“Because you’re different.”
I hate this conversation. I’ve heard it a thousand times. And each time, I wonder if we’re looking for a savior or shirking our responsibilities.
While I continue to enjoy the superhero genre, I do think we need to be careful when addressing the “why” of it. Are we taking in these stories and enjoying them or gaining inspiration from them, or are we using them as an excuse?
There are many various reasons we love this genre — like how Avengers spoke to our desire to undo or prevent the events of 9/11, or how Superman is a savior figure. (It’s also interesting to consider the side of the supervillain. Do we really believe that evil is something unnatural? That it is beyond a human’s capability to produce such wretchedness?)
But are our wish-fulfillment fantasies and our escapism into the world of superheroes nothing more than ignoring society’s problems because we don’t feel up to the task? What if we stand by while our world erupts into chaos because we don’t feel “different” enough?
What if we don’t have wise mentors who will train us in order to perfectly combat the big bad in our lives? What if we don’t have superpowers? What if we don’t have a lot of money, time, or other resources? What if all we can do is take care of ourselves?
Most days, that’s what I feel like. I don’t feel “different”. I don’t feel “special”. I doubt whether I’ll ever have a platform from which to speak and impact the world for good. But that’s not what’s really important.
Heroes don’t have to be super. They don’t have to have powers.
Let me tell you about some of my heroes.
I have a friend who is a dragon of a person. She is fierce, wild, and passionate. She has been through multiple heartaches, but remains one of the strongest, compassionate people I know. Her courage (whether it’s asking for help or living as her true self) is inspiring, and whenever I need an extra boost, I wear the necklace she made me and remember that it doesn’t matter who believes in you (or who doesn’t) as long as you believe in yourself.
There’s another friend who left a full-time job in the city to go help her mother, now a widow, with the family farm. My friend still manages to find ways to practice her talent, including playing piano and directing choirs at several area churches and is this year taking part in a musical. Her beautiful voice is still being heard. When I need a reminder to speak up and stay focused on my dream, I think about her.
My late husband, S. Harlan Cone, was a hero to many. He was gentle and kind, always available for a midnight chat or a long hug if someone needed him. He was funny, able to cheer up anyone who was having a bad day. He was curious, childlike, able to articulate this wonder in his stories, which I hope someday will be told one way or another. Whenever I read his words, I am reminded that I am part of something bigger, and all I need to do to feel that is to reach out.
As citizens of this planet, I believe we all, in some capacity, can and should make this world a better place. For ourselves, and for future generations. Big actions don’t always make a lasting impact, and rarely can we band together long enough to produce one.
We can, however, strive to be our best selves, take care of those around us, and share whatever we’ve been given. Light up your place in the universe.
There aren’t any superheroes out there to save us. We’re going to have to be our own heroes.Image Credits: Pat Loika