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We Need a Hero

December 23, 2016

When I was an awkward, shy, home-schooled child, I loved to read. Reading gave me a chance to feel people out without actually having to put myself out in the world. Through stories, I had the opportunity to experience dealing with people and to learn how I should act in different situations. I need heroes to emulate because like most human beings, I learn by mimicry.

From infants, most of us learn how to function in society by mimicking those around us, especially our heroes like mom and dad or big brother. As we grow, that doesn’t really change. At 40 years old, I am still looking to my heroes to figure out how to be.

Human beings are mimickers and we need heroes to mimic, so the best way to communicate with a whole society on how you want them to behave is through a story that says: “This is what we want you to be. Emulate this hero.”

I am teaching Greek mythology right now. The Greeks used their stories to communicate their societal values. In “The Iliad” by Homer, Achilles is given the choice as a youth to live a long and happy life and end up forgotten or die young as a glorious hero who would be remembered forever. He chose the latter and this story communicated to ancient Greek’s that a hero’s death was preferable to a safe and comfortable life. This served them well because they produced strong fighters who conquered many countries. Achilles gave Greek’s a hero to emulate that furthered the needs of his society.

Achilles did not need to be an actual historical figure to affect the course of history. His story mattered more than reality because in his story, he could be the perfect and strong hero that the Greek’s needed. Real humans are fallible and therefore poor choices as heroes.

For example, I may look to Martin Luther King Jr. as a hero, but when I learn that he was an adulterer, this tarnishes his story and makes me less likely to want to mimic him. Every real human is tarnished and therefore, a real human is a poor choice as a hero to lead a society.

Our religions are built around stories and these stories do not need to be real. Indeed, religious scholars have professed that the societies that created our major world religions were far more concerned with telling a good story than actual, historical fact.

They were smart. The story is what changes the world, not the reality.

Emulating a hero is ingrained in our DNA. Jesus understood this and told many stories as his way to communicate the principles he came to teach. He was more than a story teller though. He was THE story.  His life story  has been extremely powerful in affecting our current society because he is the perfect hero.

Jesus is without blemish, so he is a hero that we can emulate without fear that we will find a fault. A fault would make him an undesirable hero, and in order for him to be perfect, there has to be a supernatural element because no human being is without fault. He is the poor, farm boy who we find is really a prince and he rides off on his donkey to slay the devil and save his beloved. He is the ultimate hero of sacrificial love and sets a precedent for a whole society to imitate his example and lay down their lives for each other.

His story was and is good news to so many people. However, like anything that has the power to control a society, people have sought to taint the most beautiful of stories for their own gain. And misusing his story has caused many problems.

A society functions well under one common story and that is where religion has served us well, and this religion does not have to be Christianity. The common hero can be Mohammad, Buddha, or Krishna. It doesn’t matter all that much. But a common hero means the society is working together to promote the same values.

In the United States of America, we have moved past a common religion. As I evaluate the need for a common hero, I see how this may have weakened our society because we are left floundering, searching for someone to show us how to be. Currently, the people we see the most become our heroes. We emulate the people that have the most air time. Popularity has become the gauge for deciding what we should be.

We know the Kardashians. We know Donald Trump. We know Kanye. These people are in front of us more than others and so we see them as the goal. They have become our heroes because we have chosen popularity over what is best for our society.

In losing a common hero, we have adopted sub par replacements and our society will mimic these people. You are choosing now, with your clicks, who your children will become.

Please, choose more wisely.

Because here is the deal, if we do not choose a hero that we can all agree on, a tyrant will come in and choose it for us. History shows that the conquering army conquers with more than a sword; they conquer with a story. The Romans used Jesus’s story; the Moors used Mohammad’s. To conquer a society fully, you have to give them a story to agree on and you have to remove their old story. The story is where the power is. The story is enough to cause a revolution and give people the motivation to sacrifice even their lives for a something bigger. Even in our own country, we knew that when we took over our land from the Native Americans, we, white Christians,  had to destroy their stories and convert them to ours or we would not be able to stop them.  We were stronger in numbers and weapons but yet, we still knew that we needed to remove their gods and heroes to bring them to a state of submission.

Military power is not enough to conquer. You must change the story.

We are changing our own story with our clicks without a full understanding of what we are doing and our obsession with viral stars has caused a serious problem. We are destroying our own myth of being a strong and heroic country. The symptom of this rapid weakening is that that we choose popularity over nobility in our leadership.

In the past election, we were given the choice between two characters lacking in heroic qualities; before the votes were even cast, we lost a huge battle for the good of our society by not providing people who could even feign heroism to the masses who desperately need someone to mimic.

This conundrum let to the election of Donald Trump as president, and that will weaken our society more than you know. We did not need to choose an actual perfect person, as this is impossible due to the fallibility of humans,  but we did need to have someone who could pull off the appearance of heroism. We do not have that in Trump. Our story is weakened now and that is the beginning of the end of our society.

We can find common ground as a mixing pot of religions and cultures. We can decide together what we will mimic, but we must be conscious of our choices in order to choose our heroes and keep a stronger society with a better story from overtaking ours. With each click, with each article you share, consider that you are participating in your culture’s story and setting the plotline for your children. Going viral cannot be our culture’s ultimate goal.

We can and must do better.

So choose heroes in your daily life. Follow a faith. Read tales with morals to your kids. Seek out people that make the world a better place and then copy them. Mimicry is not a bad thing. We will all seek to mimic, but our free will gives us the choice on who we imitate.

Choose well!









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