I find it interesting the type of media we have turned to over the past couple decades. Superheroes have made a comeback, and science fiction and fantasy have entered the spotlight. I am not complaining, of course. In these genres are heroes that inspire us and villains that make us reconsider the world around us. I enjoy these films and books, and by them I feel stirred to greater courage myself. I would suggest we need these stories, as a society and as individuals. To explain my statement, let us start with a quote by C. S. Lewis.
“Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.”C. S. Lewis
Famous for the children’s series, The Chronicles of Narnia, among many other works, Lewis argues children need stories of heroism to face the evils that will probably come their way. I would argue we all, children and adults alike, need literature that presents courage and virtue in a clear light. Inevitably, struggle and suffering will intercept our paths, and such situations will demand of us bravery, bravery that defies even our own expectations.
Struggle is real to some even as a child. Other children have been shielded from painful battles, therefore life’s difficulties come as a surprise, a shock, in adulthood. It is without question, however, that everyone will encounter conflict and trial in their lives, whether it be financial, physical, social, or spiritual. To survive and to thrive, a person must stride forward with courage in the face of fear.
Yet how does one learn to do that? It is to this need the stories I have mentioned can speak. Watching our fictional heroes on the screen and reading them—or should I say, experiencing them—on the page, we find ourselves drawn into their conflicts and struggling alongside them for resolution. We root for their bravery and self-sacrifice even as we mourn the loss such things will entail. Dare I say we wish we could be them—to live a life that means something and leaves an impact long after we are gone?
It is into this need I find myself drawn as a writer. It is dangerous to write oneself into a story, it is said, and I found I have not done that exactly. Rather, I have written pieces of myself into characters more heroic than I am. I see in them the same impulses of fear and self-doubt that I possess, yet I watch them stride forward in the face of those things. They struggle and reach low points, leaving themselves on the brink of self-destruction, but in the end, they turn to hope and courage. It is that turning I yearn to watch, that I ache to experience through them.
And somehow, along the way as I write them, I realize maybe I do have courage—the courage to write, to present myself to the world, to pursue a dream that takes years of hard work to fulfill. More than that, I have the courage, the very audacity to hope and long for something better than these years marked by struggle and strife, and I have the courage to believe that one day I will reach that something better. I have the courage to believe that all this suffering and bitterness of days will not amount to nothing but rather will be transformed even as I am transformed into something beautiful.
We need our stories of heroism, and we need to be the heroes.