Worrying About My Heroes
I need hero protection.
To get me through this pandemic and these divisive insane times, I have been painting a series of portraits of people I admire.
I call them my Hero Portraits.
My first few portraits were relatively easy picks. They are people for whom my belief is so strong, my confidence in their goodness so unshakeable, whose moral center is my own aspiration.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Jimmy Carter. Jane Goodall. Eleanor Roosevelt. Albert Einstein. Malala Yousafzai. John Lewis. President Obama. Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Amelia Earhart, The Dalai Lama. Rosa Parks. Anne Frank.
I have also added portraits of people I believe have given to the world in ways that are perhaps not historic, but nevertheless important:
Mother Teresa, Billie Jean King, Danny Thomas, Michelle Obama, Greta Thunberg, Helen Keller. And a Covid-19 nurse whose family and friends wanted to recognize the significant contributions and the enormous bravery of everyday people in traumatic times.
My favorite portraits are not necessarily the people I admire most, but rather the portraits that captured what I wanted to capture.
The power of Dr. King:
The shy but confident audacity of Rosa Parks:
With Anne Frank, I wanted to emphasize how young and innocent she was. So many of the old photographs look dark and tragic, but to me, Anne was, above all, a hopeful little girl.
And I want to continue.
There are a couple of people on my list that I am sure of: Mahatma Gandhi, Marie Curie, and Muhammad Ali will be coming up next.
But then it gets complicated.
Do I add people I admire but have grave flaws? Do I add folks that are not particular favorites of mine, but have enriched the world? How about my childhood heroes? What about artists and writers?
Some who might fall into this category are John and Robert Kennedy, Princess Diana, Mark Twain – and even Jimmy Stewart and Audrey Hepburn. There are more – Winston Churchill and FDR come to mind.
But here is my biggest fear: That my choices will disappoint me.
When I was a kid, I adored the Kennedys. As I grew up, I learned that Jack and Bobby were far from perfect. But didn’t they leave the world a better place, despite their personal failings?
In choosing contemporary heroes – Greta Thunberg is probably the youngest of my current-day heroes – I run the risk that they won’t live up to the world’s expectations. To my expectations, to be honest.
I worry that my heroes will be exposed as frauds, or they will be seduced by fame and money. They may have a dark side of which I am unaware.
They may hurt me.
Ah, but isn’t that the risk we all take in loving people – whether we love them as heroes or friends?
To view human beings as heroes is a terrible, wonderful risk.
All I can do love them now, and if they disappoint me in the future,
take comfort in the knowledge that I loved them for a time. That for a while, they gave me hope.
*I have set up a tab in the menu at top where you can see all my portraits.