Of Heroes, Villains and Cheerleaders – 1

No matter how highly or lowly placed you are, you – yes you! – function in three dimensions. You are a hero, you are a villain and you are a cheerleader! Every day of our lives, we manifest these three traits. Which part you manifest per time is dependent on the role you are playing at a given time and space. Perhaps you don’t feel like a hero. Or you think you are way beyond the infamy of perfidious villainy. Let me explain.

Who is a hero?  Synonyms for the word include ‘star’, ‘champion’, ‘idol’, ‘superman’, ‘protagonist’, ‘brave man’. Heroes are icons that society or individuals celebrate because of some notable contribution, feats or achievements which stand them apart from the generality of people. Such achievements not only appear enigmatic to certain people who desire to emulate them, they leave the admirers in awe of the hero. An act of heroism may be for one fleeting moment but real heroism leaves indelible memories. Our heroes remind us of our loftiest dreams because their achievements leave a trail of possibilities that inspire us and show us that if we could do what they did, we could become what they became.

Our heroes are our role-models. They signpost the way to a future that, without them to look up to, could at best have been a mirage. The mention of their names gives us an exhilarating sensation that reverberates throughout our being. When we stand before our heroes, we are not only star-struck, we are tongue-tied. When we speak, we tend to stutter or simply ramble to no end. At the very extreme, we simply gaze, starry-eyed. Because we tend to deify our heroes, whether personal or collective, we forget that idols too have clay feet. To us, our heroes are hardly ever capable of doing wrong. Even their dysfunctionality or awful fashion sense sometimes become our vogue!

At every man’s level of function, he will be someone’s hero. Peer influence thrives on the heroism principle because even in a gathering of supposed equals, there is always one outstanding person that the rest of the group look up to! Although those we consider heroes cannot undo their acts, we have the capacity to change our views about a hero. Faced with superior information and capacity, what used to appear like spell-binding heroism to us may actually turn out to be downright villainy that makes us detest someone we once admired.

Growing up as a young boy, I had an uncle who I respected a lot and loved to spend time with. He loved smoking and I was his favorite errand boy. He only needed to give me money and off I went to procure his favourite brand of cigarette. He did not have to say a word. No matter what I was doing, whenever he called, I would stop it to go and attend to him. From time to time, he would regale me with stories of happenings on the farm (he was a farmer). He it was who aroused my interest enough as a child to want to visit my grandfather’s farm. He, his wives and the other elderly women in the family would often go to that farm for days leaving the rest of us in nostalgic anticipation of their return. I therefore looked forward to the trip. When he told me that he was taking me to the farm on his bicycle, I was ecstatic. At last I was going to be part of those enchanting stories. Sad to say, it was a misadventure. He had to bring me back home the next day because I got bitten by some insects and developed a high fever during the night! When I needed to go to a neighbouring town to sit for the entrance examination to an Ionian school, he it was again who offered to take me there on his bicycle! So you know why I doted on him. To me, he was infallible. Back then, I used to suffer regular, debilitating bouts of malaria. One day, returning from what was a regular errand to buy cigarettes, I entered his room, only to find him smoking something that was obviously not a cigarette. The smell was pungent and different. I also noticed that all his windows were locked. If he was rattled when I came in, he did not show it.  I made bold to ask him what this new cigarette was called. He simply told me it was a remedy for malaria. I was upset and told him how bad it was of him not to avail me of access to what could solve what he knew was my health challenge. He apologized and gave me a few puffs. Of course I coughed hard because up till then, I had never smoked. I was only in primary school! After about three puffs, he told me that would suffice because I was still young.

The process was to be repeated on subsequent occasions and I actually began to look forward to the smoking sessions. I had no way of knowing that I had been introduced to hemp smoking. How did I eventually know? One day, I eavesdropped on a conversation between two adults. They were discussing the evils of marijuana smoking. They mentioned some names of people who had gone berserk from smoking it. One of the names was that of a notorious mad man in the town.

One of them asked the other, “How does one know hemp? I have never seen it.” To which the other replied, “Its leaves are dried before it is smoked. When lit, if there is any seed trapped in the wrap, it gives a crackling sound like a mini banger.” I thought nothing of it but decided I would never smoke marijuana if that was how dangerous it was. On my next visit to my uncle’s room for our usual engagement, as if providence was on my side, for the first time since I had been partaking of this newfound pastime, some seeds were trapped in his wrap that day. As the crackles went off, my mind shot back to the conversation I overheard some days earlier! I did a quick mental calculation that saw me out of that place in the twinkle of an eye. I never entered that room till I left for secondary school! Needless to say, my former hero had become an abominable villain. He could not be anything else if he hated me so much that he wanted to damage my life from an early age!

When our perception, priorities and focus change, so do our heroes. It is not uncommon for someone we saw as a villain to turn round to become our heroes when we have evidence that shows us something about them that we never knew. In the seasons of life, as long as we have someone that we influence, who looks up to us as role model or mentor and whose life we shape by our words or conduct, we are heroes… continued

Remember, the sky is not your limit, God is!

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