Prof Pepeta a true hero whose deeds spoke volumes
The death of Nelson Mandela University’s Prof Lungile Pepeta a few weeks ago deeply affected not only our local communities, but ricocheted across the nation — literally, in reverent, beautifully expressed media tributes to a great man; one of the greatest to emerge from the Eastern Cape.
I had never met Prof Pepeta, but knew his work.
The university’s executive dean of health sciences was a renowned paediatric cardiologist and, more than that, a medical professional with a single-minded purpose - serving people.
At the heart of his lifelong approach was the core intention to help people from all backgrounds and classes; to bring to life the ideal that we are all equal under the sun, and all deserve equal treatment.
Dr Scott T Allison, in Psychology Today, writes that we know a hero when we see one.
What they inspire in us has as much of a profound effect on the world as their deeds do.
“We all know that heroes are inspiring, but our research on heroes also reveals several non-obvious ways that they improve our lives,” Allison says.
Heroes produce in us a recently identified emotion called “elevation”, which, when we experience it, results in a “mix of awe, reverence and admiration for a morally beautiful act”.
Heroes also heal our psychic wounds, helping us to make sense of an aggressive, often unfair world, and showing us that there is hope, regardless.
In this way, too, Allison says, they nourish our connections with other people — their stories are at the centre of our shared understanding and admiration.
“This sense of family, group, or community was, and remains, central to human emotional well-being,” Allison explains.
Unsurprisingly, heroes have been shown to transform our lives — and turn us into heroes ourselves, he says.
“Good heroes use the power of transformation not only to change themselves for the better, but also to transform the world.”
Classically, the traditional hero journey results in the transformed hero eventually transforming society in “significant and positive ways”, Allison says.
When a hero falls, it is up to us to carry the legacy left to us.
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