I have been thinking over what constitutes a hero of late. Of course, a hero must be courageous. But we must define courage, and thereby help to define heroism.
There seems to be many misconceptions about courage. Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage cannot exist where there is an absence of fear. Courage is only found where there is fear. Indeed, it is the subjugation of fear that defines courage.
Heroism is not so different, befitting the indelible link between courage and a hero. Is one who has nothing to lose able to be a hero? Heroism comes precisely by placing personal needs below those of others. A person that is immortal or invincible can not be a hero, not in the traditional sense of offering their life to protect others anyway. Heroism comes at a cost. Heroism demands a cost. And that price must be paid by the hero himself.
And so we come to a few conclusions. Heroes bleed. Or at least have the potential to. But heroes continue to fight while bleeding, pausing for but moments of somber reflection and to wipe the blood from their brow that they might see the path and enemy in truth rather than by bloody tears.
Are those tears wrong? Certainly those shed of blood are no issue, but what of sorrow? Perhaps so long as his tears are not for himself then a hero ought to cry, to weep for those he loves, for those he could not and can not save.
But who could fault a hero for selfish tears, for none weep for him, none save him, none try to save him. Who is left to love him but himself? He must weep for himself. Still he weeps first for others, still he fights for others through the tears, but as the battle closes, is death not the best hope for the hero?
What awaits him if he is victorious and lives? Vanity and the false love of parades and congratulations. Lying admiration and apotheosis would surround him, corrupt him. He would realize that accomplishments fade with memory and so too does the worship of the people, if it has not already primed arrogance.
And what of defeat and living? An incomparable hell. He has failed those he loves, failed himself, failed everything and everyone. Could such a person live with himself?
Barely better is defeat and death. For but a moment, he must taste the burn of agony, a fleeting, fearful terror unlasting. All the darkness soon enough forgot in the darkness of death.
But in death and victory, he sees himself triumph over evil, sees it crushed under his heel, but is spared the false hopes of life, to see them rot and fester in his chest as he becomes that against which he fought. Not love, not riches, not life itself, but death is the true reward for the hero.
It all adds up. The hero spends his life for others, and there can be no return or refund once spent. It is gone.