What Makes a Hero?

No matter which book I pick up, or which movie I watch, it appears that I keep finding the same themes. Heroism and honor, right and wrong, humanity and hope, life and love, tragedy and triumph. This is the power of fiction – to create a captivating tale that conveys universal truths and timeless concepts. This is what makes the pen mightier than the sword. The power of words, of ideas, to change the way we think and therefore what we do. Is there any power greater?

The one theme that I keep coming back to though is heroism. What does it mean to be a hero? This question, and the answers I have found both in fiction and history, have informed everything about who I am as a person. Which is probably why historical fiction, particularly the classics, is my favorite genre. Well, one of my favorites. It’s tied with sci-fi for first place. Sci-fi of course is just historical fiction projected onto what we imagine the future will be. Despite how different they may appear superficially, at their core both are the same. A hero and a villain – the dichotomy of good and evil. This is the key ingredient in forming sterling character.

This is what I believe is lacking from most modern books. Why we have a generation (or two or three) that does not know the difference between right and wrong. Most don’t even believe that there is such a thing as moral wrong. Except for thinking that right and wrong still exists. That’s what sensible people call “an argument that commits suicide.” You’re saying that the only wrong is not believing that nothing is ever wrong or immoral? It doesn’t work that way – it can’t work that way. And if we were still reading great literature, books that deal with right and wrong, black and white, good and evil, heroes and villains, then we might still be on track.

Don’t get me wrong, I have seen my generation do tremendous, unbelievable good. It is my firm opinion that we are the generation of empathy. But I also believe that empathy, carried too far, leads to wrong-doing. Do I want us to abandon our empathy? Not on your life. Nor do I want us to remain rigid in the right-versus-wrong standards of yesterday. I do believe that something that was right 50 years ago may now be wrong and vice versa. Good and evil, however, will never change. They stand immutable upon the laws of nature and nature’s God. If we can bring those standards back and couple them with our modern empathy – my god! What incredible good we could do!

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