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Inspiration or substitute heroes?

By James Hall
web posted December 3, 2001

George HarrisonIn an age where heroes are as rare as happiness, we are continually told that celebrities are the substitute. Society has strayed so far off the path of purpose and has manufactured substitute ideals that are more figments of desire than models to emulate. Modern time has lost examples of heroism, but we still have the need for people to admire and believe in. So it is not unusual to see the attention that is being paid to the passing of an entertainment icon.

On might think that little significance should be attributed to a music legend, but to an entire generation and era a Beatle was not just a bug. Rock and Roll has been vilified for excess and the loss of morals. It would be hard to deny that at times aspects of extreme behavior have marked the culture during this stage of life when we were young. But at its best, the music and lyrics would often hearten and inspire. George Harrison had more fame and wealth than the rest of us. He may not be considered a hero in the traditional sense, but he surely was part of the most celebrated force that ever hit the limelight.

Tributes and accolades say more about us than any one man. The reason that the public grieves when a star expires is that a part of ourselves passes as well. Internalizing a sense of aspiration is hard, when the world seems to be so out of control. Inspiration becomes a very cherished experience. The value in the artistry of talented performers is that it allows us the opportunity to escape from the confines of our own existence. No long term solution, only fleeting relief from the pressing dilemma of life.

Spann, the first American killed in combat in Afghanistan
Spann, the first American killed in combat in Afghanistan

We are told that real heroes are those on United Airlines Flight 93 that crashed in Somerset County. Sacrificing your own life to prevent the loss of others, has always been assigned the highest respect. Rescuers at the WTC are acclaimed for their stead fast devotion to duty. And the Mike Spann's of the world are hailed by more than their CIA agency cohorts.

Who is to say there is more worth in one over the other? Would it not proper to conclude that all have great value? Each or us make our own determination of what we hold dear. While this is natural, there are universal principles that apply to recognition of sound judgment. You may resent that other deceased of the Fab Four, John Lennon, for his politics. But his vision of applying that which can be imagined to your life is valid. Be free to differ on the goals or the means, but don't discard the process that originates inspiration. When George immersed himself in eastern mysticism, many rejected it out of hand because it is outside the boundaries of usual cultural norms.

Conventional values and traditional mores are proven over history to be the foundation that serves mankind best. No doubt custom is imperfect, but so is our nature. No question it has disappointed us all, but who hasn't fallen short of expectations? And who among us has a better ideal? Inspiration is the spark that often leads to insights. It should not be feared because it could lead to excess, for that is the proper role of a values system to tame the urges to abuse. Experiments in altered states of consciousness are easy targets for offense and don't deserve emulation. But condemnation should also extend to the practices of the gate keepers for society, when their drug of choice, is the convenient preservation of corrupt structures.

What made the junior member of the super group different from other celebrities, was that his orientation was profoundly spiritual. Not exactly a common trait within the community that claims special privilege. His public image was not one of conceit or flaunting extravagance. Hardly the behavior that would equip him to become a Rolling Stone, or the kind of exhibitionist that Shirley MacLaine exploits. Quiet but resolved confidence in a life of introspection and reflection is true inspiration. But does that make him a hero?

For us common mortals, knowing the appeal of celebrity, let alone the adjuration of hordes of fans, is outside our experience. But each of us can relate, if we wish, to the example of inspiration. Motivation and conviction in our own unique talents, can produce excellence. And every person has the ability to become a hero in their own life. Achieving that noble purpose within your own family seems like the most rewarding place to start. Harrison is being praised for his courteous demeanor. Just maybe, his real strength came from his spiritual orientation?

"My Sweet Lord" says it best. How many people have been touched, and yes, inspired by its lyrics? Isn't the essence of a hero more related to example, than perspections of bravery? Many have confirmed genuine courage and dignity in their own battle with cancer. They are also worthy of our respect. All their heroism invigorates our appreciation for the gift of life. With the passing of George, we weep for more than the loss of his guitar. His gentle manner arouses in us the desire to gently mourn, but not weep. For the world will not lose his inspiration, if we preserve his spirituality. His message was one of hope and the mystic in each of us, cries out "it's alright", here comes the sun . . .

James Hall, AKA Sartre, is the driving force behind Breaking all the Rules, a collection of his essays.

Other related articles: (open in a new window)

  • Goodbye, George by Lawrence Henry (December 3, 2001)
    Lawrence Henry eulogizes The Quiet Beatle, George Harrison, who never pretended he was more than what he was and still managed to be the coolest of The Beatles
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