In our world of big names, curiously, our true heroes tend to be anonymous. In this life of illusion and quasi-illusion, the person of solid virtues who can be admired for something more substantial than his well-knownness often proves to be the unsung hero: the teacher, the nurse, the mother, the honest cop, the hard worker at lonely, underpaid, unglamorous, unpublicized jobs. -Daniel J Boorstin, historian, professor, attorney, and writer (1914-2004)
Haven’t most of us had those moments of disappointment in ourselves when we’ve been quite proud of an accomplishment or our self-value, then some lightning bolt of comparison appears and in a moment, what we’d been appreciative of in or from ourselves seems so much smaller by the grandeur by another? Yes, most of us have had those moments.
Some of us respond with resentment — I don’t; my usual response is to wonder why I can’t or didn’t do better. Resentment is a fall: high ground footing is wilfully lost when resentment is the perspective, resentment isn’t a productive state unless one’s product is to negate. I admire the success of others, it often motivates me to regroup, reapproach, go prepare more thoroughly, to imagine a best I have not achieved.
Excellence in sports is defined as “doing one’s personal best” — working, training, conditioning to accomplish the best one can by one’s own standards, or, rather, without limits. In life, ethically, morally, excellence is fidelity to guiding ideals. Ideals that guide represent a huge variety of human understanding and belief — good is bad, bad is good depending on one’s ideals, beliefs in what by differential in perspective about all that is valuable to an individual.
But the self-evaluative process in sports is simple compared with the moral and the psychological processes, primarily because these two latter processes are so difficult to establish among our human condition, socially and individually. Which is where civilization — humans in groups functioning in group awareness of self and others — steps in.
However, when that construct called ‘civilization’ fails some of us, as it does even when they — we — are qualified to participate and contribute, however faintly, what’s left for such as these? Is social recognition, reward, material endowment what’s important and moreso, what defines a worthy person? If it does, then, that implies that the absence of those qualities and materials in an individual’s life defines them as not worthy by comparison.
Individuals face challenges that are so often experienced privately, sometimes in anguish, and what their place among others is, is up to them: acts of courage, generosity, love and great love occur often in a private context and it is these persons who are our silent heroes, silent only to those around them. Doing good is it’s own reward. Being good is up to each of us, despite no reward often being apparent if even available except to know that you have done the right, the good thing.