Saturday, March 05, 2011

Paths of Glory...

The thing I have noticed about heroism in the actual world, is that it can fuel a lifetime of extreme behavior in the name of being perceived as a hero.

A hero needs cowards and laypeople and swooning admirers. A hero is defined by the honor bestowed upon them by others. Does the hero unconsciously seek a certain elevated place within a community (that might otherwise bore him or her to tears)? What is the sound of one heroic act unpraised? (I know there are many.)

Certainly, heroism is costly to the individual. A hero exhibits bravery and fortitude and endures agony and loss in the face of enormous obstacles long after the rest of us are in bed watching Fantasy Island reruns. Heroes have the will and the spirit to take on danger and chaos with total resolution. They do things that no one else can or wants to do. They win wars and save the innocent and the distressed from harm. They shape history and perform selfless acts. And it's that observed selflessness that leads to a mythological self that lives large in other hearts and minds, isn't it?

I don't want to say that there are no heroes. That there are no altruists. That Mother Teresa was a selfish cunt. The world needs heroes. And bad guys. They are archetypal jobs that need filling. We can define our heroes with our own yardsticks. And we can embrace broad metaphors, like facing life with one's sword ready to be drawn. And, thankfully, there are other metaphors too.

(Believe it or not) I have moments of clarity where I know that life should be lived without too many enhancements, formulas, or agendas. Its mysteries should not be abandoned or trampled on the search for a badge of honor. That kind of behavior leads to a culture of manipulation. Big plans need lots of expendable heroes. Medals are cheap.

In Los Angeles you get to see a vivid spectrum of heroes-in-progress. Are they living for the label, or are they truly brave? Either way, heroism is packaged and sold here as a force beyond scrutiny. I accept that some might attack me for these blasphemous observations. Oh you're just (fill in the blank). I boldly accept this risk of public ridicule with a stiff upper lip and a manly chest thrust in the general direction of my Kirk Douglas chin.


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