Saturday, June 4, 2011

Holding Out for Something Less than Hero

I don't want to write about heroes. Maybe I've read too many accounts about the people touted as heroes, bit I really dislike the word. It feels dehumanizing, as if being a hero removes the individual from his or her humanity. Maybe the problem is that too many of the people held up as heroes seem, to me, to be vaguely psychopathic ego-maniacs willing to sacrifice all sorts of principles and all sorts of lives in the pursuit of whatever drives them. 

It all comes down to the fact that great accomplishments do not necessarily a great human being make.

Does that mean there's no one I admire? Not in the least. Several of my fellow Word Whores have mentioned admirable people - all those who serve, whether in the armed forces, police, fire, or rescue organizations. It's just that these people I admire wouldn't likely claim the title of hero. They're mostly ordinary people, doing their jobs, trying to make life and the world a tiny bit better day by day.

They teach. They listen. They stand in harms' way so the rest of us don't have to. They pursue hare-brained schemes, creating things none of us could have imagined. Often, all these things are done despite obstacles, in spite of the scoffing of family, friends or neighbors. Sometimes, these things are done against the unjust laws of oppressed nations.

Oh. You want names? Okay. My high school biology teacher, Mr. Wiles. My high school writing teacher, Mrs. Briedenbach. My parents. Mother Teresa of Calcutta. His Holiness, the Dali Lama. Anyone who goes to work everyday to support a family. Anyone bent on improving the lives of those around them.

What's the difference between the heroes I've read about and found wanting and the people I name? 
The Dali Lama says it is his job simply to love. I think that's it. The people I admire, regardless of what they do or did, loved. They love their jobs, those in their care, or an ideal larger than themselves. 

There's something cold about the word 'hero'. So many of them ventured off in an excess of hubris to discover or explore something. The motivation wasn't love of anything or anyone. It was merely the pursuit of glory. I don't find that at all admirable.

It's the men an women, tire, injured, maybe unhappy, but called to perform some duty, and who pick up the charge and keep going by drawing on the deep well of love for others or for making a positive difference in even one life who I respect, admire, and look up to.

My thanks to my fellow Word-Whore, Kerry for trading posting days with me while I'm out here in the wireless and 3G free wilderness. For that same reason, I beg forgiveness for the lack of eye-candy. I'm posting whilst the Internet Gods are smiling, oh so briefly upon me.


  1. A heroic effort, even, to get your blog post up! I like how the conversation has wound around this week, to the idea that heroes are often found in the quiet places, not the glamorous ones.

  2. H.H is definitely a hero! Great post. I agree completely

  3. "It all comes down to the fact that great accomplishments do not necessarily a great human being make."

    Ah, a the embarrassing flaw of western culture. Almost as embarrassing as forgetting The Great Accomplishment and the Momentary Hero not long after all is completed.

  4. Very nicely said. As for the switcheroo - not a problem. I am vicariously enjoying your (heroic) adventures on the bounding main.

  5. Great stuff to think about. The Hero's Journey is often very private, even invisible.