In my mind I was the hero. Oh, the volumes I could write about the gleaming sword, the shining armour, the white faithful steed and the rest of the accoutrements that I put on every morning… In my head, you see, I wasn’t taking the bus to school, I was riding for justice. And learning. Six hours a day, except for sports class, which didn’t really count, but it was fun nevertheless. After all, heroes are allowed to have fun, aren’t they?
One side-effect of being a hero is that you tend to be very judgemental toward people. The process is quite simple – it begins with “If I was in their place…”, then sword! armour! shield! ride to save the day!, and it ends invariably with a look halfway between pity and disgust towards the unsavoury compromises chosen by said person. Chosen in place of the “full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes” approach that you envision yourself doing. It is the privilege and pleasure of young people everywhere to save the day, sometimes even more than once, be the hero and maybe get the girl. In their heads.
Of course, as we get older, things get much more… gray, shall we say. You make mistakes of your own, ones which you cannot readily justify and absorb inside your hero persona. You make compromises. You live with them. And you begin to understand the world a little better.
Because, you see, when the hero slays the dragon, he gets to ride off into the sunset and out of the story, sometimes accompanied by the girl of his dreams. And we never find out how it really turns up. Like, for instance, when he realises that the dragons were an intelligent species that could have lived quietly alongside humans, enriching both our lives and theirs, only they never got the chance, because the hero killed them all. Or that time when the princess, sick and tired of his heroing around instead of helping take care of the kids, goes back to her mother and takes said children with her. Or when he hung up his sword, promising never to use it again, only for his children to hate him for it – because there’s this ogre, you see, and he could easily have taken care of it, but he promised his wife he’d never… And so it goes.
So next time you’re in a rush to judge somebody, allow at least a tiny little doubt in your mind, saying you might be wrong. Saying you might have done the same, had you been in their place. It is quite easy, being the hero.Much harder, being human.