Yeah I was crying. Telling God, “I am such an idiot!” Then I remembered someone sending me this meme, “When God put a calling on your life, He factored in your stupidity.” Well, good. I like the shrinks who proclaim that “Human beings are works in progress who mistakenly think they are done” (Gilbert). Because I was wrong, I’ve been wrong before, and I will be wrong again. Being an idiot at times is to be human, that is reality. My problem is that I don’t want to be an idiot. I want to cruise through life getting stuff right more than wrong.
I think there is a fallacy I have believed that makes me forget that “getting stuff right,” doesn’t protect me from the basic tragedies of life. Meaning, it’s not as important as I give it credit for. Ursula le Guin put it like this, “Turns out I was right, but nothing has come of it.” So, besides being “right,” what other stupid things do humans want? I’m sure it’s election season which makes me think that people want a hero, or to be a hero. But not really a real hero, more like an 80’s song hero. “The streetwise Hercules to fight the rising odds!” Bonnie Tyler got one part right in that it’s a “wild fantasy.”
The fantastic writer James Baldwin says that “the nature of society is to create, among it’s citizens, an illusion of safety…” Illusion, fantasy, same thing. Reality is that this world isn’t safe. Make fun of the 90’s helicopter parents all you want, we were just trying to grapple with this reality. Ridicule the cries of the marginalized or otherwise abused if that’s who you are but they can tell you how unsafe this world is. I’m sure illusions come in handy at times, but we have to learn to face reality too. Like the reality of an actual hero.
Succinctly, an actual hero is one who leaves all that is safe and comfortable in order to face and overcome darkness. Not only that, the hero is one who recognizes that, “The enemy is within the gates; it is with our own luxury our own folly, our own criminality that we have to contend.” (Cicero). Today’s heroes don’t like that definition. Playing hero today looks like a desire to defeat the ubiquitous they. Because they are bad and they make my world unsafe, or uncomfortable? Sure, there is plenty of darkness outside of our own hearts, but is it really wise to ask someone else to face it for us? I know some people really want to help make the world a better, more just place. As Cicero turned the idea of hero on it’s head, J.R.R. Tolkien does the same on his notion of justice in one of his lesser read novels. “Justice is not Healing. Healing cometh only by suffering and patience, and maketh no demand, not even for Justice. Justice worketh only within the bonds of things as they are… and therefore though Justice is itself good and desireth no further evil, it can but perpetuate the evil that was, and doth not prevent it from the bearing of fruit in sorrow.”
Yeah, I know that’s not all he said but this speaks to me. Anyone who has overcome injustice will have a story of suffering and patience. It’s a hard pill to swallow but it is reality. The longing for justice can really be an underlying desire that the awful things never happened in the first place, and lead to an attempt to take control of power. The heroes in this case face the pain of darkness and don’t let themselves become it. Keats says it so beautifully, “Pain is necessary to school an intelligence and make it a soul.” Facing illusions is not about being a nice person, or not being a dick. It’s about being real. Trying not to lie to ourselves about how unsafe the world is and the sorrows which cannot be helped. And playing hero? requires that you believe you know what is best for someone else, which is really impossible because remember, sometimes we are idiots.