Sunday, July 31, 2005
We're all heroes
Lance Armstrong. Just the name makes me wince. Not because he is in anyway worthy of derision, (though he may be in some private moments we aren't privy to) but because here is a guy who holds the admiration of the world in his hands, having broken world records while also beating that cancer. And then using this celebrity to further the research into cancer - in short, a true hero. But here's my problem: instead of feeling inspired by him, I just feel like I'm a worthless piece of shinola.
Remember when you were young and the teachers and older folks encouraged you by saying that you could be anything you wanted to be? Isn't that what is still happening today? And the reality is, it's just not accurate. Now, I'm sure Lance wasn't pulling on mommy's apron going "I want to win the Tour de France and then I want to get cancer, beat it and win that race some more times. Wouldn't it be great if I could win it seven times and inspire the world to step up and solve some major cancer riddles?" But he may have wanted to race bikes, I don't know we'd have to ask him. (Sure I could traipse all over the net looking for interviews to add some verisimilitude to the piece here, but then I'm no reporter) The truth is that you will probably not be the "best" at anything, that you won't have a previously unthought of thought in your entire life. The truth is also that you will have a set of unique experiences that when mixed together with your personality will provide you with a completely new "existence", unexisted until now. No one piece of it will be new, just the whole recipe taken together.
It took me decades to figure this out. I've tried to do many things, with varying degrees of success. I can read music and write songs, write little stories and swim, bodysurf and bowl. But there is always someone who can do it better, their particular mix of talent and drive far more suited to the tasks than mine. All the jobs! Waiter, model, actor, restaurant manager, calendar maker, teacher, factory worker, gopher; I like to think I was/am good at those things, but I'm certainly not the best. Sigh.
And so, doomed to a life of obvious mediocrity, there is that one tiny thread to cling to; taken together your existence is unique. It's the one thing you can be the best at, the one true way to stand tall and be proud, and the one way that we can all be Lance Armstrong.