I was reading Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” today with a class of 12th graders when we came upon the following lines: “And there is no trade or employment but the young man [or woman — Whitman wouldn’t object] following it may become a hero.” What he said made me immediately think of the previous blog post in which I speak about my reaction to all the contemporary talk about and attraction to heroes, both real and fictional. I would like to think that Whitman’s take on heroism would be much like my own in that he would have contagious confidence in every human beings’ capacity for leading a heroic life, yet he would not just acquiesce to that particularly popular view — which I’m about to exaggerate, but not much — that seeks to bolster self-esteem by giving a laurel wreath to anyone who simply falls out of bed on time. Can’t we have heroic potential as well as accountability and personal responsibility for everyone? Yes, we can all be heroes, but we can all be lame too. The real ideal is to make the ideal real, which is not like injecting the ideal into the real like botox. This has everything to do with heroism, if you’re wondering.
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