I love a good story. I have a list of favorite authors. I love the suspense, the details, the journey. So, why am I embittered when I hear of stories like Eat, Pray, Love?
This author, Elizabeth Gilbert, was first mentioned to me because a former colleague attended her lecture. I had no idea, until then, that this woman had written this incredibly popular book. What made me uneasy was the way my former colleague referenced Ms. Gilbert. This lady, who had, clearly, an incredibly life journey, and a fantastic story to tell, was put on a pedestal and idolized by a woman who I thought needed no idols.
I am not directly begrudging Ms. Gilbert’s journey. I love coming of age stories told no matter what the age of the subject. Life teaches us lessons everyday, and when we document those stories and retell them, beautiful things happen. Being able to learn form someones journey, what they did to overcome heartbreak, loneliness, and fear, these all make us stronger more intelligent creatures.
What I don’t like though, is the hero mentality. When I was in fourth grade, I couldn’t think of a hero when the steadfast assignment came up. I meekly mentioned my Aunt Susie because she was the only one I knew who directly worked for and continued to work for something outside herself, in the form of furthering her nursing education. I think the choice was fine, picking a family member, and now I see the relevance of the hard working ethic. But, what about sports players whom we’ve never met? Sure, they sometimes have incredibly hard-luck stories that show determination and guts that many of could only dream about. But, what have they really done for us on the non-celebrity level? Lots of people have hard-luck stories of determination, and they don’t make the headlines for a fabulous 3-pointer.
Shallow. That’s what bothers me about this hero mentality. This looking up to someone when we only know part of their story. Sure, it’d be a good yarn to spin, and sure they’ve overcome a lot – but who is really hero worthy? I guess I’m drawing the line at those who we know. Those who are in our inner-circles. Those folks whose stories we know and can retell. Those folks whose stories we understand because we know the hardships and struggles first hand. We know they are heroes because we’ve witnessed their courage, determination, and drive. A celebrity – we only know their story skin-deep. A celebrity, we only know about the struggles they are telling us. We only witness tabloid-stories outside of the ones the celebrity tells. Either picture isn’t complete. Either picture is from a far off land where we don’t need heroes.
I will watch the movie. I will likely read the book. I will enjoy the story told by the story tellers. But, I will not admire heroes who I do not know.