Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Heroes

When I was a kid, my favorite superhero was Wolverine.  Despite a mediocre spin-off movie, he is still my favorite.  When I was younger, I admired him because he was cool.  What intrigues me about him now is the redemptive story interwoven throughout his narrative.

I think that there is something hardwired into us that makes us search out role models and heroes.  We need them, but where have they gone?

Heroes used to be the embodiment of the characteristics society held in highest regard.  Their stories comprise so much of ancient literature.  Look at Gilgamesh, Beowulf, Iliad, Odyssey, Aeneid, and so many more.  The heroes of these epics represented the best that society had to  offer.

Look around us today.  Our heroes have almost completely disappeared.  They've been replaced with celebrities.  Heroes we look up to, celebrities we scrutinize and wait for them to fail.  And if they don't fail quick enough, we lose interest in them.  The only reason we care about how high they fly is so that we can watch their spectacular crash.

This is a societal problem.  Nothing short of a cultural mind-shift will change that.  I don't think that is going to happen, so what do we do?  The need for a hero to emulate is so deeply ingrained within us that we can't shut it off, at least not while we are young.  So we take celebrities, doomed to fail, and copy them.  Then as a society, we wonder why the younger generations are constantly getting into trouble.  What's the solution?

Instead of scouring the media for people to emulate, I think we need to take a better look around us at the natural mentors we have and focus on them.  I think individually we need to stop focusing on the faults and shortcomings of other and instead praise their positive contributions.  Only then can we start to emerge from a culture that awards so much time and energy to exploiting the lives of celebrities engaging in infidelity and instead focus our attention on those who spend their time making the world a better place.

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