Where Bowie got it wrong: “We can be heroes…”

Anyone who knows me may be shocked seeing that title, because, it is a truth universally acknowledged (by me) that everything Bowie did or said can be construed as gospel. Yes, even the Laughing Gnome. Except for this conditional, time limited lyric. It made me cross today as I heard it with new ears and a challenge in my heart.

Our notion of heroes come from oral traditions, literature and film. The Mabinogion, Odessy, Gilgamesh, biblical epics, Lord of the Rings, Matrix… Heroes’ journeys aplenty.

These works hold a mirror to our own inner explorations and we are gripped by the hero’s development, willing a good outcome in terms of monsters slayed, swords presented, happy ever afters.

But aren’t we heroic, too, day to day?

I was thinking. About my clients, my friends, my family. And what they deal with every day. The intricacies of negotiating relationships. Committment to employers, spouses, parents, teachers. Looking after the material stuff we accrue: houses, cars, pets, socks. Not to mention dealing with the internal roiling mess of thoughts and emotions that churn around breaking the surface like a Beowulfian (scary) monster. And global pandemics, environmental crises, political buffonery, injustices everywhichway you turn. The sheer bloody hard work of being a human.

And I was thinking about the attitudes and responses of the people I know. Stoicism, getting up in the morning and keeping on keeping on. Meeting challenges with creativity and good grace; finding humour in the darkest of situations.

And the support I see people offer each other, allowing space for grumbles, tears, outright outbursts. Gentle check ins. Offers of help. Even when things are incredibly difficult people manage kindness and courtesy to others. It is quite beautiful to witness.

We may not be slaying giant spiders or blinding Cyclops on a Tuesday afternoon. We may not be “heroic” public service workers or in line for a Nobel Peace prize. But we are alive and attempting to engage in being here, now. And sometimes that can feel like a gargantuan act. Brushing your teeth in the morning, answering that email, feeding the cat, saving that worm, letting someone out at a junction. All acts of being alive, all epic in their own way.

Don’t be taken in by Bowie’s anthemised platitude. We are heroes every day, in the epic scope of our individual and collective lives.

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