We Can Be Heroes
First David Bowie and now Prince. Both, on an artistic and even personal level, have been hard for me to accept. My reactions on social media have been plentiful, probably to the annoyance of some. Both of them were heroes to me. They pushed the boundaries of music, gender and art. Both did their part to change the world. They helped to shape my life. They were so strange to me. They dressed differently. They got on stage in a swirl of color, makeup and lights – full of sound and fury and signifying – so much – change, art, je ne sais quois. That’s what was so magnificent. They cultivated their art through hard work, dedication, discipline and passion. This is what kind of person I wanted to be, what I wanted to give back to the world in my own way.
After each of these larger-than-life musicians died, after I declared each one a hero of mine, I was met with some who seemed offended by that. “You can’t have heroes like that,” they said. “My heroes are what REAL heroes are.”
The Oxford English Dictionary, if you want to get pedantic, defines a hero as someone with super-human strength, courage and ability. Someone who is distinguished for courageous acts. Someone generally admired for qualities or achievements in any field.
Does immediate life or death have to be on the line for someone to be seen as courageous? Most of us have social fears. Most of us adhere to rules and social boundaries regardless of whether or not the boundaries make any sense or are of no immediate danger to us.
I, for one, am glad for folks who pushed past those rules and changed life for the better. As a woman, life would be much more unhappy for me if it wasn’t for the courageous women who tore through boundaries of gender and caste-like roles.
When someone, particularly an artist, pushes through a boundary, he or she forces us to see the world a little differently. In those cases, this person has a sort of “super-human strength.” They hold in their guitar-laden hands the ability to change how we perceive the world and thereby how we think about the world as we move through our lives.
In the cases of David Bowie and Prince, both chose to dedicate their lives to giving this sort of sight to the world. To me, these men were heroes. Were they perfect? Far from it. But that’s okay. If they were perfect, they would be divine and changing the world would have been easy. No, they were human, imperfect, and they made poor choices at times. But they moved forward and broke the mold. These are heroes to me.
Heroes come in all shapes, sizes and backgrounds. One person’s hero may not be that to another person. And that’s okay. We don’t have to have the same heroes. But as long as we have heroes, as long as we look up to others for ideas and motivation, then we all have a little more power to be heroes ourselves.