The concept of a “hero” comes from the ancient Greeks. It was thought that when a mortal person did something far beyond what a average human could do, that the memory of their act would become an immortal impression on history after their death. It was thought that the act would be revered through time and the person responsible would serve as an example for others. The grey eyed special patron Goddess of reason and intelligence, Athena, is associated with heroes Thus, Hercules became a mythical figure who killed monsters, and is thought of as a demigod, the offspring of Zeus, and lover of Athena. Or, slightly more closer in time, King Arthur and Excalibur united warring tribes around a round table of justice and equality.
Personally, I believe that the heroes we revere are tied to their human nature. We seek merely to emulate their example of life in our own. So, we might ask ourselves “why do we revere Martin Luther King Jr. as a Hero and not Kim Kardashian?”
The answer is not the person, but their ideals of excellence and the manner that they lived upholding those ideals. Ideals to which we aspire determines how we live our life. And as such, who we choose as our heroes determines the ideals that we aspire and how we choose to live life.
Let me be clear in this regard. Celebrity status is not nor related to heroic ideals of excellence.
Who is a Hero?
Sadly, many confuse the two because modern social media has elevated mere celebrity status into the realm of heroism. An athlete, movie star, or a country music performer is certainly popular and have a celebrity following – but their talent is not heroic.
Heroes have Virtue
Is it any wonder then why modern urban cities are so often destitute and devoid of examples of heroic excellence? Many young adults idolize the behavior of hyper-materialistic, hedonistic, misogynistic, and narcissistic gangsters and rappers who glorify violence without any clue of virtuous conduct.
For this reason, I don’t think it’s wrong to ask ourselves occasionally who do we regard as our heroes, or what do our heroes represent to us, and how are we living up to the ideals espoused by our heroes.
The cynic and skeptic will find some fault to discount our heroes – such as the fact that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson owned slaves. The cynic will say that this fact somehow diminishes the universal heroic ideals expressed (“All men are created equal”) and the contributions made by our heroes that still reverberate through time..
Thus, we need to separate the things that make our heroes heroic from their human shortcomings. We need to forgive them for not being Gods and accept the value of their ideals for just that: a virtuous life worthy of emulation.
Don’t get me wrong. People will stumble. As human beings, we all will fail and falter at some point in our life. In fact, all of us will make utter and complete fools of themselves. Nevertheless, our heroes loved life and created great examples of how to live life..
Heroes are Human
With that said, we need to understand that our heroes are human, they are not perfect nor should we worship them as Gods. The mere fact that our heroes are human means that we too, just as flawed and imperfect beings that we are, are capable of also rising to the challenges we face in life, to live life deliberately, to suck the marrow out of life, to press forward and not discover that we didn’t live at all when we die.
As for me, I will strive for excellence just as my heroes did.