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.