Not Looking for a Hero

What happens if you don’t have any heroes?

Depending on who you ask, especially amongst the current generation, the answer could be anything from a life without satisfaction to impending global annihilation. Yet when I am asked who my heroes are, (and it is a very popular assessment tool) I don’t have a ready answer. Hand to God, I am not sure I know who my heroes are or if I even have any.

I suppose like with so many things it depends a great deal on how one defines “hero”. If by hero all that is meant is someone whose accomplishments and attitude I find worthy of praise, then maybe I have a few heroes. But even then the word leaves a bit of a bad taste in my mouth, because it would seem to indicate a certain element of awe.

I don’t think I can say anybody on any level has ever held me in “awe” of what they are doing. It’s not easy to impress me in any field, let alone put me in a state of awe about who you are and what you do.

She’s my hero because I am just in awe of what she has accomplished given her circumstances.

A common testimonial that you will not see me propagate any time soon.

Not that I take anything away from people and their accomplishments. But those that succeed, even in fields in which I wish to succeed are so different in their approach, their abilities, their luck and their overall presence that to emulate them as a hero would seem a bit foolhardy. We all have strengths and we all have weaknesses. While advice can be useful, and following an example may pay a dividend here and there, we are in the end each different. Different struggles, different help, different luck to help us get where we end up, (or keep us from getting anywhere.) Is a “hero” really that different from me? Or you?

Leaders I can understand. The can bring order out of chaos, or shatter the status quo. A leader is necessary at times to bring a movement into focus so that the greater good can be accomplished. Yet in ideal circumstances they are a first among equals. (Heaven knows we are often far from that ideal, though.)

The supposed importance of heroes lies in aspirations to self improvement. We are told how important it is to want to be better than what we are right now. Society attaches future demonstrable success on a seemingly endless cycle of reinventing ourselves as more productive, powerful and marketable versions of ourselves. Ty 3.0, then Ty 4.0 and so on. This constant striving for a better you requires a template. A template that has already gone through the same processes and struggles on their way to their success as we are right now. We can then fixate on what they did, and motivate ourselves to do the same.

Hero worship in a sense, is a worship of that we wish we were, and hope to some day be. Therefore some degree of being in awe of a hero is often attributable to a lack of respect and acceptance of where we are at present if we are not careful.

Some of the same people who view heroes in this fashion would consider a lack of heroes equal to a lack of ambition and self awareness. Or on the opposite end, an indication that a person feels they are already of such value and worth, who is left that is worthy of being their hero?

In both cases, the judgment is unfair. At least it is for me. For as I said, I lack heroes as most define them, because the only battle I really need to be winning is my own, and the fact that someone else won their own battle, though admirable and worthy of respect, does not make them heroic per se.

Laurence Olivier. JFK. Emily Dickinson. Cal Ripken Jr. Each of them for various reasons and at various points in my life have exemplified certain qualities and perceptions that I share, or aspire to. But as amazing as I found some of their accomplishments, and as satisfying as it is to know that my opinions on certain issues are not that different from those of some of these highly influential and important people, I still don’t consider them heroes.

And I don’t feel adrift because of it.

How do you define “hero”? Do you have any? What does your relationship to the concept of heroes say about you? About society?

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