I need a hero, don’t you? My mythology class has been introducing me to some cultural heroes who I wasn’t completely aware existed. Our understanding of heroes has changed, especially since the tragedy of 9/11 and the response to the attacks on the Twin Towers.
We discuss the academic understanding of the hero’s journey and the call to adventure that each hero must accept in order to be considered. But what is most intriguing about our modern understanding of a hero is the evolution from divine to mortal heroes.
Many of our modern heroes are perfectly human in their imperfections but cast a large shadow over the society they feel compelled to protect. The hero in a teen's life isn’t always from stories of Zeus or Apollo or even knights in shining armor. Today, a hero can be someone as humble as a firefighter or a teacher.
What hasn’t changed about our fascination with and need for heroes are the many reasons we gravitate toward those who reflect our best nature. The world can be, and is, a cruel place, and circumstances can make the average person feel like they have no chance at all. In steps the hero who makes a difference and challenges us out of our melancholy stupor.
What makes a hero today is the willingness to put aside their selfish desires for the sake of responsibility. This is not a popular cultural attitude, and it is perhaps why we flock to see movies about soldiers and superheroes willing to give up their selfishness in the pursuit of a higher calling.
The need for someone to look up to hasn’t changed since the dawn of recorded history. The hero is not detracted from the ultimate goal of helping mankind endure the onslaught of reality.
Goodness knows, we all need a hero, and I’m glad we still have people willing to sacrifice. It reveals the best part of our nature.
At least that’s what I think.