The line :
“Unhappy is the land that needs a hero.”
comes from Bertholt Brecht’s ‘Life of Gallileo’ and has stuck with me for many, many years. I can’t remember when I first heard it, but it still rattles around my head and so I thought to myself – time for a think.
I don’t know whether I agree with it or disagree with it. When I first heard it I thought it to be so; these days I’m not so sure any more. The way the world is today the characters of a Brecht play may not need heroes, but the rest of us probably do!
I’m a great believer in the quiet hero, as well as the more obvious heroes in our society. I would add that there’s rarely anything truly heroic, in my opinion, about sports stars, actors, musicians and celebrities; as a society we seem to have slackened off our definition of hero over the years. Having said that, there are a few heroic examples of these folks – just not the ones that appear on X-Factor….
I think it was George Orwell who commented something along the lines that so many works of critics regarded so many books as masterpieces written by geniuses, that when a REAL masterpiece came along written by a TRUE genius the critics would have to find new words with which to describe them!
Are there people that everyone can agree are heroes?
Here are a few definitions….
“A hero is someone who stays brave for 5 seconds longer than everyone else.” – Captain James T Kirk
“A hero is someone who has given their life over to something bigger than themselves.” – Joseph Campbell
“When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home. ” Tecumseh
“I think a hero is an ordinary individual who finds strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles. ” – Christoper Reeve
“A hero is somebody who is selfless, who is generous in spirit, who just tries to give back as much as possible and help people. A hero to me is someone who saves people and who really deeply cares. ” – Debi Mazar
“My dad’s the one who’s always been there; he’s my hero, you could say. Even when he was working, he’d do anything for me. He’s been the biggest influence in my life. ” – Gareth Bale
“The thing about a hero, is even when it doesn’t look like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, he’s going to keep digging, he’s going to keep trying to do right and make up for what’s gone before, just because that’s who he is.” – Joss Wheedon
“Neil Young is my hero, and such a great example. You know what that guy has been doing for the past 40 years? Making music. That’s what that guy does. Sometimes you pay attention, sometimes you don’t. Sometimes he hands it to you, sometimes he keeps it to himself. He’s a good man with a beautiful family and wonderful life. ” – Dave Grohl
I’m not sure what the common features are here, but I’ve known and still know people who these quotes describe.
I am surrounded by quiet heroes in my life; those folks who fit the descriptions given above by Joseph Campbell and Christopher Reeve. People who’ve given themselves to something bigger than themselves. Their family, charitable works, their community. Folks who’re constantly fighting the odds. The ones who, as Wheedon says, keep digging even when there appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel.
I need people like this; they’re the folks I look to when the shit is hitting the fan and all seems dark. They’re the ones providing the light – the faint glimmer that, as John says in his Gospel, cannot be put out by the darkness.
They’re also the ones who make me want to be a better man, and perhaps be a hero to others.