'Who Is A Hero?'
Success is counted sweetest
By those who never succeed
-- Emily Dickinson
Whenever I ask my students to write about their favourite hero, most of them will write about Batman, Spiderman or others like them. Heroes endowed with super powers, conforming to the image the media wants to portray. Children look up to them hoping to be like them, dreaming of the day when something remarkable will happen in their lives.
Yet out of the many essays, there are one or two children who do not have the tall, muscular, super powered heroes in their minds. They write about ordinary people--people like their father or mother who have made a difference in their lives. It makes me wonder if adults, like children, need in this chaotic and ruthless world---heroes.
Childhood seems much too short for an adult. They can't help but look back and wonder what happened to those days when they would sit and play with the figures of their superhero; dreaming of making a difference in the world. Many of us were told by loved ones, we were and are special; why perhaps we still don't know. We like to hold on to the belief that at least when our mother or father or teacher or sibling had told us we were special, they meant it. It makes the pain of loss, failure and inability to reach our goals so much more bearable.
Heroes do not necessarily have to be the super heroes in comic books who have extraordinary powers.
My question to you is who is, your hero? For an adult this seems to be a silly question, lacking any depth or seriousness. But, taking away time from our hectic schedule, if we sit quietly and think, the answers we come up with might enlighten us. Not because of some baseness to the answer, but because the answer might be so simple. Too simple for us to fathom in this complex structure that we have built around us.
A hero for an adult can be the peer who warns him that he has made a mistake and should correct it. A hero can be the person who sees a child and mother and offers them a seat in a crowded bus. It can be the average looking man crossing the road, getting drenched in the rain, in search of a gift for his child. It may be the mother who works full time, comes home exhausted and still plays with her child; brushing away her fatigue with a smile. A hero can be the father who travels great distances for his work and still comes home everyday with a small token for his child and wife. A hero can be a friend who helps another find a job, or helps with next month's rent. The doctor who is still able to be compassionate and feels a squeeze inside every time he cannot cure a patient is a hero. The teacher who takes extra care to prepare her lessons for her students is a hero. Heroes are anonymous faces, too many to be remembered, filled with sweat and labour building, cleaning, fixing for the affluent, not expecting gratitude in return, not expecting any appreciation for their toil. Heroes are those who like the poet Emily Dickinson says, never give up. They challenge adversity and meet it head on. They do not expect a rosy life, but face up to the cruel fact that life for some are meant to be difficult. We can become our own heroes by emerging through this tangled web we call life or we can sit back and let it get the better of us.
The term hero is unusual in its simplicity; yet complex in the expectations we have from it. Life we have all heard is meant to be difficult and to hold on to the belief that there is a hero gives us hope that in this frigid world, perhaps there is one person waiting to be there for us.
In the busy streets of cities, the faces are countless, each losing their texture, colouring and identity. We pass each other, ignoring the other, scared of any form of contact. Not wanting to look or stare; incapable of reaching the other at even a human level. Perhaps in our search for perfection and pressure to conform to society's expectations we have forgotten we are God's supreme creation. We are unable to touch one another or help each other; anyone who breaks convention and wants to help must have their own agenda. This is what we have become. No longer worthy of being called God's greatest creations, we advocate beauty on the outside, cold cash, materialistic achievements, misguided pride and misbehaviour. Parents no longer teach their children the importance of self-respect and principles, for what is it worth in this world of cynics? No longer do we have room for the educated or the intelligent. We have no time to read Shakespeare or Hardy or Nazrul to our child. We want to boast and indulge in our arrogance, not realising that our time is so little and so precious. Indeed we are in dire need of heroes.
'I am--yet what I am, none care or knows/ My friends forsake me like a memory lost.'--John Clare
As time has passed and the years have added their experiences on me. I have realised that I will only be a passing thought for those who never really knew me. But my deeds though small, perhaps will speak on my behalf and tell this world there was once she who did so and so. Perhaps that is why heroes appeal to us, for the deeds speak for themselves and outlive the person. No matter who we are, we always long for a hero amidst us, someone who will stand for all that we would like to believe in. But I have realised that heroes are anything but super. They are everyday people with their sunken eyes and worn faces who hold our hands and guide us, whispering not to give up, pleading for us to understand that life is a cycle, the injustice done today will be punished tomorrow, reminding us a higher power is watching and perhaps testing us.
Even I, as a pessimist, believe in everyday heroes. The hardest part however is not looking for a hero; but being one. I have realised that I would like my daughter to have heroes that she can look up to. The realisation that my husband and I will perhaps play a major role as heroes in her life, makes it that much more difficult. We as humans have the choices and the chances to be hero-like for many; especially for the future generation. The irony of that is we have no super powers to help us, only experience, belief in the truth and knowledge from those before us.
Believing in the truth and holding on to our principles comes at a great cost. A true hero is able to give up the comforts of acceptance and fame for doing the right thing. That is what we also need to do--rise above the wrongs and protest against it; even if the cost is dear to us. I would like to hold on to the belief that is for a better tomorrow and a clearer conscience. For now all we can do is try to make some sort of a difference especially in the lives of the ones we love, to follow our beliefs and to help others who are more unfortunate than us. Heroes do not have to fight nine-headed monsters or fling laser blasts at their opponent, a hero can be an average person just like you and me.
Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2007