All of those of you who have role models like Kobe Bryant or Brett Favre, Edward Van Halen or Axl Rose, or even Donald Trump: we’ve (and I totally include myself in this) forgotten what’s important. Yeah, developing your gifts as an athlete or artist or finacial king are to be admired and rewarded, to a point.
But what about those who overcome obstacles that most of us will never imagine, much less face? What about the Stephen Hawkings and the Jason Beckers of the world, who survive well past the 3-5 year average survival rate of a disease like ALS, and continue to create and challenge in their fields? Sean Swarner, who beat cancer — fucking twice, as a firm finger in the face of the universe! — and went on to climb the world’s “Seven Summits” (with only one lung!).
I guess it’s not glamorous enough. But the sports stars and musicians and writers and movie stars — they’re all flawed, just like you and me (usually more so). I guess it’s the money, the jet-setting lifestyles, the pretty girls and boys and the constant attention that draw us to wish we could be them.
These others, though — the unsung heroes, they’re the ones worth looking up to. They’re the ones who refuse to give up, who stare an angry, brutal, uncaring god in the face and smile just before they keep walking forward. They’re the ones who we can look at, no matter how hard our lives seem, no matter how bad we feel, and still realize that there’s so much more waiting, if we just want it badly enough, if we’re willing to push forward and work and sweat and earn whatever it is we desire.
Imagine losing your sight and hearing at 19 months old. You’d have very little reference point to learn how to communicate, and rather quickly would probably descend into a feral state, incapable of ever accomplishing much. And then take a look at Helen Keller (and also her teacher, Anne Sullivan, who had the patience and the kindness to stick with Helen through the worst):
There’s a great interview with Bobcat Goldthwait over at the A.V. Club website, and he says:
…my speech was telling the kids just to always be willing to quit, and that they need to quit a lot in their lives, and keep on quitting, because all the happiness I’ve ever got was when I turned my back on things that everybody else thought would make you happy. I can smell parents’ stomach acid right now, but they know that whole “You gotta get a job and you gotta settle for what people perceive as success” thing is really absurd.
I haven’t quite put my finger on it, but that ties in to all this, somehow. And I think it bears repeating, as often as necessary.