vietnam War. It brought me a purpose in life, something that added good in the world. I was outspoken and “Upspoken” about education, poverty, technology. Sometime in between then and now, that activist disappeared and became silent. Well, last weekend at the Women’s March on Washington, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Protester/Activist crawled out of the comfy but dark, hole and jumped back in the driver’s seat of my body, mind, heart and soul.I have done a lot in 10 days: Called senators, written letters, emailed, started a FB page to post information about current issues and ways to be involved, begun a FB group where folks can post without worry of fear mongering and hate-speech, gone to 3 marches, signed petitions, and offered my time. I feel as though I have been asleep for 3.5 decades. But I am awake now. Your questions are excellent and I think I can answer them now. Keep being weird and telling the world we weirdos are a special kind of brave.

    • Jacob Nordby
      Posted at 02:23h, 01 February Reply

      Thank you, Peggy. By the way, have a look at how many Peggys have commented in this thread. That’s kinda uncanny. 🙂

  • Hector A Franco
    Posted at 02:47h, 01 February Reply

    I just want to say this: Fear is only good when we transform it into courage and bravery. Since fear is a strong feeling that stops us from doing, turning it down is one of the ways, if not the best, of defeating it and to reach our so called common hero’s status. Nowadays fear and uncertainty dominates our daily life, and if we add the turmoil of this nation and this world right now, we think then that there is no hope. But hope is everywhere if we look around, and mostly in our inner-self. By the force of giving and loving, humanity should change for the better, and prevail over those that created this turmoil. It’s the way, and when we find the way, the way will follow us.

    Thanks Jacob for your excellent and thoughtful essay; it moved and leaded me already.

  • Harriett Dokken
    Posted at 19:08h, 01 February Reply

    I could not agree more. Thank you for posting this.

  • Matt Dietz
    Posted at 00:26h, 02 February Reply

    Jacob. Thank you for writing this. I too struggle with picking up my sword and taking up a fight. It’s so damn polarizing out there and heels are dug so deep that people are shouting and not moving. I dont post or respond to anything political. I just don’t. I feel that sharing positive thoughts and humor is my way of offering levity in a odd time. The community you’re building is a wonderful safe place to start taking baby steps. I would trust many people in this tribe to have conversations about the state of things. Another thing is, and this is most likely wonderfully ignorant, and selfish, is if I don’t pay attention to ANY of it for the next 4 years, will my life be different? If I got rid of my phone and my TV, will I still have what is important to me today? My wife, my kids, my friends, my business. I know what you mean about breaking out of the shire and being the reluctant hero. I think if I can be a beacon of light, be positive, be kind to my fellow man, and take care of those I love, that’s the role I’m currently willing to take. Thanks for letting me share and giving me something important to think about.

    • Jacob Nordby
      Posted at 03:32h, 02 February Reply

      Yeah, Matt… I know what you mean. Thank you for sharing your experience of the world right now, too.

  • Andrea Liebe
    Posted at 18:23h, 04 February Reply

    You can sence fear all over the world. It is a little different from place to place. What most people have in commen is that they need to blame someone for what they feel. Though they don’t really know what they are afraid of.
    I live in a rich country in northern Europe. We have everything we need. Low unemployment rate, high salaries, good support systems, fantastic health system so what can you fear?
    Happiness is defined from how much you have and you’re biggest fear is that you might have to share. You might get less than you want. And who do you blame? The people that come here who have lost everything and have nothing. We can all make this world a little bit better by helping and welcoming.
    I realize that I am lucky. We have a plitical system that do not allow one crazy person to have all the power and we have gun control. Fear and weapons are not a safe combination.
    Do one random act of kindness every day and the world will change.

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