I was watching an old episode of Frasier the other day. It was called Head Game. For those who don’t know, Frasier was a popular comedy series a number of years ago. The series highlights the antics of it’s main characters, Frasier Crane and his rather neurotic brother, Niles, a psychiatrist.
In this episode, Niles gives some advice to a professional basketball player who is in a serious slump. The advice is simple and yet, when acted upon, results in great things and suddenly, Niles finds himself in the spotlight. Everyone sees him as a hero. The adulation he receives is overwhelming. The pro player becomes dependent on him and comes to believe that by simply rubbing Niles’ head before each game, he will always come out a winner.
This started me thinking more seriously about our very human attraction to heroism. These days, it is politic to deny our propensity for it but I think when we find people who seem to rise above the rest of us, we still somehow become glued to them by a hope that they will save us, solve our problems or make our dreams come true, even if we are less willing to admit it.
There are those of us too, who like the idea of being a hero. After all, it is a great boost to the ego when people view us with undying admiration. At those times, everyone wants to be our friend. And, if we get enough of that, we can come to believe we are invulnerable to the pitfalls of ordinary life. We stand proudly on a pedestal and feed on the myth that we can do no wrong.
Of course, there is something amiss with each of those perspectives.
Perhaps in the last Century, it was easier to indulge in hero-worship. It was, after all, not as difficult to hide the shortcomings that punctuate peoples’ lives, especially those whose lofty place in business or society seemed to exempt them from being imperfect.
In this century, though, ready access to information through social media and other means affords us the opportunity to see humanity in action, warts and all. And that kind of takes the shine off the notion of Superman or Wonderwoman swooping in to save the day. And too, we have seen much evidence of seemingly powerful people falling, like Icarus, from a great height having ignored the warning signs that signify the onset of chronic arrogance.
I like to think that the demise of the traditional hero is a very good thing. For one thing, it takes the pressure off those who feel obligated to lead the charge brilliantly all of the time. And, it makes room for the rest of us to take our turn in the hero’s place.
But first, we need to believe it’s possible for a hero to live somewhere inside each of us and to re-define what heroism means. To me, a hero looks like an ordinary human being who, at one time or another, shows great courage in the face of difficulty.
Until we are tested or dare to take a leap, we may remain unaware of what we can really do but there are countless stories of heroism among so-called unremarkable people, stories like this one:
The truth is, we are all remarkable. We are all capable of being a hero to someone, at some time. Whether we lead, or follow, each time we step up to a challenge; make a sacrifice; serve the greater good; take a personal risk or make life better for someone else, it comes under the heading of heroism. And no one’s head has to be rubbed in the process.
So perhaps, as Tina Turner suggests, “We Don’t Need Another Hero”. We just need to recognize heroism in ourselves and in each other and then dare to use it to serve a collective purpose.
That’s what I think anyway. What do you think?