We are in a precarious and unpredictable world. We are asking ourselves if we can trust each other, trust ourselves and asking if we can trust that the world to which we are all contributing will ultimately be safe enough (politically, strategically and environmentally) for us to actually survive. What do laws mean if no one follows them? What does faith mean if no one has it? If you think about it, a lot of these kinds of questions have been answered in the past by the basic human nature of having heroes. Those people our societies have held aloft as the representatives of the ideals and concepts that we collectively hold to be most admirable: the ability to overcome adversity; strength of convictions; pure talent; the embodiment of beauty, etc.
What a week for heroes. Lance Armstrong, like him or not, was one of our heroes. He knowingly took those ideals of ours and consciously manipulated his world so that he appeared to be in that model of human nobility and perfection. We can’t ask why. We want to judge someone who takes our idea of hero and turns it into a self serving opportunity. We want to have some kind of compensation for being duped. But we must be better than that. He has to answer to himself and that will be the challenge and shame he carries for the rest of his life. No book deal, no future achievement of any kind can diminish the torture that he will carry to his grave and the torture carried by those directly affected by him. It is its own punishment. But it is a situation that leaves us wondering what was it that let us believe that he was a hero if he really wasn’t one? With the multitude of people who surrounded him who knew what was going on (I had actually heard about his methods in sports circles and have heard for years through people who have known him that he is a dirty competitor), why did we let ourselves believe that he was more than the “emperor with new clothes?”
And then you have Barack Obama; sworn in for a 2nd term as the 44th President of the United States; galvanizing the country toward stricter gun laws, immigration reform and even the possibility of marriage equality. Standing tall and proud as a man of color and the winner in a game that has been dominated by an elite white male establishment for more than 200 years. Now, if you’ve read any of my previous posts, you know that I am a big Obama supporter, but I would claim that as a hero and on a certain level, Barack Obama in triumph is really no greater or less than Lance Armstrong in disgrace. Obama is a politician. He has played a system (American politics), and worked the process and used the resources available to him no less than any competitive cyclist from the Armstrong era, except the stadium in which Obama is playing expects you to use political transfusions and creative medicine marketing to get your outcome. By all means, I do not want to call the legitimacy of Obama’s re-election into question and if that is your rebuttal to this blog, I ask you to refrain from comment…that is not the point of this discussion. My point here is that we WANT heroes regardless of what form they present themselves. We WANT to believe that there are just some people on this planet who “play the game” who are gifted; not just lucky, but gifted, whether that be in ability or opportunity or vision or divine inspiration.
Oddly enough, we have these heroes around us all the time. And among those heroes are some Barack Obamas and some Lance Armstrongs. There are some who are definitely playing a game, but it is a game in which we are willing to accept (for now) the twisted rhetoric and conflict between noble aspirations and back room deals. And on the other hand, there are some who are creating their own playing field and using the good faith of those around them for their own opportunistic desires. Yet, for that moment while we accept all of our heroes as the beacon in the distance, we find guidance and inspiration in who they show themselves to be with us. We WANT heroes.
So what is this about? We see heroes around us every day. We are inspired and we inspire others. I am always blown away by the e-mails I receive from total strangers who see the P90X videos and thank me…I am honored to have played the hero (even if it meant someone was cursing me under their breath)…but I certainly didn’t set out to be a hero. I just did a job that was asked of me, to the best of my ability according to my upbringing, training and education. We all have these opportunities to inspire. I have received some of the most truly heroic encouragement in my journey toward ministry, toward physical self acceptance, toward love…and these heroes may not realize the strength of that lifeline they cast my way. I believe that the first place to look for our heroes must be within ourselves. We can only be absolutely sure of the integrity that we bring ourselves. We cannot hold anyone else to our standard, but rather we must set an example. If we bring our best selves to every endeavor, we will fill the role of hero for someone. Even if it is fleeting, and even if we are actually more Armstrong than Obama, we must first answer to ourselves and if we are spiritual, to our faith center. From there, integrity, hope and aspiration to a higher ideal can spread to others. THIS makes a better world. Remember the real hero is within.
To all of my heroes, thank you. You are with me every day and I love you all.
Dedicated to my mother, Edwina Weston-Dyer (1932-2012)
3 thoughts on “Hero”
Nice work, Adam. I like the comparisons of the disgraced -vs- the graced. The only thing you left out, given your photo, was the funny controversy about Subway’s “foot longs” measuring out at 11″ 🙂
Thanks Michael! I’m glad you appreciated the comparison. I am going to be posting more regularly so look for something later this week! 🙂
Sweet condolences to you about your Mom too, Adam. Great people leave great holes in our lives. I’m sure she is still super proud of you and the work you will do in the world. You and Nica are some of the exciting stars of my vision of the future of UU. I believe The Universe calls you both. I believe that UU could be one of the major churches in America in our lifetime. With new UU ministers in training focusing on areas that have not been our strengths in the past (emotional/psychological intelligence, kinesthetic awareness/intelligence, passionate heart and body services and much more!) I think we can find our own, very unique brand of tolerant, compassionate evangelism that does more than “just” intellectually and socially inspires people. You seminarians inspire me. 🙂