Monday, July 13

What Happened To All My Heroes?

“Celebrity-worship and hero-worship should not be confused. Yet we confuse them every day, and by doing so we come dangerously close to depriving ourselves of all real models. We lose sight of the men and women who do not simply seem great because they are famous but are famous because they are great. We come closer and closer to degrading all fame into notoriety.”
Daniel J. Boorstin

OK…I’ll go ahead and confess this now. My hero is encompassed by no one single person. My heroes are personified values. Honor, Honesty, Integrity, Respect, Compassion, Love. Just to name a few. See, my Dad wanted me to grow up with all the old myths. I was exposed to Heracles, Jason, Zeus, Odin, Thor, King Arthur, and many, many others. With all those old myths, I learned about those values that would eventually come to be an integral part of my life. Sure, the heroes in those old myths were all fallible, and some in great big ways, but that only made the virtues they were embodying all the more important.

But, what about the accepted heroes of today? If you were to go to any high school in the country and ask them questions about the old myths, do you think they’d get them right? I don’t.

I don’t think that any of them would know what Jason and the Argonauts were questing for, or what Heracles did that was special. Hell…do YOU know the right answers to those questions?

Actually…a better question might be; who are your heroes? And keeping in mind Boorstin’s quote above, do YOU confuse hero-worship with celebrity-worship?

It seems to me, a bad trend today, that our children are not growing up with the myths and legends that teach and personify the values of a hero. And really…how can we expect our children to become heroes for their generations if we don’t teach them what it means to be a hero in the first place?

“The hero is one who kindles a great light in the world, who sets up blazing torches in the dark streets of life for men to see by.”
Felix Adler

I’ve talked before about what it means to be a hero, so I won’t rehash that here. Rather, I want to talk about why we’ve lost these classical heroes and replaced them with people that are SO far from being heroes?

Or maybe that’s an unanswerable question. Why, is a difficult one to answer on something like this. But I keep coming back to it. Why? And more importantly, what kind of people will be living on this planet when my children are grown? Will the Heroic Values even exist anymore? Will the World’s heroes in actuality be the World’s criminals? We’re almost there in some areas.

“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself. “
Joseph Campbell

I think that this quote probably sums up a big problem for me with today’s famous heroes. They aren’t heroes, for the most part, because they are only interested in what they can get for themselves. And that’s NOT a hero. That is usually the villain. Heroes aren’t about grabbing as much as they can for themselves. That’s not the way Heroic Values are expressed. Heroes are those that would willingly give all they had for someone else. A hero is one that makes things better, simply by being there.

“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”
Christopher Reeve

We have a responsibility to our children to teach them. Sorry…but yes, that is a PARENT’S responsibility. It’s not a school teacher’s job, it’s not a church’s job, it’s the parent’s job. Sadly, if you look around at our world today, it seems that most parents are failing in this job. This is leaving children to decide for themselves what values to have. Or worse, they get them from TV.

I’m a parent, so I can bitch. :-) I don’t want my sons to grow up in a world where the biggest heroes are gold toothed rap singers or athletes that think they are above the law or even simple rich people that never seem to have enough. I want them to know the stories of courage and honor. Where the heroes quest, fight (sometimes they lose), and yet they persevere in the end. They will know the myths, the legends, and the amazing people that changed the world before them. And when they are grown, they will KNOW that they have the ability to change the world too.

“In the name of the best within you, do not sacrifice this world to those who are its worst. In the name of the values that keep you alive, do not let your vision of man be distorted by the ugly, the cowardly, the mindless in those who have never achieved his title. Do not lose your knowledge that man's proper estate is an upright posture, an intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads. Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it's yours.”
Ayn Rand

Most importantly, I want you to know those stories. That’s how our children are going to learn of them. More than that, I want you to know them so that you might believe that YOU can change the world right now. Because you can. Sure, things are hard, but so what? Sure, you’re just one person, but so what? Want some examples of amazing people that changed the world by themselves? Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks. Now, I know what you’re thinking…they were special people and you’re nothing like them. Guess what? You’re wrong. You have the exact same things inside of you. You just have to reach down and get in touch with it.

So come on…let’s make a better world together. For ourselves and for our kids.

“The thing about a hero, is even when it doesn't look like there's a light at the end of the tunnel, he's going to keep digging, he's going to keep trying to do right and make up for what's gone before, just because that's who he is.”
Joss Whedon