There’s a profession out there, a noble and honorable one on which society depends, that has earned my contempt.
I won’t name it here; I see no reason to earn what would ultimately be a warranted amount of scorn and enmity by actually naming the career path in question. As well, I lack any desire to besmirch the fabulous members of what is – again – a great and wonderful profession. I must, however, have some way of referencing the job and those who labor at it, so I’ll simply call the members of this profession wooblers. The infinitive form is to wooble. The verb conjugates regularly: woobled, woobling, to have woobled, etc.
I realize the contradiction, of course; I’m confessing a certain disregard for a noble role filled by wonderful people. Cognitively, I realize the benefit of wooblers as they wooble their way through our lives. I would hate to live in a world in which no one woobles at all. Even so, in my heart I wish I didn’t have to tolerate them.
Sometimes I hear someone say, “Oh, I met up with a woobler I knew years ago! It was so great to see him! Oh…he was a WONDERFUL woobler, better than all the other wooblers I knew. He made such an impact on me when I knew him. He woobled me for a short time, but WOW what a difference he made.” Every single time, my gut-level response response is, “What sort of a sad-sack existence did you suffer through if a woobler was the one who made a difference in your life?” So far I’ve been smart enough not to voice such thoughts, though. Usually I just smile and nod and throw up a little in my mouth.
I remember reading an article by some guy who was voted Woobler of the Year. He touted the training of those in the profession, and trumpeted the various improvements in woobling techniques that had come along through the years. He especially lauded the great professionalism he had seen in wooblers all across the country – and that’s where I saw the problem. He knew his fellow-wooblers as great professionals with high standards and all that rot. I perceived instead a bunch of flawed, biased, mistake-filled human beings who happened to be striving for wooble-based professionalism along the way.
I suppose the Case of the Wooblers captures the basic reason why I have no heroes. I have no autographs, never had a poster on my bedroom wall. I’ve never had an answer for teachers who asked me, “Who is your hero?” as a starter question for a 500-word essay. I cannot answer the question, “Name someone whose life has impacted yours.”* No matter how great someone is, no matter how noble, no matter how holy – in the end, he’s gonna fail, flail, fall, stumble. He’ll do so because he’s a flawed, biased, mistake-filled human being.
*(Not entirely true: my wife bears the honor of being my greatest influencer, but I’m not sure if that counts here.)
And before someone starts yelling in the comments section below, I’m not thinking of the unhealthy hero worship which plagues certain age groups in society. I guess I mean there are few people out there who truly inspire me on a deeply personal individual level.
I recently spent a year taking classes on an SBC seminary campus. It was a bit of an eye-opening experience for me in that most everyone wanted to cite Someone. I heard of Platt and Stezter and Aiken and a bunch of other Big Names while I was there, names not tossed around so much as reverently placed on the conversational table for all to admire. I wasn’t impressed. I took to passive-aggressively mispronouncing names (” Who? John Peeper? John Pooper? Sorry – I don’t hear well.”) and wandering off when certain Names were airily lofted from lips to the square-tiled heavens in the hallways. I’m sure everyone mentioned was a great guy – human through and through. And therein lie the rub.
I’m just so acutely aware of humanity’s imperfections and its tendency not to live up to the greatest ideas.
Ahh…ideas. Now there are some heroes.
An idea can be great. If it is holy in origin, an idea can be perfect. A well-formed idea can be theorized, extemporized, examined, and improved. It can withstand the test of time. You cannot tempt an idea, lead it astray into ideological adultery or pettiness. I can admire an idea far more easily than (appropriately) honor a hero.
I’m not sure if my lack of heroes is an indication of something more spiritually sinister. My relationship with wooblers notwithstanding, my lack of heroes is not due to a failure to forgive others for their human flaws. I see myself in their mistakes and realize I’m not so different; I can identify with flaws far more easily than I can with perfection. What’s more, I don’t believe my standards for others are unreasonable nor unbending. I can’t observe any real spiritual failure at play, so I guess I’m on safe ground. Perhaps an awe for ideas is simply the flip side of near-worship for those who have the ideas. I don’t know.
There is one strength to my approach, though: the same apparent contradiction with respect to wooblers helps me see past those of us (read: all of us) who sometimes fail to hold to the standards we hold dear. A bad cop doesn’t make law enforcement evil. A lazy doctor doesn’t mean medicine is sinister. And a stumbling Christian – hero or not – doesn’t invalidate the whole of Christendom.
I do wish sometimes, especially when I see Facebook comments memorializing someone special, that I could find it in myself to believe in someone. I think there is a relational depth, a passion that I’m missing out on by not having Someone Special out there to revere. I think I’d like to be able to adapt myself to sitting at the feet of some master and learning all I could.
Just so long as it isn’t a woobler.