It was the coldest February I could remember. But there he was rolling up his sleeves and trying to enlighten over a hundred teenagers that taking responsibility was the key to freedom. My friend. My mentor. My hero.
It could be a teacher, a priest or a parent. Going through life, it is difficult to never find someone you admire, someone who inspires you, someone who helps you dig deeper and reach the next level. And yet we must kill them!
Heroes serve a very important function to our development as human beings. They help us to aspire to greater, nobler things. They hold us to a higher standard not with their words, only, but by their very being. They remind us we can be better, and that we ought to strive to be better.
But heroes are just as dangerous as they are inspirational.
It is easy to bask in the shadow of someone we admire; it is incredibly comfortable. As long as there are persons who take on the brunt of the task of doing the right thing, we can hide behind them. Sometimes this avoidance can be very subtle and we can mask it as faithulness or loyalty and so we spend years helping them yet at the same time avoiding the responsibilities we are more than capable of undertaking ourselves. We would rather play the part of the sidekick, safe in the knowledge that we are giving of ourselves, but just enough, never until hurts, never until we need to undertake self-growth in order to fulfill our roles better.
The second danger our heroes can pose is our tendency to see them as larger than life. We have this unreal expectation that our heroes act heroically continuously and consistently. Our imagination and fantasy seems to dictate that our heroes should be immune to the touches of human frailty and the innate hypocrisy we all seem to exhibit. And the moment the hero makes a mistake suddenly the wrath of heavens is unleashed upon them. How dare they destroy our fantasy that people can be perfectly consistent and fair and giving and caring… all the time. Suddenly the failure of our heroes seems to be the failure of the ideas and principles that they stood up for. Clearly an idea cannot be good if it is not perfectly attainable all the time, so we let ourselves go and we become cynical and jaded because our heroes did not live up to the narcissistic expectations we set upon them.
This why our heroes must die.
Heroes are like beacons during a storm. They themselves are not the dry land we so desperately seek throughout our tumultuous existence. They are a reminder that that land does exist. Even though we may have forgotten what it is like and uncertainty has become our continuous companion. Heroes remind us of deeper callings, of nobler endeavours, perhaps they remind us that in a cruel world the biggest act of rebellion is to have enduring hope. But they must not become a crutch or an escape from reality. If anything they are like a sign reminding us that though the journey is perilous we must leave the familiarity that engulfs us to deal with life as it is but with care and gentleness, even when currents point us towards another direction.
Let us therefore kill our heroes, so that we can become them.