The fear factor
Up till recently heroes were celebrated for their ability to go the distance and to show exceptional qualities including humility, chivalry, selflessness, intelligence, persistence, wisdom and bravery. Nowadays it's more about being famous, muscular, bold, rich, talented or fantastic by or just for themselves. We are losing sight of a rich vein of character, of meaning of life or resonne d'être. We are becoming 2 dimensional, observers unwilling participants. I have often organised an activity and asked people to take part; mostly children are fine with this but ask parents to do something alongside and it's nearly impossible. Is it because there is no previous experience of risk taking? Perhaps past histories of failure and bad learning experiences put people off. We inhibit ourselves, build strong walls as fortresses against the attack of participation, against being exposed or looking vulnerable. This isn't a class thing either it affects everybody.
I did an art workshop once about 'edges' we were simply making marks using edges of paper, card or other materials rubbing chalk ,graphite or charcoal on them. All the participants were fine with this except one woman who simply would not and could not make any mark on the paper at all. What is it that prevents someone from being able to make a mark even when friends are doing it all around? She was very hostile and her emotions were clearly very raw. This changed the atmosphere of the workshop completely. Instead of fun and lack of judgement there was suddenly a need for making her feel better and normal, and the others began finding meaning or pictures within marks....the logical side of the brain took over the creative right side and the left brain limiting walls started going up.
Confusing celebrity or even just survival (terrorist attacks or accidents) with heroism is common, but what impact does this have on our children, I have just been to Disney with mine and am trying to encourage them to think of their traits and characteristics rather than simply killing each other in mortal combat! I want them to understand there is more to life than just being a hero in terms of the superficiality of Ben 10 or a power ranger or even a disney character, like a dashing prince. That these characters do more than win every battle, they leave home, journey, encounter fear and failure, have to overcome these feelings of hopelessness and believe that they can win through by their actual experiences. Just like the famous Greek myths and legends.
Good modern stories or tv cartoons do still pay lip service to these character traits, though perhaps it's too hard to see this through the cheap computer graphics that replace good old fashioned animation, the new Fireman Sam or much worse American cartoons who's faces do not move and only the lips do (apologies for no example here but I refuse to watch them and therefore cannot remember their names and my children are in bed) but our culture does not encourage us to develop these traits for ourselves, we may borrow them from screen or computer games where we do not face reality. But nothing beats the feeling of conquering your greatest fears or completing a quest where you have been the hero. It's those feelings and that knowledge gained through learned experience that will get you through the fear. Not empathetic crying or cheering through the X factor!