ONE evening a few weeks back, I heard Alan call out “Hey Paul, come see. Your Liz is on TV again!” I dropped what I was doing and sprinted in to catch a glimpse. “Never a dull moment with that one,” I mused of the one-of-a-kind Liz Schwartz, whom I felt so privileged to have served as a mentor in the practice of Law, aspiring to help and teach her as the extraordinary Richard Milstein had, me. “Never has been.” As I entered the room, Alan turned to me quizzically. “I’ll be damned,” I said out loud, “the time has come.” I saw in an instant that Liz had made the fateful decision to share her true identity with the world, at last. Alan nodded slowly, in so innocent and solemn a manner I found it endearing. A moment later, more or less thinking out loud, he asked “Damn, how many times is that girl going to come out?” Standing momentarily transfixed in the glow of the TV screen, I replied slowly, “As many times as it will take, I guess.”
“As many times as it will take.”
IT seems our unfortunate lot to live in the “Post-Hero Age.” When was the last time you can remember hearing anyone speak of having a hero, of any kind, in a tone of sincerity and/or gratitude? For a number of reasons, it’s just not cool. “Heroes” can fall off their pedestals and break your heart on the way down; there’s no such thing in the real world, so what’s the point of telling fairy tales, & etc. The path of cynicism might be cold, barren, and bleak, but it is safe. (And, guaranteed to be cool.) This is what we are teaching our children, through lessons both spoken and learned in the living. And you may rest assured they are always listening, quite carefully, even if busily pretending they’re not, at all.
Why? Because there is something in the Human heart, deeper by far than reason, quite willing to await as long as it takes (and even unto eternity) the glorious hour of the hero’s promised arrival, at last! It may be a need neglected, but remains one that we all share. And it is a noble impulse. How are we to step forward into a world brighter and greater, less mean and more just and kind, without allowing ourselves even occasional glimpses of living inspiration?
In this respect we have forgotten something fundamental: that “Heroism” is much less about “projecting our gold onto others,” and giving our power away, than it is celebrating the best in ourselves by recognizing in others the qualities we admire—something closer to whomever it is that we might like to be—and borrowing from them both inspiration and courage to act. To be a little bigger and bolder, so that you can step into that bigger world, waiting.
I see heroes all around and often, where many will simply pass them by exactly as if invisible, because I know that among the very greatest are those often least celebrated. For example: those who awake to yet another cold morning, exhausted and very near despair, able to imagine no possible way that they will be able to “pull it all off” yet again, and do all that may be expected of them. To make it through another day.
And yet they get out of bed anyway, and put on their socks and underwear, or pantyhose, and they move forward. Surely the angels themselves must look down with humbled awe upon so great and powerful an everyday miracle. They would have to.
IF you have no heroes in your life, you really should consider finding some. It’s fine to start with just one. And if upon reflection it should dawn on you that any personal heroes brighten the days of your life, then for God’s sake, tell them! Quite possibly they have no idea, and may be feeling deeply lonesome inside, or believe they have nothing left to give. Go ahead. It will cost you nothing, and quite possibly leave you both refreshed and deeply enriched.