When we see persons of worth, we should think of equaling them; when we see persons of a contrary character, we should turn inwards and examine ourselves.
I don’t remember the year, but I remember my disgust with my mother that she was going to force me to watch Cyrano de Bergerac with her – an ancient (strike 1) foreign film (strike 2). In my teenage gut I figured it would be pretty lame. I was so wrong.
Almost right away, Miguel Ferrer started lobbing verbal darts and then the rapiers came out. I was entranced, much to my mother’s amusement. I think she figured out that I would empathize with a man who had a physical deformity (my physical development was behind that of my peers) and chose to respond with eloquence. That or, she knew how much I had enjoyed the Musketeer movies with Michael York and figured I would place this within that genre, albeit with a certain degree more tragedy.
My dad has always been a fan of John Wayne and Roy Rogers characters, but those archetypes and characters never resonated with me. I grew up with 3 brothers and as the smallest guy in my class with a quick temper so my scrappiness could have been drawn to those characters, but spending a lot of time inside because of allergies opened up the world of myth, fairy tales, and literature to me.
Don’t get me wrong, I am uniquely my own person. But the way we connect with characters from books, movies, and TV harkens back to Confucius’ point – if we value their perspective, we seek to equal them. That’s the impetus behind the “WWJD?” and “WWBD?” (What Would Batman Do?) philosophies. When I’m faced with a decision, I often think about not just the morals instilled in me by my parents and the people that have helped mold me, but also the characters of literature who have inspired me would handle the situation.
There’s a part of me that’s Cyrano, Mercutio, James T. Hart, Lloyd Dobler, and untold numbers of comic book and Austen heroes. It’s not the me of all the time, but when I shake off the lethargy that inevitably manifests as we struggle with reality, it’s the me I aspire to be.
Who are your literary heroes and what aspirations do you draw from them?