The Essence of Heroism

The essence of heroism is to die so that others can live” – Oliver Queen, Arrow

A handful of years ago I traveled to Michigan for a long weekend with my family while my brother Seth was on leave from his overseas posting in the United States Air Force (USAF).  While Seth and I were both home we were asked to speak in a few classes at the private school we both attended for a time when we were younger.  While I spent time relaying what it was like to work on Capitol Hill and how both my faith and background informed what I did and how I did it, my brother talked about his time in the USAF and what he was learning.

I distinctly remember Seth asking the students what the core of “being a hero” was, and his answer – influenced by his military service – was sacrifice.  He illustrated this by explaining the story of Goku from Dragonball Z, his favorite superhero character, and the sacrifices this character makes – including death – over various story arcs.  As an older brother who willingly lives life steeped in a universe fully populated with fantastic and fictional heroes, it’s a proud moment to watch your younger brother do the same to share an idea with an audience.

It appears that this idea of heroism and sacrifice for others is really going to factor into the closing of season two of Arrow in the coming weeks (based on the post episode preview recently released).  From a certain point of view, having Oliver follow this path makes sense as Arrow is very much Smallville meets the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight Trilogy in tone, and such a sacrifice is the culmination of Nolan’s Batman story.  Moreover, the character’s comment on the essence of heroism also reflects the philosophy and actions of Phil Coulson in Avengers (I know I’m crossing the streams, so proton me).

Nevertheless, I still find myself intrigued because I see where the Lewis and Tolkien conception of myth is at work to showcase this story as the reflection of Something (or Someone) greater.  Just as the Dark Knight Trilogy and Avengers dealt with these themes and ideas in a way that imperfectly reflects the One True Myth, I see echoes of that in where Arrow has come from and where it looks to be going.

Having just celebrated Easter, I spent time Easter weekend indulging in my annual tradition of reading all 12 issues of the Archangels:  The Saga and Archangels: The Fall comic books.  While the nine-issue Archangels: The Saga is  the story of teenager Justin Griffin and and his journey to faith in Jesus Christ as spiritual forces of good and evil clash around him to affect that decision, Archangels: The Fall begins at Creation, including a Milton influence chronicle of Lucifer’s banishment, and ends with Christ’s resurrection through the eyes of Michael the Archangel.

In this telling of the events of The Passion of Jesus Christ, Michael is allowed to confront Satan at Golgotha.  Empowered by The Most High, Michael contends with The Dragon and loses!  Michael is befuddled and devastated that he cannot prevent Christ’s suffering and unlawful execution.   It is here that the Spirit shows Michael the Father’s plan and he sees that Christ had to die to save humanity as the perfect sacrifice for Sin.  Here, as Christ dies and commits his Spirit, Michael realizes that the essence of heroism is “to die that others might live” – what Oliver Queen says it is – but states it differently:  “And when the flawless spirit of Jesus Christ entered the hands of the Holy Spirit, the power of the Redeemer exploded. Echoes of the awesome blast resonated throughout all space and time and the Dragon and all his forces were swept away in the blink of an eye…for the darkness could not stand against the pure light of redemption.” – Archangels The Fall, Volume III.

As much as shows like Arrow excite me as a comic book and superhero fan, seeing these sorts of ideas play out on the show and other shows and films like it really make me smile.  It’s an opportunity to echo Paul’s actions on Mars Hill in Acts 17 and take what is known and point it towards what may be Unknown.  It’s getting to reflect the One True Myth via the super and heroic “modern myths” of today.

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Aaron

About Aaron

Author, Speaker, and Super Nerd. Aaron Welty speaks and writes regularly connecting the dots of life, faith, and science fiction. Originally from Michigan, he now lives and works in the Washington, D.C. Metro area.

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