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.

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