What about Heroism – Georgios Ardavanis (Ph.D.)

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The clue is that in our society, we drive for money, yet most definitely not for the truth or the glory. In my humble opinion, glory is the result of heroism. I was introduced to Plutarch’s “Parallel Lives” in school when I was six.

Remember, while we cannot choose our parents or the people we grow up with, we can choose our role models. We can bring to mind significant figures from our life or literature and then try to live up to the standard they set. For that purpose, Plutarch completed the great work of his life, “Lives of Grecian and Roman Noblemen” (commonly known as “Parallel Lives”), in which he sketched the lives of 46 of the greatest military and political heroes of Greece and Rome, always pairing a Greek hero off against a Roman hero, to measure themselves against the heroes of old. The book was beautifully color-illustrated with beautiful paintings of the heroes’ achievements. I still remember the vivid portraits of Alexander the Great, Cicero, Brutus, Pericles, Pompey, and others. Although Plutarch’s masterpiece contains some of the great set pieces of historical writings, his chief aim was ethical. He wanted to create examples of virtue and vice for young people to emulate. Plutarch saw the power of emulation in his biographical subjects. Alexander the Great, for example, was obsessed with emulating and competing with Achilles. He put Achille’s motto above his tent – “Ever to be the best and far above all the others” – and paid homage to Achilles’s tomb at Troy. Julius Caesar, in turn, was obsessed with emulating the life of Alexander. As a young man, Caesar read the life of Alexander, then burst into tears. When his friends asked what was wrong, he replied: “Do you think I have not just cause to weep when I consider that Alexander at my age had conquered so many nations, and I have all this time done nothing memorable.” Plutarch’s heroes always exhibit the classic Socratic virtue of self-control and can judge the moment correctly to act decisively at the right time.

I do believe that we need heroes first and foremost because our heroes help define the limits of our aspirations. We broadly define our ideals by the heroes we choose, and our ideals – like courage, honor, and justice – broadly define us. Our heroes are symbols of all the qualities we would like to possess and all the ambitions we would like to satisfy. I am tired of the heroes that communication means to expose to us (e.g., Paris Hilton, 50 Cents, or well-paid athletes that assault young girls). That is why it is so crucial for us as a society, globally and locally, to try to shape these choices. Of course, this is a perennial moral issue, but there are warning signs that we need to refocus our attention on the case now.

For me, rowing across the Atlantic Ocean is an opportunity to serve as a hero model to youngsters and adults. A hero model can be used as a reference to teach how you never quit your dreams, how to rebound from being at the lowest point of your life (professionally or individually), how to coach a loved one through a disabling accident, how to lead a team and many other things. On a note, nothing was handed to me; I fight and work hard for everything I decide to do. My scars bear some of life’s greatest lessons. I’ve been knocked down plenty of times but stood back up every damn time. I possess strength in moments that cause me to fall to my knees. I’m not infallible, perfect, or always right, but I am persistent and patient, qualities that make me human. Although I know my limitations, then I rely on my strengths.

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