Thursday, March 04, 2010

Not Just Feet of Clay


I've always had heroes, people who inspire me. Although I can admire those who are good at sports, or who are handsome in good clothes, or who can make an impassioned monologue from a script. All those things, cool. But the stuff of their accomplishments don't lead me to a feeling of awe.

My heroes are those who have accomplished something in service of people or in pursuit of understanding. The kind of stuff that I try to do every day. I have been fortunate to meet many of my heroes over time. I won't mention any here because I don't want their names in today's blog. If you'd like I can write about them later.

One of my early heroes was a man whose accomplishments were and, I guess, are astonishing. When I met him, the only thing that kept me from an unhealthy envy was the fact that I liked him. Really liked him. Not only that I liked and bought into the mythology that he built around himself. He spoke of the wife that he adored, of a relationship that had supported him, inspired him and fulfilled him. I never met his wife but everyone spoke of their relationship in soft and awed tones.

Through several years I managed to read every book he wrote, and he wrote many. I quoted him in papers I published. I spoke to him on the phone on occasion, saw him seldomly. Both Joe and I were deeply in like with him.

I thought of him today. I wish I hadn't. I went to a website to get some information and found an article written in memory of him. There I found the incredibly sad story of a young, lonely and confused teen aged boy. Now my hero was one of the first advocates (I'm not naming him, I may never say his name again) for sex education for all - for people with disabilities, for children, for confused teenagers.

Well this very young teen boy, from London, writes a painful story of meeting this rich American man. A funny man. A man practiced in the art of manipulation. A man with money, and time, and attention. This man took advantage of youth and vulnerability. This boy, now a man, is full of conflicting emotions regarding the man who messed up mentoring with sex.

I knew from the moment I read what I was reading that I was reading the truth. This was written by someone dealing more with sadness and confusion than rage. This was written by someone who was deeply hurt.

By my hero.

By my inspiration.

By someone I would think about, remember, with great affection.

I feel like my trust has been abused.

The young man said of my former hero, 'he was a deeply flawed man.'

I wish I could be satisfied with that simple realization.

But I'm not.


Kristin said...

I'm so sorry Dave. It's never easy to realize our heroes are human just like us.

Anonymous said...

It's difficult to discover a mentor wasn't all he/she appeared to be. I remember reading that my former therapist was in court because of a sexual relationship with a patient.He made a (positive)huge impact on my life and for awhile I just felt sick, betrayed.

Dave Hingsburger said...

Kristin, human, I could easily cope with ... criminal, now that's another story.

ivanova said...

That is terrible. This man did something really horrible; it's not a "well, everyone makes mistakes" kind of thing. At least you can recognize that this man committed a crime, rather than explaining it away like a lot of people do about their heroes.

Belinda said...

That is a HUGE a adjustment to make in a mind and heart and a sickening discovery. When people people break trust it disappoints deeply.I'm so sorry that this hero had a dark side, for the sake of everyone.

liz said...

I'm sorry.

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

I agree with you - human foibles and quirks are one thing but that kind of manipulation and horrific breach of trust - well it's hard to see past that. In a sense that person has broken trust with all of us. It being so abstract and not an immediate relatioship for you, it is hard to mourn.


Sarah said...

I don't know that this piece of wisdom, which has helped me greatly to deal with a similar topic, will help you at all - but here I go:

People of great importance to my life have made very similar abuses to the one you describe. What I've come to realize is that EVERYONE has an immense capacity for greatness within them, and an immense capacity for harm. These don't balance each other out, but it has helped me to see how someone with great gifts can also do great wrong, and how someone who causes great harm can also be a loving father and husband. We all of us have that duality and the smallest moment of decision can tip our actions one way or the other. Learning to face your ability for harm and acknowledge it is the only way NOT to do harm, and for some that thought is too difficult.

In recognizing this individual's ability to cause great harm while simultaneously inspiring you, perhaps you have just come closer to acknowledging the dark side in everyone?

Destinee Dale said...

wow. It is almost always so much easier to accept what we perceive people to be (or whom they represent themselves to be) than to learn who they really are. Hopefully, through his many books his life made a difference for the better to many. This however could never make up for the damage he has caused. This is devastating. I can imagine it would be hard to not look at all of your heroes with a raised eye brow. Its times like this that could make one jaded. You and Joe are great. Thank you for being a true hero to us all.