Trace my IP address

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Knights, Wonder Woman, & Kittens... (Etc.)

I've been trying to work on a review--when I've been able to squeeze in a few minutes here and there, that is, which has NOT been easy, recently (hence, the "trying" part). Anyway, it's had me mulling over the nature of heroes...


Heroes come in all shapes and sizes, and the acts of courage (honor, bravery) they perform are just as varied. Still, most people have at least some idea about what the term "hero" means to them.
Many of us cling--rather tenaciously, too!--to our fairy tales. (Why? Because they almost always have happy endings, of course, whereas Real Life so often... doesn't.) We picture a brawny, armor-clad man with flowing locks, thundering in on his majestic steed to save the fair maiden from the clutches of an evil tyrant, shouting “Unhand her!” as he dismounts, with his trusty sword at the ready. (If you say you’ve never dreamed that, I won’t believe you. Certainly not if you're female. But, if that's really your response, I’ll tell you right now to stop reading, and hie off to the local library for a King Arthur or Robin Hood fix, stat, because you're missing out.) 


Men and women in flowing capes and tight spandex outfits (or specially-engineered impenetrable suits, or even a mass of, say, shaggy blue fur) spring readily to mind, too. (Me? I picture Wonder Woman. She's smart, totally hot, and has cool functional accessories AND an invisible plane.) These particular heroes--so fantastic they're known as SUPERheroes-- (almost) always get the bad guys. Awesome powers, cool gadgets, and wicked get-ups... yeah, that works.
Another image sure to be popular (also harking back to our grade-school years) is that of a sooty fireman--who valiantly risks life and limb each day--tenderly cradling a tiny kitten he's just rescued to his manly chest. It speaks to our sense of bravery, not to mention the always-important “awwww” factor (a given any time you put a big man and a wee kitten together, trust me). 
Other people choose more serious objects. For instance, a weary soldier, bravely heading out to battle once more, easily makes the list. (Actually, pretty much anyone in emergency services or the military does; it's sort of their job description, isn't it?) 
And then there are those examples a little less flashy (and less obvious)... like the protestor who boldly champions a cause, advocating change in the face of seemingly-impossible odds. Or maybe the devoted teacher, who works long hours for little respect and even less pay, in the unwavering belief that education matters. A parent, who goes without something, so his or her kids can have more. It might even be a kid who once stood up to a bully for someone else on a playground, long ago.
See, there's really no one "type" which covers all acts of heroism, no more than there's just one for the people who commit them. Yet, some thread must bind them all together. It can't be the expectation of fame and glory, since there's not exactly an abundance of that to go around. We can't just put it down to a surfeit of bravery or great physical strength, either; the passing motorist who heroically pulls an injured stranger from a mangled wreck on the freeway is as likely to be your shy, pudgy neighbor who regularly does nothing more dangerous than bookkeeping, as he/she is to fit into some traditional “hero” mold. No, the common denominator seems to be selflessness-- a willingness to put oneself at some degree of risk (or at the very least, some discomfort) out of a desire to help others.


Some days, it seems like there aren't nearly enough heroes out there... that if only the world were chock-full of them, it would have to be a better place. (Then again, if everyone were a hero, that would sort of render them moot, wouldn’t it?) 
Are we born to be heroes? Or are they created by fate and circumstance? (It’s one thing to say you’d dash into the blazing inferno/leap in front of a speeding train/lead a protest march/face the neighborhood bully... and another thing, entirely, to actually do it.) Most of us probably won't ever know... and that's, perhaps, as it should be. Super or not, I think we can only handle so many heroes.


Anyway, next up... a review about a book about a hero--a reluctant one, at that.


(Oh, and in the meantime? You can find me listening to a certain Bonnie Tyler song, over and over again...)