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Hero Worship

I suppose it seems obvious, but I am reminded again not to put anyone who I admire on a pedestal.  As Brian said, “You don’t need to follow me.  You don’t need to follow anybody. You’ve got to think for yourselves.  You’re all individuals!”.  Trying to follow anyone today is even more fraught with danger in this electronically woven web, it is easy to deceive. But then deception isn’t even the issue necessarily, it might just be the same online as in real life (RL).

Often when I read or hear something on one of my favourite blogs or podcasts, I can’t help but have that, “Yes!  That person thinks / is just like me!  I’m sure we’d be great friends and be able to swap stories and experiences …” response.  But I have been too often in the position of discovering some difficult or disappointing factoid or rumour and I…

  • Need to remind myself that I don’t know them and they don’t even know of my existence.  Of course, I will likely never even meet any of these people. Even so, in the unlikely hypothetical circumstance that we did meet, I wouldn’t be able to give or get anything other than a fleeting impression.  So this person not holding all views in common with me will make no real difference in my life whatsoever, I”ll likely not know of most of them and I’m also sure their lives will be similarly undiminished.  The thing is, is that this person – in fact every person – is much, much more complex than a single public interaction or even set of related positions or opinions than can be conveyed by a podcast, blog, video or Texas cable television show.  Very often acquaintances even in RL who I thought I knew well or thought knew me well can be wrong?  (I recently overheard a co-worker who I’d known for upwards of 10 years, tell someone who I liked Anne Murray type of music.  Really!  Really?  I may be all quiet n’all, but my go-to music is loud and even screaming like Child in Time or Battle of Evermore and what about Janis?)  So, yes, we are complicated creatures Precious!  So why do I care so much?

You know, the first few times I heard Ardent Atheist’s, Emery Emery he seemed so loud and overbearing (crass?).  Anyone who overheard me listening to the podcast would ask me to be turn down the racket – people yelling over each other, being rude, etc. But, well, I kinda liked it. It has a sort of, je ne sais pas and I’m so glad I stuck with it as I have come to enjoy this podcast very much.  As wonderful as it is to listen to Emery Emery, the guests and discussions are fascinating (still have to wear my headphones if anyone is in the house though!).  My life would be less enriched without them all.  I may not ever meet these people, but I can watch from the side lines smiling and cheering.

  • Feel disappointment.  Blast, I had thought that my hero was my type of person and it turns out not to be the case.  Of course I have no right to have made those assumptions in the first place in that I don’t know anything about these people.  I always rather like the acting of a certain actor and was so disappointed to hear that he is so deeply religious.  That type of disappointment is fleeting though – I don’t know anything about the guy really, and could care less, but;

The deeper disappointment is with people who I do actively think highly of through an understanding of their position on something important to me.  For instance, I had always rather bought into the Richard Dawkins meme so was shocked to read his, “Dear Muslima,” comment in response to a post on Pharyngula (No, no, no, scratch that example;  I’m still too bitter.)  How about a certain person of You-Tube fame?  Bloody hell!  Really!!! WTF!  STRAWMAN!   I kept wishing someone  would just pull him aside and have a word. Surely, he would see it?  But no, he got worse … Damn, I’m sure if I ever met him we could have been friends, but now I might just chew on his leg.  Disappointment is powerful stuff though for us atheist down cards.

  • Rationalize.  So really you know, Dawkins can’t help it; he can’t possibly relate from his lofty privilege and it is outside of his experience so how is it his fault, right?  …And, yes, I understand that certain individuals were not blogging in the spirit of the context-rich concept of  Freethought; I get it, I do.  He was being difficult and irrational and really wasn’t being collegial.  He was digging his heels in rather than listening.  But, was that really long enough to see if he could be brought around?  If we can’t find a way to connect with people already 1/2 (maybe 1/3) of the way there, is anyone further from the perspective going to hear or think or get there? Could my heroes have faults like jumping the gun? Perhaps, but that is acceptable to me now in my lofty one-step removed position.   I’ve been following these very smart guys for years and have learned tons of things all the time.  Who am I to say what else was going on and for how long?  I’ve never even met them. I remain deeply disappointed in some people though.

Sure, I’ll sometimes go through a kind of denial – hey, maybe it was untrue, I mean misinterpreted.  Yup, from my job I’m certainly aware of this amazing phenomenon.  Reports are not necessarily incorrect (but often they are) but they are at a bare minimum someone’s version.  By definition, it has been through the filter of at least 2 minds (reporter and my own) that will adjust, emphasize, downplay, and choose and often come out the other end barely recognizable to some.  Oh Humans!  So, transparent! So, first century!

  • Turn away completely.  Of course occasionally, it is time to let someone go.  I have unforgivable sins.  I could still listen to Cat Stevens: Izitso, Tea for the Tillerman even after he renounced them himself.  I enjoyed the music.  But when Yusuf supported his religion rather than his fellow-man, however loosely, to me that was unforgivable.  After 9/11 he again deferred to his book, even if his interpretation was against the attacks.  His religion was too important and he continues to wave its banner even if it is for “good” works.  I can’t trust the man and I no longer enjoy the music.  Baby?  Bath water?  Maybe, but my heart has hardened.

So I have learned my lesson (I have; I have).  No more will I allow an unknown, but interesting person to personally affect me with their wonderful insights and talented writing – I know it’s not personal and I will accept or not accept their ideas as they are expressed. The appropriate response to my list of fallen is to be unsupportive of their position in that instance only and perhaps even to direct my consumer and charity dollars elsewhere; my inter-personal currency will be spent on people with whom I have shared meaningful living, breathing time.  I will try not to form opinions or long-distance attachments to people based on a single stance on a single issue.  I’m cured.

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