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Sundries
...a sweatshop of moxie

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Hero's Hero

"The hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man." - Joseph Campbell in the Power of Myth


You've heard of the concept of "paying it forward", I'm sure. There was a film based on the idea, not so long ago.

Instead of doing something kind or generous back to the person who did so to you, you choose 3 other people, and return the favour in spirit, that was given to you.

Here is a related idea, albeit not nearly as altruistic (but perhaps, it may inspire people in some small way).

Everyone has an hero or heroine that they admire. Usually a famous person, but not always -- it could be a family member.

So try this.

Find a person you have always admired, and look up or divulge in the comments, who THEIR hero or heroine was.

I have many many heroes, not the least of which is because I am an Historian by education.

One very special hero of mine, however, is Dr. Wernher von Braun.

(Yes, I too wanted to be an astronaut, growing up. Didn't we all?)

When I was a child, and somewhat sickly, necessitating long periods in bed (where I read, and read, and read...and watched films on the VCR -- now you know), I read his recollections about his youth, in one of those primers aimed to inspire schoolchildren in English-speaking lands, which you chose from a leaflet given out in school.

Well do I remember the "Meet..." series of books, such as "Meet John F. Kennedy", and "Meet Winston S. Churchill", which so marked my childhood imagination. They were a mere 25p each, and I used to use my tuck money not on sweets, which I hate anyway, but on books about these various men and women of happy memory.

The young German junker fell in love with the possibility of rocket flight when he was 12, after having read of Fritz von Opel's speed record setting adventures in Wilhelmine Germany.

Dr. von Braun -- urbane, charismatic, prodigiously intelligent -- had many heroes, including the unforgettable intellect that was American physicist, Dr. Robert Goddard of Clark University.

But he relates that he would deeply come to admire the courage of Woo Han, who has humourously been listed as the 'world's first astronaut', after his experiment around the year 1500.



This noble Chinese bureaucrat (not unlike Dr. von Braun in background, and certainly in intrepid curiosity) set about seeing if he could fly to the moon, and placing two sticks across a make-shift litter, he sat on his throne-like rocket, waiting for 47 "coolies" to light the fuses which were to propel him to that hunk o' cheese.

Wan Hoo was never seen or heard from again.

...what a magnificent person Wan Hoo must've been.

Now, it may be trite to say that one's heroes' heroes can become inspirational to you, providing a link to what makes your chosen object of admiration "tick", but equally, it is very true that we are deeply social animals, getting our cues from each other.

I know that story always fired my imagination, as it did generations of children around the world, dreaming of fantastical pioneers long dead, but not forgotten.

How about you? Who is your hero, and do you know who s/he admired?

10 Comments:

  • Firstly, I too, read in a fashion not unlike yourself as a child! I used to pile books (and stuffed animals) on my bed so much, I'd simply fall asleep in the pile of same...

    The hero idea will require a bit of work...let me mull. Part of my reason for my desire to direct a film comes from a similar idea, though. I always wanted to karmically 'pay back' all those actors, directors, et al, who moved me, made me happy at the worst of times, just so I could do something similar for someone else someday. That way, if they were to give me praise for a scene, or story, I'd know who they were really giving praise to. That in and of itself would make me happy...

    My literary/intellectual hero would be Nietzsche, and his, I think, would be Goethe...some quote hunting may occur.

    By Blogger Ron, at Thu Dec 28, 05:59:00 am GMT-5  

  • Firstly, I too, read in a fashion not unlike yourself as a child! I used to pile books (and stuffed animals) on my bed so much, I'd simply fall asleep in the pile of same...

    I still do, Ron, I still do. :)

    The hero idea will require a bit of work...let me mull. Part of my reason for my desire to direct a film comes from a similar idea, though. I always wanted to karmically 'pay back' all those actors, directors, et al, who moved me, made me happy at the worst of times, just so I could do something similar for someone else someday. That way, if they were to give me praise for a scene, or story, I'd know who they were really giving praise to. That in and of itself would make me happy...

    You're Quentin Tarantino, and I claim my weekend at Bognor Regis.

    My literary/intellectual hero would be Nietzsche, and his, I think, would be Goethe...some quote hunting may occur.

    Ooh. I don't like Nietzsche (or Goethe!). *g*

    But no one ever said Dr. von Braun was perfect either.

    Having served Nazis is no shining recommendation of character.

    Nevertheless, I like your choice, since you are inspired by something more than the prosaic chinese menu of good-and-bad in a person.

    I hope I am too.

    I await quotes with bated breath. :)

    P.S.: Sadly, I'm off to a wake (tomorrow, a funeral) of a friend's step-grandma. My mood may be too down to post for a while, but I'll try.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Thu Dec 28, 03:38:00 pm GMT-5  

  • It's hard to write about/talk about Nietzsche, because the world seems to be choc-a-bloc full of bad/wacky books about my Uncle Fred. I have a notion to collect the especially wacky ones: One writer wastes 250 pages saying Nietzsche is like "water" and tries mightily to describe him as such. My fav is the writer who claimed that the crazy Nietzsche was not crazy, but a woman! That's right, Nietzsche's ideas were "too feminine" for a man to write, (?!?) so, therefore, Nietzsche suffered from Victorian repression...

    The academic books are no better; either insanely fawning, or more commonly, insanely condescending.

    Nietzsche is my gymnasium. He's tougher, faster, funnier, more delightful and more delighted than me in a way that makes me want to get smarter. Too many writers write about themselves to themselves. Nietzsche writes to me and no one else, but me, or so it seems. I don't think I've ever read a writer who so cared about the quality of one's thinking like Nietzsche. These are not the usual remarks people make about him.

    You may laugh, but I have read Zarathustra every day, front to back, for over two years. (not just Zarathustra of course, and not currently!)

    This might be a good vein for conversation someday...


    Tonight on Netflix I watched "District B13", sort of a French John Woo movie, and a guilty pleasure, "Clerks 2."

    I hope your funeral isn't too painful, but if support and chatting is needed, I am at your beck and call...

    By Blogger Ron, at Fri Dec 29, 12:31:00 am GMT-5  

  • It's hard to write about/talk about Nietzsche, because the world seems to be choc-a-bloc full of bad/wacky books about my Uncle Fred.

    Excellent. Uncle Fred.

    I think I will call Heine (another hero) my Uncle Heini.

    P.S.: I also really really hate Hegel, but am rather tolerant, even indulgent about Wittgenstein. Odd, no?

    I have a notion to collect the especially wacky ones: One writer wastes 250 pages saying Nietzsche is like "water" and tries mightily to describe him as such. My fav is the writer who claimed that the crazy Nietzsche was not crazy, but a woman!

    Oh God. It's redolent of psychobabblist-art historians who say that Mona Lisa is Da Vinci in drag.

    Which is not to say that Leo never fancied himself in ladies' undies, but still.

    That's right, Nietzsche's ideas were "too feminine" for a man to write, (?!?) so, therefore, Nietzsche suffered from Victorian repression...

    Yes, yes. And Shakespeare's grand passion was a man, and anyway, he didn't write all those stories. Marlowe did.

    Some people are simply too sublime, too genius for this world, and therefore, people around them cannot fathom their lone existence.

    It's too close to having the hand of God on them.

    The academic books are no better; either insanely fawning, or more commonly, insanely condescending.

    Yes.

    Nietzsche is my gymnasium.

    God, how I love this quote. I must ask you permission to use this, Ron!

    He's tougher, faster, funnier, more delightful and more delighted than me in a way that makes me want to get smarter. Too many writers write about themselves to themselves. Nietzsche writes to me and no one else, but me, or so it seems. I don't think I've ever read a writer who so cared about the quality of one's thinking like Nietzsche. These are not the usual remarks people make about him.

    It's amusing that we are on the topic of Nietzsche now, since I just took out a movie (from Brazil) called:

    Dias de Nietzsche em Turim

    Check it out one day, on Netflix, if you can.

    It's the 2001 directorial debut by Francisco Bassane (IIRC), who portrayed the most productive years of Nietzsche's life, whilst in Turin.

    He wrote Thus Spake Zarathustra there, of course.

    You may laugh, but I have read Zarathustra every day, front to back, for over two years. (not just Zarathustra of course, and not currently!)

    This might be a good vein for conversation someday...


    A wonderful vein! We must open it one day.

    Tonight on Netflix I watched "District B13",

    Banlieu 13! I have a copy of that, but I haven't watched it yet.

    Let me know. :)

    sort of a French John Woo movie, and a guilty pleasure, "Clerks 2."

    Don't think I am a film snob. I loved Clerks I.

    Heck, I even liked American Pie 1 (though haven't seen any of the sequels -- thank God, apparently).

    I hope your funeral isn't too painful, but if support and chatting is needed, I am at your beck and call...

    Well, it was my first wake (tomorrow is the funeral) for a while.

    An Italian-American family whose daughter I have known since 11th grade (she's expecting her sixth child, and that feels VERY strange, since I'm not married, still!).

    I wasn't terribly close to the deceased, but I must say, it was sad, not to say shocking, to see the shell of a human being she had become, lying so alone in that plain coffin.

    She was the ex-head nurse of the most famous hospital in NYC, back in the 50s.

    And not one of her friends made it to her wake.

    I don't want to go out like that...ah well.

    Sorry. I'm broody today.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Fri Dec 29, 01:26:00 am GMT-5  

  • Here it is (the director, is actually Julio Bressane, pronounced Zhu-liu Bressa-knee in Portuguese), the opinion of an IMDB reviewer, as follows:

    This is an unusual, rather radical film about a very radical philosopher. To follow the film, and to appreciate it, one must be very familiar with Nietzsche, late 19th century West European History, and its culture. (selected Wagner music is played throughout the film.)

    The film has no real plot. It is a composite of well-known Nietzsche writings voiced over in Brazilian Portuguese to situations in Turin (Italy) and to location shots of Turin, where Nietzsche spent a period of about nine months late in his life. It was a time when Nietzsche was at the height of his delirium, so many of his writings confirming this mental state are especially included.

    The director of this film spent a lot of time both in Brazil and in Turin preparing the film. He was helped by his wife - the distinguished professor of philosophy Rosa Dias, who obviously influenced the film greatly.

    Between 1995 and 2000, the director shot images of Turin for the film. Unfortunately, these are generally of bad quality (even if for effect - they don't work), and are contemporary, showing Turin today. All the movement towards the sky to avoid cars and skyscrapers being seen are not effective either.

    The film is for Nietzsche scholars only. Anyone else, even insomniacs, will surely sleep right through it. The director deserves credit for having taken the chance on such an unusual film, and such an "un Brazilian" theme for a Brazilian movie.

    But, the film is ultimately (predestined by its theme) a big bore of a tribute, perhaps even to those interested in Nietzsche and his texts.


    I don't think this lady got it.

    Some films aren't narratives, but explorations, visions if you will, of a person's life.

    Coppola's Marie Antoinette was like that.

    They're hard to comprehend...here I would say for your average viewer, but I have always hated people who deem average people incapable of understanding expressionist or non-traditional art. That's so untrue.

    But you know what I mean.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Fri Dec 29, 01:32:00 am GMT-5  

  • I too, love Heine. His "letter to France about the Germans," seems to almost to tell you how the 20th century will play out!

    A probably made-up anecdote by Heine about himself and Hegel:


    So, in the evening, I went out with the Master and spoke rhapsodicly about the stars, calling them the abode of the blessed. But Hegel decried this, saying, "Bah! The stars are nothing more than a gleaming leperosy in the sky!" I cried out, saying "Is there no place for us after death, no rest for the souls of the virtious?" Hegel looked at me with cold eyes and said calmly, "So...you want a tip for not having murdered your father and poisoned your mother?"


    I like Wittgenstein too! He's the strangest of the lot.

    Hegel has an essay about criminals entitled "Who Thinks Abstractly?" which is almost...er...ah...funny!

    Nietzsche is my gymnasium.

    God, how I love this quote. I must ask you permission to use this, Ron!

    Yes, of course, use away!

    I have the book of Nietzsche in Turin; it's interesting that it is a film now!

    Clerks 2 was funny! I'm sorry it bombed!

    I leave with a humanizing wake story. I have a good friend, who's not very social, but when his cat Tom died, he put on a wake for him! He made a silk lined wooden box, put the cat in it and up on the mantle he went while we drank good Irish whiskey and went through every cliche you could think of! "He looks like he's just sleeping." "Off to Catnip Valhalla, where the mice are a step slow, and everything in the fridge tastes like tuna."

    The next day, he had dug a hole in the yard, and invited my then-spouse and I to help put him in it. (we were frequent catwatchers) He had sealed up the box, but when they went to put him, he had dug the hole too shallow and not wide enough, so out came the shovels and those two widened it out, because, damn it, how many times in life do you really get to do a Yorick speech, with the dead in your hand? "Where are your japes now, feline..."

    John Barrymore wasn't as big a ham as I!

    By Blogger Ron, at Fri Dec 29, 03:04:00 am GMT-5  

  • hmmm...the Nietzsche film seems to not be on DVD (according to IMDB) and is not available from Netflix!

    By Blogger Ron, at Fri Dec 29, 03:28:00 am GMT-5  

  • You can send me any address you want (doesn't have to be your home one), and I'll send it to you.

    It's got English subtitles. :)

    I'm off to the funeral, else I'd respond in greater detail, or post something new.

    If I don't, you'll all understand why.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Fri Dec 29, 10:28:00 am GMT-5  

  • The most interesting thing about Hegel, I think, was that he was Hölderlin's friend at university (Tübingen).

    What an odd flowering that time was, all under the shadow of Goethe.

    By Blogger JSU, at Fri Dec 29, 05:44:00 pm GMT-5  

  • Victoria -- I sent you an address at the email in your profile. I'm not sure what email (if any) you are checking!

    By Blogger Ron, at Fri Dec 29, 06:04:00 pm GMT-5  

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