The Imitation Game - Using Heroes To Build Character

Mar 25, 2021

Photo - Hercules by Simone Pellegrini via Unsplash

For the audio version of this blog, please click the link below:

A movie called ‘Hombre’ starring Paul Newman had a huge impact on me as a boy. Newman played a white man  called John Russell, who had been raised by the apaches and was ostracised by his own people because of it.

He was as calm as a Zen monk with the reflexes and silent focus of a samurai from ancient Japan, with the capacity for chaos to match.

Eventually as the film progresses, the outcast John Russell ends up in the position where those that had ostracised him, now relied on him to survive in harsh barren land with little food and water and pursued by ruthless killers.

One lady clearly unnerved by Russell’s unwavering, powerful presence asked him “Why should we follow you?”

His answer, “Because I can cut it lady.”

This is how the character was in the movie, short responses, straight to the point and little time for small talk. But he could and certainly did, cut it.

I first saw this movie at 15 years old. I was full of fear, unsure of myself way beyond what a 15 year old should be. Yet this film had a huge impact on me. I’d never had any male role models and I saw something in Newman’s character that captivated me.

The character I watched had everything I wanted in myself.

He got stronger with adversity whilst those around him gradually fell apart.

He never felt the need to defend himself and let people believe what they wanted to about him.

He also had massive courage.

Movies have supplied role models since the beginning of film.

In recent times audiences have been inspired by characters such as Harry Potter, the many heroes of Lord Of The Rings, James Bond, Jason Bourne and Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games.

All of these characters have had to recognise and tame their own dark sides. They all had formidable characters.

It is a most formidable mind on screen and off, that has the personal capacity for chaos and either choose not to unleash it, or to do so only when no other choice is available.

If we look at the traits of the characters we love, It’s often because we desire them in ourselves.

They speak to us and can remind us to be more courageous.

‘In each of us is hero’s, speak to them and they will come forth.’

Even the darker more aggressive elements of our hero’s can be attractive because maybe we need more courage, or ability to stand up for ourselves more and fight against injustice and corruption on any level.

Anyone into real personal development should spend time recognising and working on character traits they desire.

Our movie hero’s are a great place to start.

We can literally watch a character on screen from a fiction or non fiction source and begin to implement their characteristics.

This is especially effective to do for ‘Imagination Practise’ which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago.

You can read this here:

Who inspires you and why? What characteristics do they have you feel you would benefit from?

People wrongly assume if they focus on what they want whilst disregarding the development of character, it won’t matter.

It will and often with a heavy price to pay.

Heraclitus goes directly to the matter:

‘A Mans character is his fate.’

Character is for life and encompasses all aspects of life. It gives self reliance, self sovereignty and courage.

John Russell was my original screen hero. Once I observed him, I thought how do I go from where I am now to anywhere like his display of courage?

It’s not enough just to watch and do nothing but dream.

Imitation mustn’t be faked but embodied fully, through forging a character through physical and mental stress.

Not to much stress at a time but a steady progression that brings forth and dissolves conditioned beliefs and thoughts, beyond the boundaries of what was thought possible.

I will finish with a Henry David Thoreau quote that really demonstrates the importance of character.

Our true character silently underlies all our words and actions, as the granite underlies the other strata.’



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