On Heroes, Hope, and The Cold, Hard Truth

So Lance Armstrong really is a cheater. Is anyone really surprised? His is just another in the long line of stories about characters who have been built up to mythical status, only to prove that he’s only human, after all.

Such is the nature of hero worship. We find characters that we look up to, admire, aspire to be like, or just to give us hope and faith that there are real heroes out there. In reality, those figures are no less human than the rest of us – only their accomplishments, and failures, seem so much bigger.

I’ve been more than guilty of putting faith in such false prophets. I was one of those boys lacking in positive male role models who sought out someone to trust and look up to. Someone who’d give me hope and protection, or someone who would teach me how to be truly special, so I could gain the admiration and respect of others, which might make me feel worthwhile.

But the more you believe in someone, the more potential they have to let you down. The more blind faith you put in a figure because of some perceived greatness, the more likely they are to eventually expose their true flaws, and remind you that we’re all human, with the potential to screw up. Badly.

Still, much like many of Lance’s faithful followers, I continue to look for heroes, always knowing that I’m probably setting myself up for a fall.

Musicians make especially easy heroes for me. They have so much power in their words and their presence. They tell these stories and move me with their melodies. They do something that I can’t do, but that speaks directly to me, and often for me. I respect that, admire that, and really appreciate that. I put them up on these pedestals, only to often find out that they’re addicts, cheaters, liars, or thieves.

Just ask Kasey Anderson, he seems to be all of the above. He’s someone that I discovered recently, and really enjoyed finding. He seemed like one of those hidden gems, with a huge pile of great songs, and a great story (or so it seemed.) After being introduced to the music, I had to send him words of appreciation, and some money. I had to tell everyone else about him, as well. Eventually, his perceived star-status started to unravel, when the CDs that I ordered never arrived. I soon found out that many others had the same story. Then I read an article about him, and found out the full story.

Outside of music, I also look for goodness in others, because I want to know that goodness is out there. Sometimes, this world seems so messed up that goodness is hard to find. I want to know that there are kind, generous, selfless people out there who can help fix the mess that we’ve created. There has to be a remedy for the darkness that surrounds us.

I try to be kind and generous. I try to put the needs of others ahead of myself. I try to make people happy, help out, and make life easier for others. So I look for those things in other people. When I find people who seem to care about others and seem to work at caring, giving, and making people happy, I’m drawn to them. Maybe that’s why I became a teacher – who’s supposed to be more caring, giving, more heroic than a teacher?

Actually, teachers are a great example, because we spend all day trying to appear knowledgeable, trying to motivate, trying to guide, when in actuality, many of us spend most of our “free” time on the Internet looking for information and ideas, which we can pass off as our own. All day, we put on masks and try to be something strong and positive for the benefit of our students. What we hope our students don’t find out is that after hours, some teachers are truly selfish, dirty, even hedonistic people.

So in reality, we, like many musicians, athletes, and role models are just trying to do our best, while continually failing and falling short. It’s the people that we build up the highest that cause the biggest disappointment when they reveal their true humanity.

Perhaps the answer is not to have heroes. Perhaps we should see everybody as flawed and real. Perhaps the answer is to assume that our heroes are doing bad things when nobody’s watching. After all, I’ve heard some pretty crazy stories about seemingly wholesome athletes and children’s entertainers.

But not having heroes takes away so much hope, so much excitement, so much fun. It’s nice to think that there are super-human figures out there who could save us all, even if we one day have to come to realize the truth.

I’ve looked up to athletes, musicians, men and women I’ve befriended, and time and sure, time and again they’ve turned out to not be what I wanted to believe. But at least, for a time, they gave me hope, happiness, and something to help get me through. People close to me have given me money, gifts, support, encouragement, love, and I’m grateful, even if some of them later turned out to not have my best interests in mind. Kasey and so many others gave me an escape, a thrill, emotional fulfillment, even if he’s troubled and flawed. Lance raised a hell of a lot of money for cancer research and support, and his legendary athletic achievements gave us someone to admire and be amazed by, even if he had to cheat to do it.

Let’s focus on the good things, and not lose hope that heroes do exist, but not be too surprised or upset when we learn that things aren’t quite what they seem.


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