For me, it’s very important to have people to look up to. I usually refer to it as ‘hero worship’, because that’s how I think of it. Now, looking at the term, I realize it may be a bit misleading for some folks. I don’t admire Captain America or Iron Man; that’s not what I think of as heroes. I admire Stan Lee, for making these fictional characters a reality for so many people; I admire Robert Downey Jr for taking it to the next level in bringing his character to life in movies. I don’t think fictional characters are a good thing to look up to, when there are real people behind them. I look to the real people for my heroes.
I also don’t literally worship them. These folks are people; I know that. I’m not looking for any one person to hold all of the answers to life for me, or even for themselves. There’s always somewhere higher to reach for, and this is evidenced in the fact that my heroes have heroes as well. If they didn’t have anything left to work on, they would be bored silly. I don’t expect them to live exactly as I think they should, or even remotely; only fictional heroes can personify perfection, which is one of the reasons I don’t look up to them. Any complete person has shortcomings as part of their completeness. The shortcoming doesn’t matter to me; only the accomplishments do, and the dedication to the path of improvement.
As an aside, I’ve always been a little confused by the public’s desire to put accomplished people under a microscope in our country. I have heard that poking your nose into great people’s lives in other countries usually comes back on the ones doing the poking. It seems that if we held these folks in higher regard, they might share more of themselves with us. Instead we latch onto their shortcomings, and try to drag them to some level we can look down on. I realized a long time ago that if we looked at the people that aren’t creating things that cause us to know their names, we wouldn’t need a microscope to find their faults. But we don’t look; it’s no fun to tear someone down who hasn’t bothered to build themselves up. Why point at the people actually causing real problems when the people solving everyone’s problems have issues too?
Of course, there are famous people that I am not impressed with. I don’t focus on them any more than I do on the shortcomings of the folks I look up to; my time is better served looking up than looking down. I might joke to my girlfriend in private that some actor can’t act, or that some singer can’t sing; but that doesn’t change the fact that they have more shows on television or albums sold than I do. Even when I poke fun, it’s with admiration; they’re putting themselves out there in a way that I can’t, or don’t. Good for them.
I’ve always been as private with my hero worship as I have been with my occasional criticism. Well, the Universe found a way to point out that that’s kind of messed up. It did so by imbedding a bunch of folks from real life in the last book I wrote. See, I started writing ‘Zombie Zero: The First Zombie’ with a vague picture in mind. As it came clearer, I saw that there was much more to this than a zombie book.
For one thing, it’s got a deeper meaning; that’s kind of my thing. There’s a reason for the zombies in this story; they’re here to save mankind, not destroy it. Unfortunately, the only way to save a people bent on destroying themselves is to force them to start over. But I knew that before; it’s part of what made the story call to me.
What I didn’t know is that it only made sense that those who have risen to the top in polite society are the most likely to survive when things get nasty. When you take the comforts away, aren’t the folks most comfortable with going outside their comfort zone the most likely to succeed? It seemed blatantly obvious, as my heroes began to show up in the book, that it was time to pay public homage to some of the people I have come to admire from afar.
I sent out the kind of messages I never got around to sending before, telling people that I admired why I admired them. I also asked if I could put them in a couple of books about a zombie apocalypse, as another way of thanking them. The only thing more gratifying than sending out a bunch of messages telling people I looked up to how great I thought they were was getting the responses. It was so exciting to see that these super cool people were even cooler than I had dared hope, and that the ‘Year of the Zombie’ was able to take shape with their help.
Of course, I wasn’t able to thank everyone I’ve ever admired; that’s a long list. Hell, while I was writing and editing and awaiting publication I added three or four new folks to my list of heroes. When you see that life is about learning, and that one never stops until the other does, it’s important to find people that are skilled and passionate. It’s inspiring, and educational, and thought-provoking; at least it is for me. It’s even more inspiring to find out that other people are as touched by gratitude as I am, and that inspiring others is its own reward.
This leads pretty naturally into a discussion on friendship, from where I sit. That’s been a subject of much consideration in my life, and I’m happy to say that I have something nice to say something about it. As someone who makes it a habit of questioning the fundamental nature of life and its many facets, I have thought much on the subject of friendship over the years. I’ve even had a few friends that had bodies, and inhabited those bodies in the same approximate space and time that I have inhabited mine. I’ll tell you about some of those thoughts, and some of those experiences, on Friday. We’ll call the post ‘An Author’s Friends’. You might be surprised to see how inclusive and exclusive I can be with a definition, all at the same time.
But then, maybe not. Maybe you and I are friends, and we don’t even know it. I hope you come back Friday, and find out.
Thanks for reading!
All the best,