Friday, March 27, 2009

Hero worship & the end of mountains

The last runner sometimes is the best man ....

In a passing comment the other day, I mentioned that the British soldier, explorer and writer, Richard Burton, was one of my "heroes," which started me thinking: Does the male of the species ever outgrow hero worship?

Definitions and semantics play a role here, just as they do in every concept. In terms of admiring other men for various attributes, I know I still do, and the characteristics involved have remained fairly consistent since I was a boy -- but, with a few adjustments along the way.

There are a few athletes I admire. This does not so much involve talent at hitting a baseball or the ability to throw a football 60 yards accurately. Rightly or wrongly, I think such stuff is maybe 80 percent accident of birth and 20 percent hard work. For me, the admiration involves such people as those who do not whine about not being paid enough, those who do not cheat, those who keep getting up when they are exhausted or hurt.

The same is pretty much the case with men in any field, I think. God-given talents separate us all in degrees. Some are gifted with big muscles, some with big brains, while most of us just hang out watching -- looking for somewhere we might excel.

Sometime during the last week or two of high school, I happened to be walking with a school mate who was a year younger, and who I would term an acquaintance rather than a friend. During the conversation, he said he admired me and envied my athletic ability. I was genuinely surprised because I had always considered myself middle-of-the-road in that regard, and knew others with greater skills and who, in fact, I admired and envied.

This young man was always the last to finish running laps after football practice. He was the slowest on the team. Neither was he particularly strong. Although he was physically bigger than I was, I still had literally run over him more than once on the practice field. But, he never quit running until he had completed all his required laps and he always got up after being knocked down.

That was the last time I talked with him. High school ended for me, and I was forever on the road. Not too many years later, though, I saw a photograph of him in a national magazine. He was in the Army. He was in the Special Forces. He was standing among the toughest of the tough, the best of the best.

It was about that time I caught on to the fact that it should have been me admiring him back on the high school football field, for putting his entire being into accomplishing those goals he set his mind to, rather than being satisfied to live off his natural talents alone, like I had been back then.

Where have all the mountains gone?

Life is becoming more artificial by the day. Soon, there will be nothing unique, nothing individual left, or am I wrong about that?

I know a man who has been atop Mount Everest. He got himself into great physical shape, wrote out a check and off he went. Little more than six decades ago, the summit of Everest had yet to be conquered. Those who have stood there now number in the thousands.

One hundred years ago, men were dying trying to be the first to reach both the North Pole and the South Pole. For a few thousand dollars today, a person can fly to the North Pole, possibly land if conditions cooperate, or pay a few more dollars and tour the Antarctic in cruise ship comfort. Men and women cross the polar caps, re-supplied from the air, broadcasting their "adventure" to anyone who owns a computer and signs up for internet service.

Climb a plastic cliff with a rope around your waist in case you fall, and feel the thrill. Kill the Nazis on a computer game and feel flush with pride. Jump from a plane, be a temporary bird, and feel the rush. Stand on the stage at a karaoke bar and feel the adulation.

Personal accomplishment is nothing to make fun of or to belittle, and my point is not to do that. To run a greater distance tomorrow than today is real accomplishment; to obtain a college degree is real accomplishment. What I am saying is that true individuality is rapidly becoming a thing of the past, and sameness reigns supreme. Why bother to climb Mount Everest now other than for the personal pleasure of it? There is nothing especially unique about it anymore. Not much more than a checkbook is required.

Myth and legend, true daring and challenge, are fading into history, being replaced by fantasy and games. Goodbye, Sir Edmund Hillary; hello, Harry Potter. Not only is the world shrinking geographically, but so seems to be the imagination of mankind. Sort of boring now.

Music Note: Listening to .38 Special ....
Specifically, "Live at Sturgis" ....
Some lines from: "Fantasy Girl:"

Lately I'm learnin

That so many yearnings are never to be
The childhood illusions are merely delusions of a girl that I see
In my minds eye
I see clearly a vision of how it could be
Me and my fantasy girl
Hold on to me
Be my fantasy girl
Don't set me free

Now I've had my share
Sometimes I swear that I've had enough
You end up in sorrow
Broken tomorrows, love can be tough
But my minds eye sees a vision of true love and how it should be
Me and my fantasy girl
Hold on to me

(Neat song, and the band has the greatest name of any band.)


its_me_in_montana said...

Your post has me pondering whether true individuality is becoming a thing of the past. Is sameness reigning supreme?

I don't know if it is naive of me, but I choose to believe not. For if it were true, that would be a great sadness.

Fram said...

It is difficult to break down, Boni, but the sense I mean is this: If anyone and everyone can climb the highest mountain on earth, where is the individuality in doing it? What is left to be done that has not been done before, and is being done by thousands or even millions?

Any and all experience is melting into common experience. There is less and less a person can do that is not being done by everyone else, meaning no individuality. However, for every rule, every thought, there might be exceptions, and I am just thinking in general terms.

But, to me, it is reality and it is very sad.

If you disagree, we can always flip a coin to see who wins.

Katy said...

Good morning Fram. I've read your post twice now and I'm thinking about it a lot, especially the bit about the loss of individuality and challenge. I may have to come back again later after the cogs have spun a bit.

One reflection, though. One of the things that the greater freedoms (of all kinds) of the last, say, 100 years have brought us is the ability for us as individuals to have more time for reflection and learning. If the 20th century was all about conquering the physically unconquerable, could it be that the 21st is going to be all about identifying and conquering our own personal mountains?

Now, I *really* should be digging that garden. However much I wish it to, it stubbornly refuses to dig itself... :-)

TheChicGeek said...

Good morning to you, Fram. I always read your post and have to think a bit before commenting. Do you often have long pauses in face-to-face conversations? LOL :) You just leave us speechless. I'll come back after pondering for a bit :)

its_me_in_montana said...


There have always been, and will always be, people that can just right a check to buy the mountain if they want. That won't change, even in a recession/depression.

I still believe there are individuals out there that feel a very real sense of self for the sacrifices they had to make to get to the top of the mountain. I can only imagine what they learn about themselves along the way. Thank goodness they don't say, ah, that's been done a million times!

On a different level, what if a young boy had a dream to be a great quarterback. What if he looked at the Brett Favres, Tony Romos and Dan Marinos and said, ah, that's been done, I give up. Each of those quarterbacks brings their own individual dream, and style of throwing a football and winning a game.

No need to flip a coin on this one. I think more in specifics, than generalities. I believe that number 1,000,001 to the top of the mountain, is the one that counts as an individual, because for him it is the first time being there.

TheChicGeek said...

Hello again :)
When speaking of heros you say, "The admiration involves such people as those who do not whine about not being paid enough, those who do not cheat, those who keep getting up when they are exhausted or hurt." Those are the true heros. I couldn't agree with you more. It's the people that have good hearts, honesty, those that persevere through trials, those are the people I admire most too. I like what you said there.

As far as new discoveries, the creativity and inguenity of mankind constantly amazes me. In my small mind I can sit and think what else can be discovered? We have everything. How can there possibly be anything new coming in to our world? Yet there are brilliant people discovering new things every day. I have tremendous hope for our future and I do agree with what Boni said in the sense that when individuals master a new skill, have a new experience, it's new to them so even though it may have been done before, it's still incredibly special to that person and uplifting to those that get to watch it happening. That's a good thing :)
Do I sound like somebody you know? (*giggle*)

Magdalena said...

Hi Fram! :-) I'm coming to leave you few smiles and hugs from Poland! :-) Have a wonderful weekend! :-) Bye, bye.

Fram said...

Today, I'm living my four-hour night statement, but without benefit of any naps, Katy.

You might be absolutely correct about "... conquering our own personal mountains," but I'm not certain it would be for the best in a societal sense, or even should it be for the best, that some other force might not come along to corrupt it in a manipulative manner.

It has been argued that the end of the frontier era in America, around 1900, signaled the beginning of the decline of the U.S. I'm sure not going to get into that today, but what I was speculating on is somewhat of an extension of that concept.

Fram said...

Boni, I believe I specifically said that I in no way meant to belittle or demean personal accomplishment (improvement) by anyone. I simply think that reaching the summit of Mount Everest is becoming no more unique than reading a Harry Potter book, and for me the allure and the challenge of Everest have vanished.

I happen to think this has negative ramifications in a societal sense, and I also happen to believe society is more important than the individual. That is another topic where I probably am in the minority, but it makes no difference.

I just like to see people think before rushing out to buy another Harry Potter book

Fram said...

In the immortal words of Fram the First, "Run for it boys, we're outnumbered."

I agree that the future might open up entirely new challenges, Kelly, and that individual accomplishments are special. And, at some point, there will be other mountains and other rivers on other worlds to explore, if humankind manages to last long enough.

Without bringing it up directly, I also was thinking in terms of the so-called "explorer gene" or trait found in some people, including some we might know. Sometime, when you wish to burn two minutes, read the "life more intoxicating than wine" segment on the right-hand side of my page. That's pretty much all I am talking about.

Fram said...

I'll gladly take all you have to offer, Magdalena, and send some home with you in return. Thank you, for the visit, and I really enjoy visiting your page.

TheChicGeek said...

You are outnumbered, Baby...but you know we all love you :)

Okay, I'm going to go read the sidebar now....maybe I'll be back :)

TheChicGeek said...

You knew I would be, right?
Okay, "and he was the first white man to see any of this, the first to escape entirely from the tight limits of Europe, the first one free to explore himself under the guise of exploring a new land. This is very strong wine."

Intoxicating, indeed.

Having the "explorer-gene" keeps life worth living.

Fram said...

With young ladies, a man can only hope.

Thanks for reading it, Kelly, and I know you understand it.

Natalie said...

Happy Birthday, Fram,
Sorry if I was off by a couple of weeks….

Fram said...

Thank you, very much, Natalie. I'm open for good wishes year round.

Something special ....