Cultural2...Do you have a Hero?

Heroism: Why Heroes are Important
by Dante

“There are nowadays professors of philosophy, but not philosophers. To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust. It is to solve some of the problems of life, not only theoretically, but practically.”

A hero originally was a mortal who had done something so far beyond the normal scope of human experience that he left an immortal memory behind him when he died, and thus received worship like that due the gods.

Heroes were not necessarily good, but they were always extraordinary; to be a hero was to expand people’s sense of what was possible for a human being.

Today, it is much harder to detach the concept of heroism from morality; we only call heroes those whom we admire and wish to emulate. But still the concept retains that original link to possibility. We need heroes first and foremost because our heroes help define the limits of our aspirations.

We largely define our ideals by the heroes we choose, and our ideals — things like courage, honor, and justice — largely define us. Our heroes are symbols for us of all the qualities we would like to possess and all the ambitions we would like to satisfy.

A person who chooses Martin Luther King as a hero is going to have a very different sense of what human excellence involves than someone who chooses, say, the Celebrity, but of course we have heroes like Tiger Woods, who excel at their profession. And because the ideals to which we aspire do so much to determine the ways in which we behave, we all have a vested interest in each person having heroes, and in the choice of heroes each of us makes, especially children.

It is clear that the greatest obstacle to the appreciation and adoption of heroes in our society is pervasive and corrosive cynicism and skepticism. The best antidote to this cynicism is realism about the limits of human nature. We need to separate out the things that make our heroes noteworthy, and forgive the shortcomings that blemish their heroic perfection. Tiger Woods is a fine example! Where does he stand and what does he stand for?

All heroes have stumbled, they have wavered, they made fools of themselves – but nonetheless they rose and accomplished deeds of triumphant beauty. Perhaps we might do so too. Cynicism is too often merely an excuse for sparing ourselves the effort.

Again the critical moral contribution of heroes is the expansion of our sense of possibility. If many live a life of quiet desperation, it is because our horizons are possibly too cramped. Heroes can help lift our eyes a little higher. Immanuel Kant 18th Century phjlosopher said “that from the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.” That may well be true, but some have used that warped, knotted piece of timber to build more boldly and more beautifully.

True heroism consists in being superior to the ills of life, in whatever shape they may challenge us to combat.

Napoleon I (1769-1821) Napoleon Bonaparte. French general.


Cultural2...Do you have a Hero?

tim norman

Wimbledon, United Kingdom

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