‘In the time of gods and monsters, what is the worth of a man?’ – Joss Whedon
It’s supposed to be so simple. Hero. Someone that saves the day, right? We grow up with these images of chiseled men and women, painted in neon colors, performing impossible tasks of daring and bravery, holding them on high like deities, and with ubiquitous propaganda of soldiers wrapped in the red white and blue, infallible in their willingness to die for their love of country. And so we learn that heroism is all about the big things: the diving into the burning building, the taking of a bullet for a stranger, the sacrifice of one life to save the lives of many…
These are heroic acts. Undoubtedly. That’s not what I’m thinking about though. At least, not the thing that started this topic.
I went through my grandfather’s workshop the other day. He passed away… he died two years ago and this was the first time since then that I had been in there. It’s maybe 20 feet long by 5 feet across, filled with all kinds of tools – wrenches and screwdrivers and sanders and saws and rulers and just all kinds of weapons of mass creation. Somewhere in my childhood I fell into the mistaken belief that heroes were heroes because of all they took away: putting criminals away behind bars; destroying drugs, guns, and danger; killing if that’s what it took to make the world safer.
A hero was a hero because of these huge, grandiose displays of the negative. As a kid, this is what I saw:
Batman beating the crap out of every gangster in Gotham, taking them off the streets in every third panel.
American soldiers wiping out threats to the American way and truth and justice and liberty.
The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers striking that magic button in the middle of peculiar grey minions to poof them into nonexistence.
Sailor Moon and her sailor scouts using unearthly powers to combat flamboyantly attired evil while destroying all of the public property in the general vicinity.
I watched a lot of tv as a kid.
But I don’t think that I was alone in that kind of thinking. You see, I went through my grandfather’s workshop the other day and I realized, not for the first time, that he was my Hero. My real life hero who taught me what I hold most dear. This had nothing to do with the fact that he was a veteran (he was in the Army, an E8 Master Sergeant); nothing to do with great big acts of ‘heroism’. He didn’t fit my definition, despite that he was my definition. I had placed the word Hero in this limited and yet brightly packaged box and accepted that as the way things are. I was confined by associations and going to his favorite place reminded me to be more considerate.
He loved to build things, or at least he was damn good at it and loved to be useful. I get that from him – the desire to be useful. To be capable. I took a big blue cooler full of wrenches and screwdrivers and sanders and saws and rulers and just all kinds of weapons of mass creation home with me that day. I’ve started to create things now. I think the biggest act a hero can ever perform is to influence a life in a positive, enduring fashion in all those little things we take for granted. My grandfather was my Hero. And I’m reminded of him, grateful to him, and changed by him, every time I create. I once thought heroism was only about the big things; I was wrong.
Waving my geek flag super high in this post already so I figured I would just reveal all and say I love the Whedonverse, and that Sailor Mars and the Green ranger were my favorites. To anyone who doesn’t know who Captain Hammer is:
– Jessie Gutierrez