Sullenberger struck me as a man worth listening to -- not so much because he had done his job well on Jan. 15, but rather ... well, he just seemed to be quiet and factual and solid, a person I would listen to if the two of us wound up on adjacent bar stools. He probably had his quirks and curiosities -- some, as with other people, annoying or disagreeable -- but in general, this was a person of a credible substance. Why? It was just a gut hunch... a willingness to imagine that this man thought about what he said and to believe that he was not just some bushy-tailed believer mouthing oh-so-sincere beliefs... another feather merchant.
When Sully Sullenberger said "people need heroes," I was willing to let the thought in, to let it germinate and blossom in my mind. Was it true? And if so, why would it be true? There was no need to agree for the sake of agreeable agreement or to disparage because I had some much-loved countervailing view ... it was just worth thinking about.
"People need heroes" -- I wonder why?
My best guess is that heroes are the ones who seem to make concrete what others may only dream. If I have some dream, some hopeful bit of imagination, some as-yet-unachieved goal, there is always a wee voice that wonders if I am not out of my cotton-pickin' mind. From a just-dreaming perspective, dreams have a you're-nuts feel to them ... without corroboration, how could I even dare to dream such a dream? But then someone who seems to exemplify the outcome of my dream shows up, saying, by implication, "yes you can" and "it's not such a nutsy dream after all." Sailing around the world, ballooning across America, holding your breath for five minutes, doing a handstand, lifting 500 pounds, gaining enlightenment .... The dream is not really improved or made more real by corroboration, but it allows me to relax a little: I may be headed for the looney bin, but at least I won't be alone... and I like or admire the company I may find there... I will be in the company of heroes, or something very much like it.
I suspect that needing or even demanding a hero is very human stuff and to some extent is useful as well. But it also strikes me as a good warning: When everyone does his or her job, when everyone is a hero, what need would there be for heroism? Wouldn't that be extra. Extra and not terribly interesting? The warning as I see it is that to the extent I have found a hero, it is time to reevaluate and be pretty cautious....
Not because heroes have feet of clay but because I do.
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