Sunday, March 20, 2016

Inspiration, Not Heroes

I came across this quote that I had to think about.

"One way to remember who you are is to remember who your heroes are."

At first it made no sense to me because of the use, or the overuse, or the miss-use of the word heroes.

Heroes are extraordinary people, people who accomplish amazing things, things we ordinary folk could never even conceive of accomplishing.

The meaning of the word hero has been diminished by inappropriate context.

Most of the people we call heroes are not heroes; they are people who inspire us through their lifestyles or personalities or careers. They are people we look up to and often people we wish we could be.

In that context the quote makes a lot of sense to me, although the word inspirations should be substituted for heroes.

The people I have worshiped in my life share strong similarities. If I listed them all it would fill this page. Over the years I have collected a large group of people who mean something to me, whose lives I wish to emulate.

I read a lot, I listen to a lot of music, I watch a lot of movies. Creativity is the thread here but my inspirations are not limited to artistic creativity. Maybe creativity in living a life is the key.

For purposes of avoiding boredom I can limit the list to a few essentials.

Muhammed Ali. Numero Uno for sure. I was ten years old when this man came in to my life and he blew me away.

As I think about this, 1964 was a big year for me. It marked my first memory of watching football, my favorite sport in the world, with my Dad. Jim Brown is the guy who grabbed me then. Blew me away. He is on my long list.

1964 was The Beatles. Rattled my brain like no other group ever did until The Allman Brothers came along. The Beatles changed my life in my mind, but unfortunately not for real. They are definitely on the short list.

In some ways I deeply wish I could go back to 1964 and re-live the past 52 years holding true to my inspirations and passions.

But I digress. Ali was flamboyant. He was an intellectual and creative genius in a sport dominated by thugs and morons. He stood out.

And he was a supreme fighter.

He was intelligent, funny as hell, and ballsy. After winning the heavyweight title in 1964, he changed his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali and revealed that he was a member of the Nation of Islam.

Talk about guts. This was 1964, for Christ sake.

Keith Richards. I have always loved this man. He came in to my life around the same time.

Again, he was flamboyant. He definitely has his own style. He has always been his own man and he does not take any shit from anyone. He is a leader and the heart and soul of the Rolling Stones. He is a musical scholar and a supremely respected individual in the world of music.

He is also a big reader. He has a library in his Connecticut home that I would die for. The kind of library with a rolling ladder to access the books on high.

Hunter S. Thompson. I do not remember exactly when HST came into my life but he did it in a big way. When I started reading him my brain leaked out of my ears. I could not believe that a guy could write in such an intelligent, informed and completely original and insane way.

I gobbled it up. I loved the man.

His lifestyle was beyond belief. The drugs, the booze, the disdain for every rule and every convention. He had huge balls.

He had his own style. He almost always wore shorts. He famously drove what he called "The Red Shark." A 1971 Chevy Impala and he drove it like a madman.

Charles Bukowski. A poet like no poet you have ever read before. His poetry was in your face, real, down and dirty. He wrote about people who were down and out, suffering and struggling. He wrote about the hypocrisy of our lives. In tough, no holds barred language.

That was the lifestyle he chose to live. He was a drunk living in flophouses and spending time in dive bars, until later in his life when he finally gained a measure of respect and could afford his own home in California.

He was also a mailman.

He was a tough cookie, he took no shit and spoke the truth in his poems.

Joe Namath. Came into my life in 1965 and blew me away. Talk about flamboyant. This man wore mink coats and white shoes. He had long hair, wore a Fu Manchu mustache for a while and he spoke his mind.

This was 1965, man. A time when football players sported crew cuts and the mentality to go with them.

He had guts. He lived a NY city celebrity life style, and lived it to the max, and did not apologize for it. One of my favorite Joe-quotes, when a reporter was questioning him about his womanizing: "It seems almost un-American to me for a bachelor not to go around having a drink with a lady now and then."

Spoken with his cool accent and that sly smile.

Joe's career stats suck BUT he beat the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III and that was huge. It brought legitimacy to the AFL. AND he predicted the win.

Talk about balls.

David Bowie. The King of Flamboyant. This guy experimented with his life like it was his toy to do with as he pleased. Which it was. Which it is for all of us although few of us recognize that truth and fewer do anything with the knowledge.

Bowie tried on various radical personas in his lifetime and essentially lived them on and off the stage. When he was done with one, he was done. That was it. He moved on.

He trusted that his audience would move on with him, which is an amazing leap of faith for the type of performer that he was. Good bands, good artists evolve and their fans dig the progression. But Bowie exploded into new ideas and challenged people to accept them and by doing so, to evolve also.

He was soft spoken, open to new ideas, experimental in his music and in his life, and fiercely intelligent.

He was a forward thinker in so many surprising ways. In 1997 Bowie raised $55 million by promising investors income based on his back catalog of 25 albums. He sold his rights to future royalties from music recorded before 1990 to a group of investors, who then issued a 10 year bond.

It was nicknamed the "Bowie Bond." It was the first time an artist had sold intellectual property rights through a bond. Bet you didn't know he had that side to him, eh?

OK, so here we go. The people who inspire me are flamboyant (did you pick up on that?), they are fiercely independent, completely comfortable in their own skin, creative, ballsy, and unafraid to rock the boat.

I believe our inspirations are meaningful to us because they are people we would love to emulate. Deeper than that, I also think we often possess the traits of those who inspire us but we are too weak or too cowardly to fully develop those traits. Or we have locked ourselves in circumstances that don't allow us to develop those traits.

So there you go. As I wrote this I decided to create a list of everyone I can think of who inspires me.

I am sure that will thrill you.


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