Reassessing Heroism

Man has a point...
Man has a point…

When anyone uses the term “hero”, everyone (myself included) almost instinctively think of people who are brave in the face of death and who are self-sacrificing – we think of the idealised figures like Che Guevara, Rob Roy, Tipu Sultan, Joan of Arc and of course the ones like William Wallace in Braveheart who are turned into legend when fact and fiction become blurred.

But there are other heroes as well, the ones that when they live are admired and even when dead are looked at and admired but never given “heroic” status in the same way as these warriors – people like Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr who are revered after they die but few children are brought up to think “I’d like to be like that someday”. It’s a cultural thing. We grow up respecting intelligence and thinkers, but they are never seen the same way, a huge example being someone like Stephen Hawking – he is a globally known icon, but how many truly take the time to understand why? Surprisingly few. Oh people get the gist of his having come up with stuff about space and black holes, but that’s often it.

Granted, not all lives can be exciting and adventurous, but I do also feel that we are a more evolved society and species than we were a couple of centuries ago and we are evolving still – both us physiologically and socio-culturally. We are learning to prize intellect and wisdom. We are adapting and growing, but I feel sometimes we are not doing it fast enough. Other things are out-pacing it, but our common idols and “heroes”  and role-models are often the same – except now we’ve taken a step back in a way with not even talented musicians or actors being idols and role models but reality TV stars and the lowest common denominator becoming the thing to be…

Maybe it’s just me, but a hero is someone apart from and in some ways above and better than everyone else. If you are the same as me, then there is nothing to make you a hero – and lets be honest, being famous is not an accomplishment, WHAT you are famous for, that’s the accomplishment and I find fewer and fewer of the most idolised today seem to have any thing of quality to offer. And the sadder part still is that with the passage of time, the older heroes often lose their significance, something I see here in India too where my parents generation remembers the early days of an independant India and grew up with heroes and such and then I see the latest generation of kids and how little they are aware of or care for any such thing unless their parents teach them.

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But before I go off the rails – here’s what the main intent here was (and yes, I know I took my time getting here!) to talk about how few of the greatest minds and the REAL world-changers get love from the masses. The people who discover the things that redefine the way we look at the world. Sure, a few like Albert E. and Marie Curie have gotten elevated, but again, most people don’t really know anything beyond the most limited possible and knowing they were smart.

Why? Why do we have such a hard time actively respecting intelligence? Most of us as I’ve noted, do learn to do this as we get older, but why are we not able to teach that to the kids? And why is this still a peripheral respect where we do it but will still give all the love and unquestioned devotion to the athlete, to the beautiful but otherwise ordinary/average? Musicians and actors get recognition and respect for their craft, but not so with a scientist or revolutionary historian or ground breaking doctor – their work will be forever revered, but their names lost to all but the few who care to know it.

I just really think this ones cool! :D
I just really think this ones cool! 😀

Me personally, over the past decade since the end of my academic years and onward, I always had a mixed bag of heroes but I’ve found it now is wider and includes all kinds and more importantly, the living heroes have changed. The people I would like to teach my kids about whenever I have any, the ones I would most love to meet, the ones who I would like to emulate – progressively less of them are the conventionally famous and the knowledge I have been exposed to as I learnt about them, their fields and work is stunning. And I’ve just barely scratched the surface.

So, I’m going to hereafter periodically post stuff about and from people who I think deserve to be known about, people who deserve recognition and more respect and whose names should be more well known than (for eg.) a Justin Beiber or Lady Gaga. Hell, at least they do something, there’s more that are far less deserving but I’m not in the mood to scrap barrels.

card+069+Neil+deGrasse+TysonAs a first name for you to look into (if you don’t know it already), I would recommend one of my idols – still living – who is somewhat unique: Mr. Neil deGrasse Tyson Jr. He’s an astrophysicist, a fantastic speaker and one of the single most shockingly well known scientists alive today – possibly the most well known scientist while still alive in history amusingly enough. A big part of that is that he has a remarkably easy manner that doesn’t make him seem like he’s “above” those not as intelligent/educated/aware as him, he comes across as friendly and understanding and always open to frank and fair discussion and above all he has a remarkable and infectious energy. There is a passion that one cannot help but be ignited by and feel your imagination and desire to explore just a little more get stronger.

Hell, the man has a video talk-show that you can see for free online called “Star Talk” in which they just come, have fun and talk about things that matter and about things that should be of more common interest but sadly are not.

Here’s a fantastic video someone made as a visualisation to his answering a simple question, an answer that excellently exemplifies what I mean about him above, hear it through and you’ll see what I mean:

Finally, here’s something he posted online recently, an assembly of some recent tweets, all on the same theme….

The human body is an assembly of chemicals, as is all food & all medicine. So what we label as a drug is a social construct.

Lifting weights changes your bio-physiology in a way that creates performance-enhancing effects on your body.

Drinking coffee changes your metabolism in a way that creates performance-enhancing effects on your body.

Cardio exercise alters your biochemistry in ways that create performance enhancing changes in your body’s stamina.

Practicing in your sport of choice creates performance enhancing changes in your timing & reflexes.

Eating breakfast changes your biochemstry in a way that creates performance-enhancing effects on your body.

Getting a good night’s sleep alters your brain function in a way that creates performance enhancing changes in your mind.

Yes, some of your best friends are made of 100% chemicals, whether or not their moniker is A-Rod.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. I think that many of identify “heroes” by attributes or feats that we wish we could identify in ourselves. Thus we may choose groups like firemen or policemen because we feel that they exemplify selfless courage which we wish we possessed. Thus we may choose leaders or revolutionaries because we wish that we were able to impact out world on a scale that they may have, because we may feel out own contributions to society are not admirable. Thus as a race we have oft be identified strong warrior archetypes, like the many you mentioned, possibly because of a genetic history of respect for strength and power as the abilities needed to progress and survive as a species. Personally, I think that the truest heroes are not archetypes or painted figures but individuals. A true hero is not someone who is perfect or infallible but rather a normal human being like you or me who chooses to conquer fears and inspire others despite his or her own flaws. Just a thought.

    1. Spider42 says:

      You’re right, and there’s still something in us (myself included I can unabashedly admit) who like the more physical achievements as a desired thing – though I’ve long felt that if I could get past the social acceptance of one over the other, I’d feel differently about which one I’d rather have, or at least be far more definitive in that “dream scenario” where you can go one way or the other.
      Your final thought here – that I agree with wholeheartedly.

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