Do we need Heroes?

We have this funny little word in the English language. You’ve probably heard it before;it’s rather commonplace. The word I’m thinking of is: “Hero.” Now, sure, if you really wanted to you could go to a dictionary and look up good ole’ Merriam Websters definition, but hold on for just a second. The English language is a gelatinous blob of ever evolving words. With that in mind, one could argue that using the textbook definition of “Hero” is as antiquated as watching black and white television, or riding dinosaurs.

Since the birth of literature various authors offer archetypes of heroic characters. Now maybe you agree with Homer and look to fan favorite Odysseus as your heroic holotype. Or perhaps you look to the comics and find reassurance in dreamy superheroes.  Yet heroism is more personal than that. In a recent IDEAS seminar this topic came up and I sat and watched as seemingly the vast majority of the room seemed to dethrone someone I’d consider to be a hero. Now there is nothing wrong with this, it was just the slap to the face that I needed to realize just how open ended and opinion based the hero concept is.

This unmodified picture is from:
This unmodified picture is from:

I also found myself fascinated by the realization that for centuries literature has been focused on hero archetypes. While lost in this thought, Professor Best asked the question “Do we need Heroes?” and I’ve found myself pondering this. At first reaction, in humanistic spite I thought “No, of course not” letting the bravado I’ve let build up surrounding my faith in humans comfort me. Yet, as time passed I began to realize that the word “hero” and the concept itself is a human constructed entity. We didn’t need to develop the word, we didn’t need to let it become the focal point of our fantasies (at least, every young boys’ fantasy), yet it did. Maybe we don’t need heroes in the physical sense, but to me, it seems that we need the concept of heroes the same way we need faith.


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