When I was a boy I wanted to be like Arnold Schwarzenegger. And not just because he was big and strong. Because what boy doesn't dream of being Mr. Universe? (Or Miss, as the case may be.) But Arnie wasn't just a pair of beautiful biceps. The Austrian Oak, as he is known, was also a blockbuster action star and successful businessman who married a cutie and had a large brood of beautiful babies. It was also because he had great hair. And not at all because of his large and rather handsome penis.
So I was pretty crushed when I learned that my childhood hero had been caught having sex with the housekeeper, who then gave birth to a son. I guess it could have been worse. He could have been caught having sex with the family pooch, which may actually have been a good thing in the grand scheme, considering overpopulation and all, as it would have resulted in one less (illegitimate) child. A good side to everything I guess. Can you see the resemblance?
I was even more crushed to learn that this story hit the news in 2011. Have I been living with my head in the sand all this time? I'm only now beginning to get over the shock of it all. Call me sentimental. On some gray days I still find myself singing Foo Fighters in the shower. You know the one? There goes my hero, watch him as he goes, there goes my hero. He's ordinary.
The Foo Fighters meant ordinary as in average guy saving innocents from a fire. But these days ordinary means giving birth to bastards (sorry to put it bluntly.) Recent statistics indicate that over forty percent of children are. Bastards, that is. But I'm sure they're nice people.
Then I saw the new Batman V. Superman trailer. You may think this is unrelated, but . . . how depressing! I mean, where have the good guys disappeared to? I'm not privy to the intricacies of the plot, but after viewing the 2:14 teaser, my impression was that these two popular superheroes, played by Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill respectively, are posed to do battle with each other. Particularly, Caped Crusader seems to be rather jealous of the attention that his rival, the Man of Steel, is getting, when a statue bearing the latter's likeness looms in the town square.
I know that behind the mask Bruce Wayne is a man and all, but come on, friends, these dudes are supposed to be above such pettiness. They're the good guys. Aren't they supposed to be on the same side? Can't we all just get along?
Now I'm aware that superheroes derive from Greek gods, and that these archetypal figures, Atlas and Aphrodite among them as well as their Roman counterparts, Mars and Venus, were often rash, jealous, spiteful, vindictive and promiscuous. Zeus, who was Father of the Gods, cheated on his wife Hera, who was like his third wife and also his sister, constantly, and with both deities and mortals. Maybe this is where Arnold got it from! But this too-human behavior, does it really befit the gods? Haven't our stories evolved? Shouldn't they?
Or must we look elsewhere for our heroes? I particularly like The World's Most Interesting Man. Otherwise known as the Dos Equis guy. You've seen him? Played by the actor Jonathan Goldsmith (not the world's most interesting name, that's for sure) channeling Fernando Lamas. He performs great feats, cavorts with lovely ladies. And he doesn't always drink beer, but when he does . . . you know where that phrase leads. His advice on how to live a better life? "Stay thirsty, my friends." Um, okay. He's still worth a few good laughs I'll admit.
But if we're looking for more than 2 hours of mindless entertainment (the superhero movie will probably come in at just under 3), for more than even a few laughs - I mean if we're looking for a hero here, and it seems the screens both big and small have failed us, and so has the page, judging by popular novels whose protagonists commit crimes and usually get off scot-free. Hey, Gone Girl was a whole lot of fun!
But to find our Superman, someone to look up to, after all the greats have failed us (as Arnie failed me) maybe we need to go farther back in the past and look elsewhere than the pages of mythology. Maybe the real Superhuman is buried beneath 2 millennia of metaphysics, not in the pages wherein Zeus and Venus engage in their intrigues, but to the idealized individual that another Greek philosopher envisioned.
I'm speaking of Aristotle, arguably the world's greatest thinker, heir to the throne of philosophy bequeathed by the greats, Socrates and Plato who came before. Aristotle's Superhuman is outlined as follows:
1. (S)he does not expose himself needlessly to danger, since there are few things for which he cares sufficiently; but he is willing, in great crises, to give even his life - knowing that under certain conditions it is not worthwhile to live.
2. He is of a disposition to do men service, though he is ashamed to have a service done to him. To confer a kindness is a mark of superiority; to receive one is a mark of subordination.
3. He does not take part in public displays.
4. He is open in his dislikes and preferences; he talks and acts frankly, because of his contempt for men and things.
5. He is never fired with admiration, since there is nothing great in his eyes.
6. He cannot live in complaisance with others, except it be a friend; complaisance is the characteristic of a slave.
7. He never feels malice, and always forgets and passes over injuries.
8. He is not fond of talking.
9. It is no concern of his that he should be praised, or that others should be blamed. He does not speak evil of others, even of his enemies, unless it be to themselves.
10. His carriage is sedate, his voice deep, his speech measured; he is not given to hurry, for he is concerned about only a few things.
11. He is not prone to vehemence, for he thinks nothing very important. A shrill voice and hasty steps come to a man through care.
12. He bears the accidents of life with dignity and grace, making the best of his circumstances, like a skillful general who marshals his limited forces with all the strategy of war.
And my personal favorite:
13. He is his own best friend, and takes delight in privacy - whereas the man of no virtue or ability is his own worst enemy, and is afraid of solitude.
I'll be damned if it doesn't sound like Aristotle served as inspiration for the Dos Equis dude, does it not?
Okay, maybe our guy (or gal) doesn't wear a cape or for that matter drink beer (if anything she probably prefers wine - Aristotle was after all Greek). But she can soar new philosophical heights, which if we make like her we all can reach.
And unlike Affleck's Batman, who is the jealous type and likely somewhat ashamed of himself for it, you can leave your mask at home as you go out in the world. Because if you are anything like the new superhero, or should we say the recently-rediscovered superhero, you can be proud to be you.
Of course, Aristotle says nothing about having sex with servants. Knowing when to keep it in your pants is, after all, just common sense.