When I was an 8-year-old kid I used to watch a show many will remember (and yet so many won’t even know) called S.W.A.T., which was of course about cops. The leading character was called Lt. Dan Hondo Harrelson, but we call called it Lt. Harrelson. He was my hero. I admired the way everyone respected him and how he was never truly afraid of anything.
The show was old when I watched it, a re-re-re-run possibly but it was my favorite one. I used to pretend I was part of Lt. Harrelson’s team and played like all kids did at that age: I was excited, I made-up stories in my mind where I was my hero’s best friend, or where I saved him or him saved me (which was a more often scenario of course as he was the Hero).
William Forrest Andrews, a.k.a. Lt. Harrelson died in May 2013, the same month I turned 35. I remember reading the news on-line and the sadness it brought to me. I hadn’t thought or seen the show in at least 25 years but seeing his name on the newspaper made it all come back to me. It was also the same year my management career took a turn.
The news made me think of the man I admired, the fictional character of course. I also remembered how it inspired me back then, which is why afterward I would always play the for the good side in any game I played. I’ve always been a Jedi, a Knight defending the Light, a Defender and why not a Man in Black. It was Lt. Harrelson who inspired me the most, out of every character I read about or watched. Superman had nothing on him and neither did Spiderman. It didn’t matter to me: Lt. Harrelson would beat them all because he was more real.
I’ve never walked on the shady side of the street and tried my best to remain transparent and true. Over and over I was tested and many times, I failed. A few others, I’ve done well. It’s called life of course,
you try, you fail, you get up, fail again and so on until one day you get it right.
I never thought back on Lt. Harrelson until that day I read about his death and so it made me wonder: what kind of person did I turn into? Am I respected as he was? Does my team feel about me like his team dead about him? Through my errors and my accomplishments, was I helping anyone out? It all came back to me: how I felt the five minutes previous to the show’s start; the exhilaration I felt after whatever mission they were on was successfully completed, again.
And then it hit me. I was far, far away from that made-up hero. It didn’t matter that his life was a fictional one, and so his deeds. I was sad about his passing and that sadness became something else as I realized something again: all heroes walk the same path. They all die in the end.
All heroes must die and the reason now seems simpler than I had thought at first:
A hero that lives becomes a God, a state that we cannot attain.
The true mission of heroes is to inspire, to elevate us, help us become better selves, not Gods. As they die, their legacy becomes legend, something on which we can build another something completely new. Heroes remind us that no matter what, a fight is something one needs to give, not run away from even if we come out of it with a bloody nose. Heroes are vulnerable, maybe not as we are but vulnerable anyway. They are not afraid of showing it and they do not turn tail: they face it even when they know what will happen.
It was 2013 and my childhood Hero had died. I was changing jobs, coming out of a very poor experience with my manager who was not strong enough to be a Hero nor smart enough to be a Villain. My management style was not clear even to me, and I was far from being my best. I decided I needed to change that but I was not ready, I didn’t know what I had to do, or how. I wasn’t prepared to change (is anyone really ever?), and so I was lost.
Then my Hero died.
It is impossible to become a Hero out of sheer will. Circumstances will either make one of you or not and it’s people who will decide if you’re cut for the job or not. But it is because of those who we admire, our Heroes, that we decided to try our best on becoming one even though it means we’ll eventually die.
The Hero’s journey ends, ultimately, the same way: they must die, for us to live as it is in life that we can remember, honor and imitate them.
Also published on Medium.