What makes a hero? What makes a villain?
If I were to play the cynic, I would say: Success.
But I am not quite so cynical as that, and it is not so simple.
There are men I love. These are my heroes, and I would claim that my judgements are valid. Heroism is only brought about by the refining fire of pain, loss and struggle. And these must be freely chosen.
It is not pain itself that defines heroism. One is injured or one is ill. Perhaps one witnesses terrible events or succumbs to vices that destroy one’s capabilities. One ages or is distraught by change.
It is not loss itself that defines heroism. Loved ones are killed or die more naturally. Perhaps they fade into their own affairs or depart in injury, betrayal and hatred. One is exiled or deprived of what one has once had.
It is not struggle alone that defines heroism. One may work tirelessly for living or cause. Perhaps enemies oppose one or disadvantages challenge one. One is regarded as less than others, or made less, yet must strive for the same or higher goals.
These situations are not heroism. They constitute life and experiencing these things or surviving them is usually the easiest or only possible thing to do. Dying is not so easy as it appears, and neither is giving up. Succumbing to what would often be the blessed relief of catatonia is simply not realistic. Such things undeniably occur.
Heroism is sacrifice. When your hands are filled with the ashes of everything you have loved, burned to nothing with the cold all-consuming fire of your will
… When your eyes are still and flat as living death because despite the scorn, dismissal and hatred you face, you know
you have done what you believed to be best… When your pure heart beats only for yourself and the only voice that has offered any confirmation has told you that history will in time absolve you… Then you will know that you have been a hero. Whether you were right or whether you were wrong. And then I will love you.
What makes a villain?
There are men I love. They are not villains, and I would claim that my judgements are valid. Villainy is the destruction, corruption and betrayal of the innocent. But to be truly villainous these acts must never be for selfless cause. They must never inspire prolonged acts of restitution. They must never be under compulsion or threat.
Villainy has its source in jealousy. Jealousy! Its creeping itching pain exists without any trace of redeeming dignity. How can one justify acts based on jealousy? Not in one’s heart. But one feels. I
feel. And sometimes, in self-loathing one takes vengeance.
Villainy has its source in hatred. Hatred! One is wronged without cause or understanding. The ignorant and blunt and incompetent are rewarded again and again and again. And that burns and smoulders, leaping into hot destructive flame whenever it becomes more apparent than usual.
Villainy has its source in loneliness. Loneliness! There are few forces stronger. There is nothing that leaves one more adrift, emptier, or more desperate. And group villainy forges bonds, even of guilt and darkness, which seem better than no bonds at all.
These are not necessarily
villainy, however. Can one avoid
these acts? Is anyone capable of always sternly reacting well to pain and hurt and loss that seems unending and unendurable? I know I have behaved so. These things are
within me, singing strongly through my blood at the least provocation. If one thrashes in the throws of agony is it to be condemned? Such things undeniably occur.
Villainy is like sin. It is not unforgivable. It is not irredeemable. Every moment is a tabula rasa, and one may
be redeemed. Man can control
To pain, to death, the bent of his own days.
Know thou the worst. So much, not more:
And it is not regret that changes villainy, but heroism. This is the origin of all high tragedy, and there is nothing more truly and purely beautiful, and there is nothing worth more in this world.
And when your hands are filled with ashes by your will… When your eyes are still as death because, unwelcomed, you have done your best… When your newly pure heart beats only into the void of the unwritten future… Then you will know that you have redeemed yourself. Whether you are right or whether you are wrong. And then I will love you. And I will love you as you struggle and become. And I will love you when you misstep and hurt yourself or others, because it not easy, but almost impossible, as Matthew Arnold bears witness.Name: John H. Holliday, DDS.
Word Count: 794
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Nulli Virtute Secundus