Friday, September 7, 2012

The Armstrong

As a child I was, somewhat infrequently, asked who my idol was, my hero.  I rarely had a good answer for this question, and I am quite afraid that the people around me were of little help in sorting out the fundamental questions I had regarding a proper hero.

I believe we owe it to the very young to not overwhelm them with layers of nuance. It wasn't the question that bothers, after all this time, but the fact that I couldn't answer it.  Perhaps the adults in my life were afraid of indoctrinating me, or feeding me socially acceptable answers. Tragically, I think this is all too likely.

Decades too late I find that I had an answer, if I had but known it. By not knowing it, however, I missed the chance to learn valuable things from that hero, that idol.  It pleases me to note that in some small ways I did along the path forged for me, blindly groping for answers.

My answer, should I return to my youthful days and be asked anew?

Why, Neil Armstrong!

It was not because he was the first man on the moon, but the reason that he was chosen to be that man... and the reason we never much heard from him after.  Neil Armstrong was a quiet professional, driven to excellence and not given to self promotion.  While he was, by all accounts, a masterful pilot, he preferred to see himself as an Engineer, and after his famous small step, he in turn sought only to teach others rather than bask in the limelight.

To say that I admire that sort of humble excellence is putting it mildly.

Now, the eagle eye'd among you might note that I began this blog with a statement that, ultimately, I am responsible for myself, and yet I began my first post lamenting the failure of adults to guide me in my youth.

That is no accident... call it the set up for a moral lesson, as they used to say on TV 'One to Grow On'.

When I was still in the single digit ages I could hardly be held accountable for my own lack of understanding of the question, it is true.  I note instead that it is a harm, usually small, to put such 'self discovery' on children. I do not believe anything was gained, by any party, in denying me the opportunity to emulate a heroic figure, not by me, not by the adults around me, and not by society.

It is, however, upon my own head that the failure to return to the question with any seriousness at such time as I understood what it meant.  I did not ask myself who my hero should have been, did not put my own feet upon the path blazed for me by better men, did not, if you will, make more than the most half hearted attempts at ripping the blinders from my eyes and taking in the full grandeur of What I Might Become.

And so now I blog.

No, more than that. Now, instead of looking back at years of wasted roads and ill-spent youth, I look forward to the future.  I create myself anew, learning the hard lesson that time waits for no man, but now I have my model, my guide, a beacon lighting the way forward. That, after all, is the purpose of a hero, a role model, is it not?  

It may be a risible pop cultural artifact, but as a touchstone to make oneself better there are far worse first steps.  WWAD?

What would Armstrong Do?

Excelsior, Mr. Armstrong.

-Listening To Operation:Mindcrime

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