First of all, listen to it here!
Hello everyone, welcome to the third episode of the Gears, Nails and Chewing Gum podcast, where I, Ben Wahrman, ramble about a random topic for about a half hour and then trail off whenever I run out of breath or thoughts, whichever comes first. I'm trying something a bit different this time around, mainly to better formulate exactly what I want this podcast to be. Namely, I'm actually writing this podcast out in a script format before I record it.
The whole idea behind the name of the site, Gears Nails and Chewing Gum, is a collection of random things, bits and pieces that someone might use to put things together and make them work to a variety of degrees of success or efficiency. Think of a kid from the 1950s with a box car they're building with whatever they have on hand. That's what I'm doing with this podcast, and with my website as a whole.
So what am I going to talk about? And am I going to keep being introspective and thoughtful, am I going to tackle a topic, or am I just going to do whatever I feel like in a given week? I guess for right now I'm still trying to figure that out. I have thoughts about a lot of things, but I'm not any sort of authority on any subject, not by virtue of experience or study. So I'm just going to toss my thoughts out here and see where they take me. Maybe I hit on a topic that I want to expand on, maybe I don't.
Hence, what I'm talking about today is going to be something that's been on my mind a bunch recently: why I don't have a hero. It's a common thread, the sort of grade-school question that people get asked all the time, who their hero is. Who is the person they most admire, they most look up to, who the try to emulate in their actions, speech or philosophy? Who do they idolize?
There's a lot of answers to this, of course. Some people idolize "real" people, actors, athletes, famous scientists and so on. Other people, especially people of my generation, latch onto fictional characters, comic book superheroes, characters from movies, characters from books, audio plays or even stage productions.
There's something within human nature itself that seems to latch onto something outside of ourselves to serve as inspiration. We idolize things that we strive to be. More than just being a pop culture thing, it's also at the heart of a lot of religions. Some have a single person's higher example to try and look toward, others have more general principles of Holy Law. I myself am a Christian, which has a sort of balance of both depending on if you lean more on the Old Testament or the New.
So why don't I have an idol?
As a Christian, there's a sort of expectation that Jesus is your idol. That it's His example that informs what you do and how you think. It's the sort of Sunday School answer that you hear a homeschool kid give in their application to a private college. What Would Jesus Do was a thing that people wore around their wrists for a good chunk of time that was sort of born out of that.
But I don't know if that's true for me. The examples that Jesus set in the Bible are important to me, for sure. But I find it overwhelming a bit to try and assume that an entire person's life should serve as the model for my life. I don't want to try and emulate every little thing that someone else did, whether that's from the Bible or elsewhere. That's exhausting, and inevitably, it's also discouraging.
Here's the thing about heroes. Unless the hero that you have is a mythical super being that is entirely perfect in every way, that hero isn't perfect. Heroes have flaws because heroes are people, either because they're actually living, breathing walking around one-pant-leg-at-a-time people, or because they're a fictional character that one of those living people created and instilled with flaws, either purposefully or subconsciously.
So we aren't supposed to emulate our heroes, then, right? Well, yes and no. I think of heroes, or at least the people that I would put into my personal heroic category, as people that demonstrate the most admirable qualities that humanity can demonstrate in spite of their flaws. If someone manages to model compassion, trust, love or empathy, if they overcome their own flaws and strive to do better, to lift others up in lieu of themselves, that's worth emulation. That's worthy of a hero.
So why don't I have a hero? Isn't there someone who embodies those sorts of qualities to the degree that I feel comfortable calling them my hero? Not really, no. There are plenty of people who I find admirable in a variety of ways. But admiring someone and worshiping them as a hero are far from the same thing. I admire people for a lot of things more than just certain personal qualities or actions. I admire artistic skill, I admire profession dedication, I admire the sort of raw stick-to-it-ivness that keeps someone going even when it seems like the whole world is against them. But I wouldn't call someone who embodies these sorts of things my hero.
Because here's the thing. Sometimes you put your faith in a hero who winds up letting you down. Sometimes it turns out that actor or comedian has used their money and influence to hide some incredibly depraved things behind closed doors. Sometimes that athlete starts to espouse an alternative medicine theory that threatens to tear his team apart in favor of boosting his own star higher. Sometimes you read a new article or book and realize that historical figure you'd looked up to had a dark side that had been sanitized out of the history you learned in school. Sometimes the creative minds behind a fictional character cause the character to make stupid, even asinine decisions for the sake of whatever daft story they want to tell.
That's why I don't have heroes. I know better. People can be good, they can even be admirable. But they'll never be perfect. Maybe it's the cynic in me, but I don't ever try to put all of my emotional eggs into one basket. Because when the inevitable disappointment arrives, I'm just disappointed rather than crushed. And the even more paradoxical thing is that people can have admirable qualities to them as well as terrible qualities. It's such a mixed thing.
Yet, at the same time as I withdraw from fully committing to someone as a "hero" of mine, I also can't fully withdraw to the fully cynic's position and forgo any sort of admiration or appreciation of anyone, fictional or real. Like I said, it's human nature to try and find someone or something to look up to. I find parts of myself drawn toward the better parts of people as a sort of self-defense against the bitterness and cynicism that might otherwise overwhelm my perspective on life. I look for these sorts of refuges much more actively now that I'm older than when I was the sort of age when you typically have a hero, ports where I can weather the storm of life for just a bit.
So while I don't idolize a person, I do my best to look for the admirable parts of them, of who they are or how they conduct themselves. I look for lessons that they learn or teach that I can apply to my own life to become a better person in the long run. And I look for joy and fun in places where it can be far too easy to see nothing but overwhelming darkness and depressing things. Like the internet. But, that's the topic of another podcast entirely.
That's pretty much all I have to say, so I'll wrap things up by saying that, if this goes well, I'll probably be posting both the episode itself to Soundcloud as usual, and the transcript of the episode itself to the actual website so you can read along with me if you wanted to. If I'm happy with the results after listening back to this, I'll probably keep doing things this way moving forward, since an unscripted podcast with only one host is really kinda sad. My next podcast probably won't be this serious, but who knows, really? Just keep an eye on my Twitter @ Benergizer1 or the website gears nails and chewing gum dot com to see when the next episodes might pop unexpectedly to life. I hope you'll join me then as well. Thanks for listening.