It’s always fun to begin with an apology, so I’m sorry to all the very important people in my life, whether I’ve met you or not, that I forget. I’m putting together a list of heroes as I write, and undoubtedly I’ll leave someone very very important to me off and I’ll feel bad about it. I’ll feel even worse if they’re someone who knows me and could feel left out. Well, on to the brain dump.
First, since the little picture I made features cartoon super heroes, who are my heroes that have only existed as ideas, books, and movies? My favorite writers are Frank Herbert, Ayn Rand, and J. R. R. Tolkien. There are lots of others, but I’ve spent more time in those three authors’ books than in any other, except for maybe the Bible. Perhaps Vorian Atreades or Miles Teg from the Dune Universe, but no one really speaks to me from there. Ayn Rand’s Characters are supposed to be heroic, but none of them speak to me individually. I’m not a fan of Hank Reardon, or anyone in Atlas really, maybe Howard Roark (not a fan of the rape/quasi-rape or whatever), but not really him either. I like many of Tolkien’s characters as well, but none I’d call heroes. If I had to come up with a fictional hero, I suppose Valentine Michael Smith (from Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land) is as good a choice as many. I’ve thought several times about changing my name to Valentine in his honor, so I guess he got to me, or I just want a really cool name….
So, that was a bust. Let’s look at family. My mom and I have had our differences, but I truly admire her. She always worked, and worked a lot. She has amazing artistic talent. She is beautiful and kind. Other than her I don’t have a lot going in my family. In my foster families (I’ve had several) there were lots of people I took little bits from to try and make myself better. Truly though, my last foster father, Bill, is one of the greatest men I’ve ever known. Calm and ordered, brilliant, funny, and not once in my life have I seen him out of control. He handles the world with kindness, attention, and thoughtfulness. I hope someday to be like him.
How about famous people? I’m a fan of the accomplishment of tech giants like Elon Musk and Richard Branson, people with giant media empires like Oprah Winfrey and Rush Limbaugh, and brilliant entertainers like Dustin Hoffman, Audrey Hepburn, Helen Mirren, and Keanu Reeves. (You can question the last one if you like, but how many people saw John Wick, and why?) When I wanted to be an actor (some days I still do) I never cared to have a career, or really thought about the money. I love to affect people. Stunned silence was just as flattering to me as applause. I can’t think of a single actor who has been a hero to me. But I can, off the top of my head name several comedians. First for me was George Carlin. He loved comedy, but he loved freedom of speech even more. His work was brilliant. The good he did for the art is immeasurable. Of course, he stands on the back of Lenny Bruce, who was a hero of his, and also of mine. He did some really heavy lifting on freedom of speech, and while fighting all of that redefined what comedy was and what comedians did. Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy move me as well as entertain me. I’d be proud to have 10% the talent they have. And I can’t mention comics without talking about Greg Giraldo. Most people who are not comedian junkies haven’t heard of him. But he was a one man roast machine. I would love to have that kind of presence.
No musicians are my heroes. I have wide tastes and deep interests, but no musician has risen to hero status with me. I loved Prince, I loved Bowie, I love a lot of bands and admire their work greatly, but none are heroes to me, at least not in the mood I’m in today. On another day maybe David Byrne, or Dave Stewart or Frank Zappa or Sun Ra, but not this day.
Scientists. Richard Feynman. Issac Asimov. Maybe others. I know Asimov was a writer as well. I’ve read many of his fiction and nonfiction works, but he transcended being an author, at least for me. I saw him as a learned man first, and an author second. And Richard Feynman could teach theoretical physics to a rock. He had a once in a generation gift, or that’s how it seemed to me.
Social Scientists. As a social scientist myself, I should be influenced by a lot of professors. There’s a long list. Mike Goldsby and Jim Fiet, without which I’m not sure I’d exist as a professor. Peter Klein, Per Davidsson, Howard Aldrich, Donald Siegal, Jay Barney. Many others. I’m grateful for all of them. But the only one I’ve met that I say to myself ‘I’d like to be like that one when I grow up’ is Don Mosley. And it’s really not about academics. It just seems like he really has his priorities in order. He’s a lot like my foster father Bill.
Regular folk. First has to be Anne Reed. I’ve watched her pursue a dream for years, and finally get it. It’s amazing to see that. Michael Crum. He decided to be a professor, and went full tilt. I think he ended up getting his PhD at 24 or something. He was focused, but still had a life. I have yet to master doing both those things together. Another that had that mastered was Gary Butterman. He passed away just before getting his PhD, but he really seemed to have his life together and was a joy everywhere he went. I think about him a lot, and would like people to think about me the way I think about him. (This list could go on a long time too.)
So, what have I leaned from this brain dump? Well, I value kindness most of all. After that I think competence, tenacity, and intelligence, in more or less that order. So to make myself happy I probably should focus in being as nice a person as I can. Then, decide on some things to go after, things that are difficult, and will stretch my mental abilities, and start going after them. Easy advice to give myself. Wonder if I’ll take it.