On Heroes

I WAS CONSIDERING THIS subject recently after reading the question on an internet forum, ‘Do we live in an unheroic age?’. In answering this, I suppose it all depends to some degree on your conception of what constitutes a hero. Acts of bravery, selflessness, possessing a special talent etc. Maybe manning a lifeboat, fighting for a just cause or quietly going about the business of being an unsung hero, helping others.


‘Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished’ – Madiba

In a looser sense, where we might think in terms of simple admiration, I have many ‘heroes’ if you may term them that way. Sporting heroes such as dynamic Scottish football legend, Denis Law, Canadian, Terry Fox and his beautiful and heart-rending ‘Marathon of Hope’ and Finnish middle distance running phenomenon, Lasse Viren. Then there are the musicians, the likes of Otis Redding, Peter Green and so on. There are revered literary figures to me too such as Oscar Wilde, Dylan Thomas and Byron and perhaps most significantly, the inspirational figures that, in my belief, are/were an unstoppable force for good, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King Jr. but then we’re moving into a different area in my humble opinion, that of sainthood.

It is interesting to note that some of these people and examples no longer walk among us – but that their legacy lives with us and affects our lives. Perhaps that legendary eminence is part of the necessary make-up of a ‘hero’, I’m really not sure.

For me personally though, my real heroes were my mother and father. For their selflessness, courage, principled ways and strength in what were at times life threatening situations in their own acutely difficult situations at times in their years. In addition, for all the lessons in life they taught me which were many.

I’m going to suggest that there are countless other mothers and fathers out there all over the world, doing the same for their children, every day, doing those things for their children out of selfless and pure love.

For that reason alone, yes, for me, we still do live in heroic times.

8 thoughts on “On Heroes”

  1. Interesting thoughts Stu, and like you I agree that it is the everyday dedication and selflessness of many ordinary people that is the true heroism we ought to acknowledge. Scarcely any of the celebrities, pop stars, artists, sports people or politicians feted as ‘heroes’ by sometimes millions of people are deserving of the adulation they receive.

    I’ve never been one for heroes myself. There are many artists and sportsmen I admire, even some politicians, but hero-worship has always had connotations of disproportionate and unconditional obsession about it for me. No one is incapable of falling off a pedestal, so best not to put them up there in the first place. Hero worship tends to impair your critical faculties and it is always dangerous in my view to put anyone or anything beyond fair criticism. It becomes a kind of blind faith, a fundamentalist religion almost, and you can see where that kind of thinking gets you these days.

    This is essentially what Thomas Carlyle said in ‘On Heroes, Hero Worship and the Heroic in History’ – the hero should be the object of worship and the centre of a religion of humanity as “the only divinity we can know”. Nietzsche picked up on Carlyle’s ideas, developed his philosophy of the superman, and thereby inspired the most evil, perverted and destructive regime of the 20th century. That’s where the veneration of heroes gets you – Auschwitz.

  2. Thought provoking piece Stuart. There was an ad. about 15 years ago that said ‘Do something every day that scares you’. I remember thinking that there are many folk that show bravery every day in getting up and living their lives. That’s where heroism lies. In every day loving and holding an open heart. Bless the souls that do that. For me the flip side of love is not hate, it’s fear. To face fear and flow love daily is heroic. I agree with you on sainthood thought. x

  3. Those are interesting thoughts, Jane. I’m not sure about you, I do things that scare me a little all the time! I however, do them anyway. I think true heroism, as you say, comes from fairly ‘ordinary’ sources.

  4. Fraser, I wouldn’t argue with anything you say there and I think we can all see the inherent dangers in blind fanaticism towards anything. I do agree that ‘admirer’ is a much more suitable and rounded word and one which has much more positive connotations and associations.

  5. Yes Stuart, the older I get the more I feel that joy, happiness and anything deeply felt comes through simplicity. I gather my courage each day as I log on for work. There is never a hint about what situations will flow our way each day…permanently braced for anything! That’s scary in itself isn’t it? Love and humour are a salve for most things. Hugs x

  6. Yes indeed, that feeling though makes you feel alive and also relevant in some ways. To take on those challenges and to overcome them brings meaning to one’s life.

  7. All anyone seeks is a sense of purpose and self worth don’t they? That can get very messy!!

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