My Hero Wisdom articles on Pop Mythology have been labeled as “self-help.” I don’t have a problem with that. I myself have used that label to refer to my work. Labels can be easy and convenient ways to convey a rough idea of something without going into details. But labels are also limited in their usefulness and can also give people the wrong idea about something.
When you think of “self-help,” what comes to mind? Maybe you think of someone like Anthony Robbins, whose books I can at least respect but whose recent comments and behavior regarding the #MeToo movement I found to be clueless at best, distasteful at worst.
Self-help coaches like Robbins cater to people who dream of mega-success, which is about as antithetical to the Hero Wisdom and Pop Mythology ethos as you can get. This isn’t to say that it’s “wrong”; it’s just not what I’m interested in. Robbins’ style of self-help is about the pursuit of ever and greater amounts of success for people who, by my standards, already enjoy enormous levels of success. Hero Wisdom-style self-help is about hope, survival, and resilience in the face of pain, misery, and suffering that the less fortunate experience on a constant basis.
So, yes, both Anthony Robbins and my Hero Wisdom articles could be considered “self-help.” But we have very different objectives and audiences (not to mention his audience is comprised of millions; mine is approximately seven). Again, I want to reiterate that Robbins’ brand of self-help is not wrong, BUT there’s already a lot of material like it out there. There are many books and programs that appeal to Robbins’ target audience. On the other hand, there isn’t nearly as much material that addresses the plight of people who are… well, like me. Struggling desperately. Sometimes despairing, even. Constantly on the verge of breaking down or giving up. So much so that when we hear guys like Robbins speak it might as well be like listening to some alien who lives in a different reality. Because in many ways it really is a different reality.
Welcome to the Pop Mythology reality. Where the world is not your oyster but rather a cold, brutal machine sucking the life and soul out of you, and where you must do what you can to survive. Me, I tell myself stories to survive. Lies, basically. I tell myself lies. But positive lies that help me hang on because if nothing else, I’m curious how the story of my life is going to end. Does that describe you as well? Then sit here by the fire with me because one of the stories I have to tell just might be the one you need to get you through the day.
A couple of months ago I started a Patreon page after five years of offering Pop Mythology content for free. It’s still free. But this blog has long since paid its dues in numerous ways, and I think it can now open itself up for support from those who wish to support it if they can afford to, and if they see value in this kind of content.
So far there hasn’t been that much support for our Patreon. But I can’t expect to win new patrons without promoting so here I am, promoting. I’ll make a case for why Pop Mythology deserves support by presenting ten of the better articles I have written on this blog. I’ve used a few different criteria to choose: comments and feedback I’ve gotten, number of clicks, and my own feelings as I look back over the archives of pieces I’ve written. I don’t know that these are objectively the “best,” but I think they make a pretty solid case for supporting this site.
If you agree, great! If not, you are welcome to this content anyway. I hope it helps you in some way just like creating it has been one of the most important factors of my own mental and emotional endurance these past several years.
Here are the links, from oldest article to most recent, accompanied by brief comments for each and a summary of the article’s theme. I’ve also sifted through old comments I’ve gotten and selected some of my favorites to share. Comments like these make all the time and energy I’ve put into this blog seem worth it after all, even if there have been times (many times) I have wanted to delete the entire site from the face of the Internet and just disappear.
(Note: Most of these comments are from social media, where comments are public anyway, but even so I’ve redacted the names just to be cautious and respectful.)
Though I think I’d written some decent pieces before this one, this is the first one where I started getting some real feedback from people indicating I’d made some kind of difference. Truth be told, I haven’t reread this article in ages so I don’t know how I’d feel about it now. And any creator will tell you that their feelings about their own works fluctuate over time. But when I see a comment like the one I’ve shown here, it’s good to know that regardless of how I’d feel about this article now, someone(s) got something out of it.
Theme: Despair is a luxury that you and the people who are counting on you cannot afford. Rise.
I’d never considered this article about A Christmas Carol to be one of my better ones until I saw this comment which I somehow didn’t see until years after it had been written (which sometimes happens, don’t ask me how!).
Theme: Disappointments and heartbreaks will make you want to close your hearts. Don’t.
This and my Prince article are the only two things I’ve ever written to go semi-semi-viral, kind of. In this case, it was pure luck. Someone from Jean-Claude Van Damme’s official Facebook page (JCVD himself, maybe??!) saw it and shared it and then it blew up. As with the articles listed above, I don’t know if this is really one of my best – probably not. But it got the most positive comments I’ve ever gotten, hands down.
Theme: Time and experience will crush, bruise, and scar you. The most we can do is accept this with grace and to continually seek to bounce back stronger. Also, JCVD does the splits real good. Real, REAL good.
This is actually not so much about “mastering” your emotions as it is about simply working with them in a way that minimizes the likelihood we will say or do things we regret. This is one of my articles where I go into some detail about concrete, practical techniques for coping with the day-to-day sensory assault of the world.
Theme: From the Buddhist perspective you have six senses. The sixth sense isn’t supernatural; it’s simply your emotions. By becoming more aware of how emotions are experienced in the body we can respond to them more optimally.
Like with my JCVD article, when I first wrote and posted this I didn’t imagine it would end up being one of my most popular pieces. I usually like to focus on fictional heroes, so it’s kinda funny that the articles which have gotten the most clicks and comments are the ones where I’ve written about real people.
Theme: Prince was the man. He also fought The Man. You can be the man who fights The Man too.
The comment shown above is so incredibly moving to me that I prefer to not sully its power by adding too many words of my own here. To the person who wrote me this comment (you know who you are), thank you.
Theme: Modern society has a way of getting people trapped in survival mode when, in fact, they could afford to ease up a little and turn their attention towards helping others who really are struggling for their literal survival. Doing this takes courage, and it is what makes a superhero like Luke Cage a superhero.
I actually didn’t get a lot of positive comments for this one (as you can see), but what I did get for some weird reason was a respectable handful of one-time donations via PayPal (back when I had a “buy me a coffee” donation button on the site). That had never happened before where numerous people sent small donations because of one article. That, for me, served as sufficient positive feedback in the absence of positive comments. I don’t know; I’m just proud of this one for some reason. It’s also one that I’d like to expand into book length someday, if given the chance.
Theme: Philip K. Dick was kind of a nutcase but he was also one of the most profound examples of the novelist-as-philosopher. And throughout his fiction, journals, and interviews he left many indirect instructions for how to live as what he called an “authentic human being” in an “empire of falsehood.”
There was one scene in Logan that nearly had me bawling in a theater full of people. So I centered this entire article thematically around that one scene. At least one person seemed to like it.
Theme: We struggle and struggle… but for what? Many times we struggle blindly while forgetting that we may already have the very thing we’re struggling for. It takes work to maintain it, yes, but take care to savor it while you have it. Because many don’t have it. And because the nature of life is that you might lose it someday.
Theme: For many of us, the dream of becoming a real-life epic hero who changes the world will never happen. The narratives we write for ourselves in our youths, much of the time, will not pan out. But there are alternate paths that in some ways can be just as empowering, if not more.
Thank you, commenter. “A much broader audience” would certainly be nice. Maybe it’ll happen someday, who knows. It’s more likely to happen if more people support this site on Patreon. 🙂
Theme: This world will try to tell you false, destructive myths about yourself: you’re poor, you’re lazy, you’re ugly, you’re worthless. These false myths will kill you if you let them. Fight back with counter myths.
Honorable mention: Be a Superman and donate a copy of ‘Superman’ #39 to kids with cancer
This wasn’t a typical Hero Wisdom-style article in that the goal wasn’t so much to inspire as it was to simply get people to join in on a cool thing. After one of my Pop Mythology contributors, John K. Kirk, reviewed Superman #39 on this site, comic stores and fans started spontaneously mailing some copies of this issue to Childhood Cancer Canada. This was all thanks to John’s original review, but I wrote this to try to bring more attention to it and to try to add some momentum. As of this writing I can see that this article has gotten 37 shares on Facebook alone, so maybe it was kinda successful.
TL;DR: It’s good to do good. Pop Mythology tries to do good. You can do good too. One way is by supporting us on Patreon! 🙂