If you haven’t watched the series HEROES (and love stories about morality and human ability), consider it. There are few shows or stories that have captured the things I’ve personally wondered about the human condition for years so clearly.
Note: I’ve Netflix-binged on the series now – which is a few years old at this point – so the rest of this blog will be written in the present tense.
The HEROES in the show have super-human strengths and abilities, but they live (or try to live) average human lives. There are good guys (heroes) and bad guys (villains). But the show also carefully develops characters who balance at the edge of both of those labels. To reiterate, I love it.
There is, really, a short leap between the notion of a heroic ability and an everyday talent. We all have talent/s others might consider heroic. Most of the time, we identify artists and moguls or top athletes as “heroes” or the most talented in our society. We’re also quick to ignore or let lay dormant our own talents. For me, the very talent I left alone too long is the one you’re seeing on this page. People have been telling me to write (and teach) for years. It isn’t that I’ve meant to ignore them, I’ve just been living in this fairly generic view of what I’ve had to do in order to “make it”, to be “safe”. So many of us do.
In looking at the world’s thin layer of mega-millionaires, I’ve sometimes wondered, what else can they do? What, beyond making money or leading a company, is their talent? Is Bill Gates a poet? Does Oprah Winfrey find her Zen in charcoal sketches? If Warren Buffett left it all behind tomorrow, would he run away toward a life of opera? I’m sure I could look this up and find something about their hidden talents online, but I doubt the same search would give me a detailed view or appreciation for their talents beyond the ones perceived to have made them rich and famous.
HEROES examines human purpose and the bigger questions in life through every episode. Are we meant to save the world? Go on a vision quest? Raise the next generation of super humans? In our daily lives, does it take a heroically-defined ability to make us feel fulfilled? Society often tells us yes (despite all of our favorite fairytale and comic book underdogs to the contrary). Over the last year, I’ve found myself assessing what it is that I really should be doing. It may be higher ed – it may not (as much as I truly love it and its intended purpose). Whatever “it” is, it will include writing. For about a million reasons, I’ve tucked one of my most defining talents away for years as opposed to using it and sharing it every day. Writing hasn’t been a way to bring in a steady paycheck. It hasn’t come with fringe benefits or health insurance. In truth, I also haven’t let it (yet).
Lately, my more spiritual friends have shared a lot via social media about how not being true to ourselves can actually be construed as a violation of something higher. Whether we believe that to be God, the Gods, Nature, or simply a Higher Power… if we’re not using our talents, the world is losing them. It is easy to get caught up in all of the material, standard and American Dreaming of how we can or should make it. As I’ve considered my next chapter, I have realized that the office-bound, pension-pending life is not where I necessarily need to be. I am more fulfilled right now – in so many ways – writing this post under the slowly appearing stars under an LA-moon, outside my favorite Starbucks in Culver City; at the same time, an unexpected and amazingly talented young guy is playing acoustic guitar for anyone listening in the immediate area. I am more fulfilled in simply thinking about life and writing than I ever am in trying to navigate bureaucracy, competition, or workplace drama.True, those things are sometimes necessary for the evolution of who we are as professionals – but so is pursuing the very thing or things that light our fire.
This last writing-heavy year has brought me more purpose than I’ve had in a very long time. I’ve always felt a fairly singular purpose: do something meaningful. But the act of writing (really writing) has focused me in new ways. My “purpose” now seems far more focused. Using my talent has given me focus; in its very action, it has brought me good. Sharing it has allowed me to see how meaningful my talent can be to other people, to the world beyond my office or apartment.
There are so few of us who allow ourselves to be great at our talent/s. Fewer who allow ourselves to be great at the things we were likely born to do as opposed to the things we learn and grow to be good at. The need to make a living can trump the need to fill our souls.
That doesn’t have to be the case.
Watching HEROES has reminded me of something supremely important: we are not meant to deny our talents. I have denied myself my greatest talent/s for way too long. Why? Our talents, our abilities, even if we use them in some way(s) in the day-to-day work that we do, are really meant to define us. Manifesting them in bits and pieces just can’t do them justice. We may not be able to fly, time travel or channel electricity – but the most talented people I know are the true conduits of human greatness: they soar in their mental abilities, make us appreciate time and history in the special ways in which they teach and spark our imaginations in the way that they tell a story. They sing, think, dance, write, paint, draw, empower, run, create, invent. “They” are the acoustic guitarist sitting under the stars on a random street corner, living and sharing his talent.
Give yourself permission to release your talent/s (whatever they are). Do good. Be your own HERO.
For those of you as HEROES-obsessed as myself, they’re bringing it back (#soexcited): http://www.nbc.com/heroes-reborn
Dedicated to: Nathan, the insanely talented musician who helped to inspire this post. He was my HERO the night this was written.