Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Concept of a Hero

The knight who rescues the princess from the clutches of the evil dragon, the volunteer who works all through the night to provide care to those who are suffering, the fireman who saves you from a burning building, the superhero who saves the day just in the nick of time; all of these can be considered heroes in their own right, but why?

The definition of a hero, according to dictionary.com is "a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities". While this is very true for most pre-modern heroes, does it hold true to the heroes of today? For the most part, yes it does. There are thousands of everyday heroes that put others before themselves with no hope of reward or recognition because it is the right thing to do. But (like everything else in life) there is a gray area that falls between the cracks.

What of the man who saves his friend from suicide
? Though he technically falls outside of the strict definition of a hero, he is considered one regardless. The man who anonymously donates a large amount of money to rebuild the church destroyed in an arson fire? He does it not for any recognition or reward (obviously), so is he considered a hero? Of course he is; one of the countless unknown heroes of our day. Popular media has done a surprisingly good job of portraying the modern hero through song, comic and show.

Take the song 'Hero' by Skillet for example. The lyrics show that a hero does not have to be the demigods of mythology or the superheroes of comics and television; a hero is one who is willing to show courage in the face of opposition and has the will to do what is right. He doesn't need the ability to move things with his mind or face down hoards of enemies willing to tear him limb from limb; he just needs the ability to stand up for what he believes and put the good of others before himself.

Take this photo as another example of this mentality; superman giving hugs to a line of people. Why is he doing this? What does he hope to gain from it? What does he hope it will do? The answers (respectively) are 'because he can', 'nothing' and 'make people forget about their insecurities and instill a sense of harmony'. Superman is considered by many to be the epitome of a hero, modern or ancient. He fulfills both the warrior-protector role of old and the modern savior that we all need at one time or another, as exemplified by this comic page.

This next set of comics are actual events that happened in China and each shows the sacrifice and determination of an individual to be save another's life at the expense or risk of their own. It shows how teachers, rescue workers and policemen can be real heroes. I'm not ashamed to admit that reading through these again has me on the edge of tears.

Why do they do this for us? Who do they risk their life and happiness for the ungrateful masses that want nothing more to see them as miserable as the rest of us? Do they do it out of some personal code or sense of righteousness? Unfortunately, I don't have an answer; but I do want to say one thing.

To all our everyday heroes: Thank you.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The 4chan post- Discuss

Recently I was browsing 4chan's infamous board (which can't be referred to by name) and came across an 'inspirational' thread. Now, I've been browsing many of the boards for a few years and have seen many things (some better left unseen), but one image caught my eye. While it was not necessarily 'inspirational' it did make me think.

"Since writing on toilet walls is done neither for critical acclaim, nor financial rewards, it is the purest form of art. -Discuss"

Ah, the 'discuss' topics; usually cancerous and troll-ridden, but this one I found to be enlightening. Why do people write on toilet walls, spray paint abandoned houses and bridges and carve questions into trees? Not the gang sigil and territorial markers but things that, when you look at them, make you think. That is because the traditional channels of expressing yourself have fail-safes.

Censors, even though they are seldom called that, still exist in this day and age operating through legal means and controlling what most people know. Media such as television, radios and the like are strictly regulated on what they can and cannot show or talk about. Newspapers, books and magazines all have editors who's job it is to weed out personal opinions, dangerous truths and unfavorable articles to keep readers entertained and (most importantly) continuing to buy their product.

And that's the problem with all of this. We are not a society driven to get the truth to the people; we do not care if the average person knows just how bad the local gang problem is, or what actually happened during the war; we've become a nation of pleasure-seekers who are happy to live (if you'll allow me the expression) in cubicles of our own making. We don't want the truth, we want a smooth polished lie that fits in with our notion of the world. We don't care what you actually know as long as you keep buying our paper, or watching our program, or reading our book, or whatever the product may be. And I know all of this because I fall into this category myself, but I know I have a cubicle in which I am confined.

Getting back to the point, the last bastion of freedom of information is the Internet; and this (above all else) is the most censored of all. Everything makes it's way to the internet at one point or another; everything from sport scores to the latest news to how to make a bomb to you and your significant other's amateur porno. One of the major problems of the internet... is that everything makes it's way to the internet at one point or another. With all of that information passing through daily, compounding upon itself in a horrifying amalgamation of pieced-together info, pictures, videos and all else. And, because of this, the internet has become the equivalent of a hell pit; millions upon millions of souls screaming out to whoever will listen, hoping that they'll be heard above the awful din.

Perhaps a better analogy is that of a spider's web. Each new page linking it to similar pages, crossing over and merging with others of its kind while spiders (such as Google and Yahoo) spawn hundreds of new strings each hour. With each of these new threads, thousands more fall into obscurity and disrepair; losing valuable information and replacing it with the newest 'thing'. That, along with moderators and administrators on every site available limit the already fragmented knowledge available.

So that leaves graffiti and other acts of 'defacing property'. The beauty of this form of expression is in its simplicity. These acts are meant to be attention-grabbing and are usually very hard to ignore. One example that comes to mind is that of the famous 'Good morning, Lemmings' picture. Imagine yourself as some stuck in that kind of traffic, able to see that message scrawled across the bridge as traffic is at a stop. At that point, you'd really start to think hard about your life and if anything you did was worth doing. As traffic crawled forward like a dying man towards an oasis you'd start to mourn all of the time you wasted working instead of living your life, but in this materialistic society our values have changed from 'people are important' to 'things are important'.

These acts cannot be ignored and the only way to moderate them is to destroy them entirely. They are put both in places that everyone can see and places that are meant to be stumbled upon. They range from personal messages to the world, to over-arching statement of worth and values, to a shining pearl of wisdom unmoderated by those who would want to keep it a secret.

Are they the truest form of art? Perhaps, perhaps not. Are they the truest form or knowledge unbound by fail-safes? That, I can agree with.