A couple of posts ago I got to talking about Jake Gyllenhaal and relatabilty in a fictional character, which then led me to thinking about heroes and inspirational personalities. Ok, it was both that and the bottle of Mozart liqueur I found in my fridge today from visiting Vienna a couple of years ago. That train of thought led me to realizing how important Mozart was and still is to Vienna, besides the financial benefits he brings.
I then ruminated on other important personalities and their adopted or native towns. For example Florence has the Medici and a host of renaissance artists, Lisbon has Pessoa, London has Shakespeare, Dickens and multiple monarchs, Rome has the Romans, Da Vinci and the Pope (whatevs, not casting any aspersions this time, each to their own.) My point is that we all like having someone to aspire to. One glimpse at a comic con and it is made obvious how people’s ultimate aspirations and fantasies are literally worn on the sleeves of the different guises they choose to adopt, except in the case of Vampirella of course, who has no sleeves.
For many, the ultimate ideals come in the form of historical figures, for others it’s fictional figures-heck I bet even Hitler had a hero, and by his strategic boo-boos something tells me Napoleon was a poor choice. For the unimaginative or emotional amongst us it’s our parents but whatever the case, the fact remains that we all aim towards something greater, something bigger than us, an archetype that gives us a greater purpose, a nobility, a worth.
I don’t know to what extent the touristy propaganda works on residents of the towns of the greats but I imagine there is some awe inspired in the Viennese by the fact that Mozart lived and worked in their city, in the same way that the scores of tourists get when they visit the sanitized remains of the house he once occupied. As if walking the halls will make you absorb the lingering molecules of his genius that are suspended in the ether (hoping that the guy in front of you didn’t get the last one) or that looking at copies of the scores he wrote will somehow make you understand what made the man great.
I don’t know exactly where I’m going with this, it feels as if I’m flogging a moot horse. We know what heroes are all about, it’s an old trope: Homer, Virgil, Dante (definitely do not go to see his house in Florence incidentally), Shakespeare and a few others besides have made us ponder the issue of what makes a hero and from old poet to new a few gold standards remain: bravery, integrity, intelligence, sacrifice, love, fearlessness etc; what interests me however is the motive behind all that. Not the motive behind the writer or the hero, but the motive behind the reader, the thoughts that the hero invokes in them, the memories it triggers, the emotions it sparks.
Even if the thoughts are not conscious, the desire is still there. For someone it might be H.G Wells for the politics or D.H. Lawrence for his grit, it might be Bill Gates, or Steve Jobs, the inventor of the locomotive or the dude who sang Gangnam style. Whatever it might be, we all appreciate people who are good at something, who are better than us, who have something to teach us whether they intended it or not. People who might reach into us and compel us to do something new and brave or something we might never have done in different circumstances like take up arms and fight in a war just because our ideals have been galvanized…
What does that say about the human condition? What does it teach us about greatness and aspiration, inspiration and respect and what does it say about divinity? If we all aspire to some form of greatness, what is the bigger message other than the fact that I need to clean my fridge out of old liqueurs more often?