We may enjoy make-believe heroes, but in real life we check for pedestal cracks. “No one is that virtuous or that unselfish,” we say. Often we size up individuals and assume they are too good to be true.
But, once upon a time, we loved heroes. We rode on their shoulders.
Today, I’m drifting into a past that gave the world quite a few good men: Paul Robson and Will Rogers, John XXIII and Daniel Berrigan, Bobby Kennedy and Archbishop Romero.
Closer to home were my brothers.
I love this shot of Michael and Alan, my childhood heroes.
Brother. St. Francis called Sun, Wind, and Fire his brothers. They brighten our days, clear the air, and play—nature’s Supermen before Clark Kent. In childhood, Michael’s advice kept me safe, and Alan’s humor kept me laughing. For a young girl, those actions equal a leap over tall buildings.
In the 1970’s I participated in a retreat given by Jean Vanier, a giant of a man in physical height and capacity of heart. Founder of L’Arche, the community that welcomes the developmentally disabled, Vanier spoke to us of the mutual enrichment occurring when people live together in love.
So, what, then defines a super man? Is it our memory of someone who emerges larger than life? Is it the one who accomplishes what we could never achieve ourselves?
The poet May Sarton describes one essential element: “One must think like a hero to behave like a merely decent human being.” Sarton opens the door to a deeper humanity for men and women alike: think heroically in order to act decently.