Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Foundation of Heroes

     What makes a good hero? I’ve pondered the question for a long time. What characteristic, what attribute gives a character the quality we think of as heroism? What causes heroes to endure in people’s hearts and minds long after the hero or the author of the hero has left the world? What causes them to be admired and adored? In essence, what makes a hero a hero? And how do we become heroes in a world that seems to think there are no more heroes?

     I struggled over this question for a long time, theorizing about the effects of greatness and the hero's use of greatness. That theory didn't go far. The answer finally hit me yesterday as I was gathering motivation to write. It’s love.

     Love is the pillar upon which all heroism rests. Perseus didn’t snatch Andromeda from the teeth of a sea monster because her sacrifice was a senseless waste of life. Superman does not save the world because of the intellectual logic of the needs of the many. Frodo Baggins did not climb up Mount Doom because he was the only one fit to do it. No! Perseus loved Andromeda the moment he set eyes on her, and risked his safety to rescue her. Superman does everything out of a selfless love for the good people of the world, his family, friends, and Lois Lane to be specific. Frodo stood up and said, “I will take the Ring to Mordor, though I do not know the way,” because of his deep love for the Shire, his people, and his friends. Love is the hero’s motivation, strength, and success.
     Ronald Reagan said that those who say there are no more heroes don’t know where to look. Perhaps I could offer a way to see the heroes in everyday life.
     Look at a man and ask “why?” Why does he do what he does? What are his pursuits, and why does he pursue them? When he meets adversity, what keeps him going? If the answer to these is love, if the man acts for someone else and not himself, he is a hero. They’re all around us, if you look in the right places. You’ll see that heroic love in a man who endures hardships and trials at work so he can provide for his family’s needs. You’ll see it in firemen who risk their lives in the blaze, rescuing children from burning buildings. You’ll see it in teachers who strive to ensure that each of their students succeeds in the pursuit of knowledge. Oh, I hope you’ll see it in a writer with lofty ideals of touching others with his writings, but whose stinking selfishness hinders him at every turn of the page. Nowhere will you see it more clearly than when a man selflessly lays down his life for the sake of his friends’ salvation.
     Heroes have not left the world. Perhaps the world has left heroes. They’re still here, living in shadows, working diligently at their labor of love. Not all are the same. Some have a heroism that requires only the sacrifice of eight hours a day. Some have a heroism that calls them to lay down their lives. But all heroes are founded on this one unshakable principle, upon this single holy idea: The greatest of these is love.