Monday, February 18, 2013

In Search of a Hero: A Fool's Quest?

Recreation, Health, & Fitness

We expect our heroes and heroines to be godlike, well, almost. We expect them to defy the odds, obliterate the insurmountable, vanquish the formidable. We expect them to win with ease, but we also expect them to come back from the brink when all seems lost. We expect these  things because they are there for us. When they win or overcome, we win or overcome. When they stand in the bull ring facing the mighty toro, we stand their facing it. When they take the last shot and score with the shot-clock winding down, we are the ones making the shot. When they throw the winning touchdown pass, or make the winning birdie, or brace the tape first in the 100 meters race, or score the match-winning goal, we are the ones winning. We vicariously experience the glory and all the feelings connected with winning and overcoming  through them. When they receive the laurel leaves, we receive the laurel leaves, when the trophy is presented to them or the gold medal is put around their necks, we are the ones receiving. We are the real heroes/heroines. They are us; they are our proxies. Our expectations of them are high. We want them to be gods on the court, on the field, in the ring, or on the track, and we want them to be no less when they are outside these arenas. 

Through our heroes and heroines we experience what it means to be "gods", what it means to be immortal, what it means to be the underdog who overcomes. In our own selves we can never do or be these things, but through them we get to "taste" success beyond the ordinary, overcoming beyond the ordinary, achievement beyond the ordinary. Through them we get a taste of immortality. Through them we get to be gods, albeit for a brief moment, but we get to be such again and again with the appearance of each new hero. And when they fall, it saddens us - Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, Ben Johnson, Maradona, Roger Clemens, Mike Tyson, Marion Jones, and more recently Oscar Pistorius (also known as the Bladerunner) who recently fatally shot his girlfriend. When these heroes and heroines fall, we pause for a while and reassess. We wonder whether it is worth it all, casting our hopes behind them, that is. Whether this whole idea of the hero isn't a mere fleeting illusion, whether we aren't asking the impossible of a select few. But at some point we come out of our state of despondency and begin the quest again, searching for our hero or heroine - the one through whom we can face the impossible, for a moment, and win.