What is a hero, anyway? When you say, “So-and-so is a hero of mine,” what exactly do you mean? How can that be interpreted, and how far d you take that interpretation yourself? And what does it take for you to consider someone worthy of being your hero?
To some, a hero might be someone who is unequivocally good morally, and skilled at what they do. Superman would be a true hero in this sense — capable of amazing feats, and always using his power for good. He would be worthy of emulation by any man — well, the “always doing good” bits, at least. Not so much the “flying faster than a speeding bullet” or “leaping tall buildings in a single bound” bits. As far as real people go, a large part of this stature is probably made up of granite — the pedestal you’ve put them on.
Another possible hero could be just someone who does that one thing really well, and you focus on that. Lance Armstrong may have been discredited as a competitive cyclist, but he is still an inspiring story and he has still done great good through his Livestrong organization. The only question is what ratio of character flaws or possibly evil actions you are willing to tolerate. Adolf Hitler is ultimately responsible for the creation of the VW Beetle, yet I doubt the most die-hard Beetle enthusiast would be willing to name him among their heroes.
Does the status of “hero” require that someone had a profound effect on your personal life? Does it require said hero to be aware of the effect, or even of you personally? Does your definition of hero limit the playing field to just those who have personally mentored or inspired you, given you a hug (or a slap) when you needed it, or helped you to your feet when you fell down?
The definition of hero which I have zeroed in on for myself is necessarily a bit loose. I will call someone my hero if they stand out positively in some combination of these things I am interested in: attitude/general outlook on life, personal habits, morals or ethics (which are not synonymous, but are closely related), or some physical or intellectual skills (especially communicating with others or seeing through rhetoric to the heart of a matter). There are certainly other facets of humanity which could be added to this list.
Of course, I also have some awareness of the aforementioned ratio of good to evil; I am unlikely ever to list Hitler or Stalin among my heroes, no matter what revolutionary things they may have done. On a lesser level, neither will I be adding Obama or Bush to my pantheon. I would, however, be willing to talk of Ernest Hemingway (who committed suicide) or various other historical figures (many of whom were undoubtedly racist, believed in American exceptionalism, or otherwise held untenable or even repulsive opinions).
So the question that started us wasn’t “What is a hero?”, but “Who is your hero?” Two months ago, I think I would have answered with a simple, “I have no heroes.” Now, though, I think I can do one better. I actually plan to post a series about my heroes, so I will just give you a taste for now. Here are three men from my list of personal heroes:
My heroes are not great men across the board; they are not good role models across the board; but each one of them exemplifies some virtue of personality or habit or belief or expression which I admire and wish to see in myself.
1. What age did you learn to ride a bike?
2. Do you remember your first day of kindergarten? What was it like?
3. What was your first car? What did you love/hate about it?
4. Who is/are your hero(es)?
5. What is one of your favorite memories from your childhood?
6. Do you play an instrument? If not, what would you want to play if you could?
7. What’s something that’s on your “bucket list”?
8. What were you like in middle school? What were your clothing/music choices? (Around 12 years old.)
9. What is something adventurous you’d like to do someday?
10. Do you believe in anything “odd” – UFOs, ghosts, horoscopes, superstitions, etc.?
11. What’s something you’re interested in that no one really knows about or no one would really understand?
12. What’s your favorite nostalgic song? What does it remind you of?
13. If you could learn one new skill or pick up a new hobby, what would you like to do?
14. What’s your favorite book? Magazine?
15. What’s your religion/religious beliefs?
16. What are you going to name your children? Or, what are your favorite names in general?
17. Who was your childhood best friend? Do you still keep in touch?
18. Tell us your life philosophy?
19. Tell us a secret talent!
20. Create your own question and answer it!