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Question of the Month: Hero

by Susan Henderson on July 6, 2009

Who’s your hero?

And bless all of you who want to tell me about your moms, but try to keep your answers to public figures.

Wednesday, Lance Reynald will be here to talk about heroes, freaks, art, music, and his debut novel, POP SALVATION. Don’t you dare miss it!

litpark susan henderson lance reynald joseph papa in times square

Here, by the way, is a photo of me and Lance (and a little piece of Joseph Papa in light blue) last week in Times Square. Photo by director and screenwriter extraordinaire, Kimberly Wetherell.

One last thing. Want free stuff? My pal John Griswold (Oronte Churm on McSweeney’s) has something for you right here.

{ 60 comments… read them below or add one }

5speener0 July 6, 2009 at 8:07 am

This one is easy for me. I’ve thought about this a lot.

While I have many people that I admire, there is one who stands out.

While Dr. Paul Farmer is an amazing person (see book, Mountains Beyond Mountains) who came from a very humble beginning to evolve into a man who has influenced and helped to re-shape the direction of the World Health Organization; while he has changed the way that we look at and how to treat aids and tuberculosis in Haiti and in prisons in the former Soviet Union, he is not at the top of my short list of heroes.

While a friend and former employer, Linda Dolny, was able to re-direct her life from a divorced English teacher to a business woman who owns and leads a national leadership training company; while she is able to assist leaders from major companies all over the U.S. and Canada through their leadership transformation, she is not at the top of my list.

While there are so many heroes that I see and read about in everyday life, while I am inspired by every singe one of these people, the person who sits at the top of my short list of heroes is an artist in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Pilar Pobil, a woman who grew up on the Spanish island of Majorca, who experienced the death of her father at age 7, whose own mother discouraged her learning and education, who met an American man on vacation in Majorca, who married this man and had children with him and a life with him in Salt Lake City, this woman is my hero. Pilar has encountered obstacles of all kinds throughout her life, and she has overcome all of them through some form of creative expression. She has educated herself by learning from others and from her experiences. In her mid-40s, after her children were all in school, she took up pottery. When the instructor couldn’t give her all the attention and help she needed for throwing pots, she used her class time to develop her own style of small-scale sculptures. She exhibited, sold and grew quite a following. When she needed to grow, she moved to painting. Today, Pilar Pobil is one of the best-known artists in Utah, painting large canvas paintings and anything else that she sees. Her home is filled with walls, tiles, closet doors, tables, luggage and shoes…all on exhibit as a Pilar original work of art!

The University of Utah has purchased and commissioned several important works by Pilar Pobil, and they encouraged her to write a book about the stories of her life, which they published as “My Kitchen Table: Sketches from My Life”. Oh, this is no ‘little old lady’, this is a vibrant and independent woman who lives with purpose and balance in her inspiring life. I read about her, I contacted her, we met and are now friends. Her life inspires me to take action towards the dreams in my own life.

http://www.pilarpobil.com

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SusanHenderson July 6, 2009 at 9:20 am

I’m so glad to hear about her. And let me link her again: http://www.pilarpobil.com/

Thanks, Despina!

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Aurelio July 6, 2009 at 10:21 am

When someone says the word hero, I tend to think of folks with gym bodies in capes and tights, and then I have trouble being serious.

Someone I admire a lot and find inspiring is Steve Martin, not only because he’s funny and smart, but he only takes himself just seriously enough. I love that he’s doing a band now and willing to try different things, that he’s willing to risk failing in public for the sake of exploring something new. He has an art-spirit.

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5speener0 July 6, 2009 at 10:25 am

Thanks, Susan. For a photo of Pilar and an interview, you can visit the re-posting of my response to this month’s question at http://www.AlphaFEmaleMind.blogspot.com

I’m looking forward to the interview with Lance.

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Kimberly July 6, 2009 at 10:26 am

I don’t have a hero. Public or otherwise. Perhaps that’s my problem. No one to emulate or idolize – not even when I was a kid. I admire lots of people for the good they do and the lives they change through the pursuit of their passions, but I can’t think of anyone that has impacted me in such a profound way, to the point that I would call them a “Hero”.

But I do like Ellen DeGeneres an awful lot: she manages to change the things she can and make her corner of the world a better place, and she does it all with grace, humor and dancing.

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SusanHenderson July 6, 2009 at 10:59 am

Ooh, this is turning into a great discussion. I like your idea of a person making her corner of the world a little better.

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SusanHenderson July 6, 2009 at 11:00 am

I was not at all expecting anyone to mention someone who risks failing. So interesting to think on this!

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SusanHenderson July 6, 2009 at 11:03 am

Hey, Terry Bain, some comments are coming in through FriendFeed, but I’m not able to reply to those ones. Any way to fix? (And thank you, AJ and Dan for adding to the conversation! I’ll respond more after I hear back from my webmaster.

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Ric July 6, 2009 at 11:37 am

Okay, I have a real problem with this one – what happened to the easy questions?
Public heroes? Could be some there, but it seems they invariably screw up somewhere along the line – a mistress here, or discovery of an opportunistic bent that is highly unsavory and not at all comfortable with your own moral code.
Literary heroes – Hemingway, the new edition of The Movable Feast is coming out this week – that book set me on the path of writing, can’t wait to get my hands on the new version and be transported back to the streets of Paris.
Stephen King – just keep writing, keep writing, forget that the critics say you are bubblegum lit., just keep writing, through the drugs and the alcohol, and eventually, the world will come around. And even if they don’t, it really doesn’t matter in the long run. Just keep writing.

Lance, your book is bloody marvelous. I’ll have a review up tonight.

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lance_reynald July 6, 2009 at 12:05 pm

ditto.

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Aurelio July 6, 2009 at 12:11 pm

Isn’t risk of failure a major element of heroism? Like war heroes and such, risking life and limb? Sometimes one is either labeled foolhardy or heroic based on the ultimate outcome, but it seems to me risking failure is the first and most difficult hurdle. Passivity is far safer.

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SusanHenderson July 6, 2009 at 12:27 pm

I never know I’ve asked a hard question until it goes live. But thank you for wrestling with this one. And when you post your review of Lance’s book, come back and link it here, okay? I can’t wait to read it!

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SusanHenderson July 6, 2009 at 12:28 pm

Yeah, sounds so obvious once you say it, but, all on my own, I didn’t even think of it.

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lance_reynald July 6, 2009 at 12:30 pm

heroism can also be finding the ability to just “do”, even if the whole world thinks you can’t.

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SusanHenderson July 6, 2009 at 12:32 pm

Yes yes yes!

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SusanHenderson July 6, 2009 at 12:33 pm

Love hearing her tell her story. Thanks for this!

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Kimberly July 6, 2009 at 1:14 pm

I think it’s all we can do, isn’t it? It’s nice when people with a larger corner (like celebs) can use their power to influence so many, but also, the lovely old man who sits on the sidewalk in his tattered folding lawn chair and waves at passersby with an enthusiastic, toothless smile affects me just as deeply.

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5speener0 July 6, 2009 at 1:53 pm

I love hearing her too. When she talks about her sculptures, it comes out as “SKOLL-shers”!

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5speener0 July 6, 2009 at 2:01 pm

Susan, wow! What great responses. It seems that we might need time to define what hero means to us also. Just for fun, I did a quick search.

Definition of ‘hero’:
•a person distinguished by exceptional courage and nobility and strength
•mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability
•person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life
•principal male character in a novel, poem, or dramatic presentation
•a large sandwich, usually consisting of a small loaf of bread or long roll cut in half lengthwise and containing a variety of ingredients, as meat, cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes

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5speener0 July 6, 2009 at 2:03 pm

Oh, I DO agree with Stephen King. Thanks for sharing that. Love it!

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Nathalie July 6, 2009 at 3:19 pm

Too bad. I could have nominated my husband, who not only cooked a part of the dinner but also repaired the electrical socket on my computer adapter.
Oh well.
Mother Teresa, then. On behalf of all the people who are relentless about helping others.
That’s for real people. Otherwise I’d go for Corto Maltese.

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robinslick July 6, 2009 at 4:13 pm

John Lennon, J.D. Salinger, and Marcel Duchamp. Oh yeah, and Brad Listi!

xo

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Ric July 6, 2009 at 5:48 pm

Okay, I have a real problem with this one – what happened to the easy questions?
Public heroes? Could be some there, but it seems they invariably screw up somewhere along the line – a mistress here, or discovery of an opportunistic bent that is highly unsavory and not at all comfortable with your own moral code.
Literary heroes – Hemingway, the new edition of The Movable Feast is coming out this week – that book set me on the path of writing, can’t wait to get my hands on the new version and be transported back to the streets of Paris.
Stephen King – just keep writing, keep writing, forget that the critics say you are bubblegum lit., just keep writing, through the drugs and the alcohol, and eventually, the world will come around. And even if they don’t, it really doesn’t matter in the long run. Just keep writing.

Lance, your book is bloody marvelous. I’ll have a review up tonight.

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Ric July 6, 2009 at 7:54 pm

I know we get to gush all over Lance on Wednesday, but I couldn’t wait.

http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/RicMarion/

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Ric July 6, 2009 at 7:56 pm

Honest, Susan and Terry, I’m not hitting the damned buttons making it do this.

Pop Salvation review up at http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/RicMarion/

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Greg Olear July 6, 2009 at 8:16 pm

Stephen Colbert was already my hero for his performance at the White House Correspondents Dinner a few years back — I couldn’t have done it, with Bush right there, and I don’t know that Jon Stewart or anyone else would have, either. But the trip to Iraq cemented it. The man amazes me.

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SusanHenderson July 6, 2009 at 8:52 pm

I probably watched that speech ten times. It took such absolute guts.

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SusanHenderson July 6, 2009 at 8:53 pm

I love it! It’s like getting xeroxed copies of you! Okay, now to check out your link…

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SusanHenderson July 6, 2009 at 8:55 pm

Wow, what a fine review! You should post it on Amazon, as well. Let me link you again:

http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/RicMarion/

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SusanHenderson July 6, 2009 at 8:56 pm

Well, Brad Listi is such an obvious pick(!!) but I had to look up Marcel Duchamp:

http://www.understandingduchamp.com/

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SusanHenderson July 6, 2009 at 8:58 pm

And now I have to look up Corto Maltese:

http://www.cortomaltese.com/

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SusanHenderson July 6, 2009 at 8:59 pm

Of course I meant the large sandwich.

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SusanHenderson July 6, 2009 at 9:01 pm

Okay, Ric’s #7 on Publishers Marketplace right now, but if we all click this, he’ll be #1:

http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/RicMarion/

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EllenMeister July 6, 2009 at 10:39 pm

Is that an Astroboy doll?

To answer your hero question: Rosa Parks.

xo

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lance_reynald July 7, 2009 at 2:45 am

that is just lovely.

thank you.

xo.

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lance_reynald July 7, 2009 at 2:46 am

Duchamp…genius pick.

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SusanHenderson July 7, 2009 at 6:28 am

Yeah, that’s Astro Boy. And Rosa Parks perfectly fits the definition of hero.

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Billy Bones July 7, 2009 at 9:47 am

Thoughts on heroes from the man who types up my stories:
Captain Sully’s Hudson River landing took my breath away, Jimi Hendrix has transported me farther with his music than anyone else, and Neil Gaiman leads a fanciful life that serves as a guiding light. But here is where I will get in trouble because it sounds so self-centered. I look to myself to be my own hero. If I don’t believe in myself, nobody else will.

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Ric July 7, 2009 at 11:25 am

Well, that was interesting. Apparently you have to actually buy stuff from Amazon to post a review. Since I have a very cozy relationship with my local bookseller, it isn’t something that I do. I did try…..

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terrybain July 7, 2009 at 11:48 am

It’s not really a “fix.” Since the question is essentially “republished” on friendfeed, if people respond over there, it stays there, and our comment system simply does us the favor of telling us that there’s also that conversation on friendfeed related to this one. Likely this will draw in some readers over time, but if people continue to use friendfeed, I’m guessing you’ll see more and more “Reactions” nailed on to the end of the discussion.

If none of his makes sense, let me know. I’ll try to make sense of it, but I can’t make any promises. I’m only human. For perfect answers, we have to ask a robot.

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terrybain July 7, 2009 at 11:53 am

Further note: it’s not just friendfeed. Note that links from twitter also show up down there under “reactions.” Essentially the comment system is tracking conversations people are having about LitPark when they’re having them Outside LitPark. I think it’s kind of cool, but you may disagree.

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terrybain July 7, 2009 at 11:58 am

Pretty sure you don’t have to buy anything, but you do have to register with them. They may ask for credit card information, which is utterly bogus, but purchase shouldn’t be necessary.

However, you might actually get more traction from posting on goodreads or librarything:

http://www.goodreads.com/
http://www.librarything.com/

Blessings.

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SusanHenderson July 7, 2009 at 12:56 pm

Oh, I get it. And cool. I just felt bad that there were people I couldn’t respond to, and I don’t like to ignore anyone. But if they’re not actually here…

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SusanHenderson July 7, 2009 at 12:59 pm

Love this answer because each part of it takes me in a new and important direction.

I’ve had the Mariah Carey Hero song stuck in my head ever since I posted this question, so I think I’ll be writing about that on Friday…

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troutbum70 July 7, 2009 at 1:19 pm

Tank man. That guy represents what a hero is suppossed to be, the guy that lives his life and then one day he has had enough and walks out in front of the tanks and says no more, you may kill me but you will no longer oppress me. I hope I would be that brave. I don’t think I am.

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Lance Reynald July 7, 2009 at 1:45 pm

yeah… about that song… stuck in my head since 12:01 monday morning… that and enrique…

so I went to youtube to look ’em up.

Mariah with a different nose and….ahem….chest.

amazing what success can do to shape and transform a person?

serious self-actualization.

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Ric July 7, 2009 at 5:53 pm

Funny, Lance, very funny.

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SusanHenderson July 7, 2009 at 7:05 pm

Until now, I didn’t have Enrique stuck in my head.

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SusanHenderson July 7, 2009 at 7:06 pm

I hope you’re not that brave. I would not like you to walk in front of a tank. Not at all.

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SusanHenderson July 7, 2009 at 7:07 pm

Am I the only one having trouble getting on to LitPark today?

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Carolyn_Burns_Bass July 8, 2009 at 11:36 am

When my stepfather began courting my mother, he introduced her to Joan Baez and bought several piano music books. Although my mother could play and sing much like Joan (my mom was an amazing chanteuse), I never had formal piano lessons, so I would plunk out the melody line of Joan’s songs with my right hand. Tried to learn guitar, but my small hands couldn’t span the neck of my mom’s huge classical guitar.
I was about eight, the Vietnam war was raging, and I fell in love with Joan’s brooding soprano and folk sensibilities. None of my friends knew Joan Baez until junior high when she had that hit “The Night They Drove Ole Dixie Down.”

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SusanHenderson July 8, 2009 at 3:59 pm

Well, now, instead of having “Hero” stuck in my head, I have “La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!”

Great story, Carolyn!

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Carmelo Brian Valone July 9, 2009 at 1:43 pm

The spirit of George Carlin-he’s not such a ‘well respected’ literary character but he came from nothing and became a writer and public figure who at one point took on the supreme court -via his ‘freedom of expression’ i.e. the old ‘5 dirty words’. Charles Bukowski as he like me is considered an ‘uneducated slob’ in the traditional sense of education. He did it despite it all. F. Scott Fitzgerald too -as he had dyslexia just like myself.

Also a good friend of my Elyn Saks, Who’s now a world renowned USC law professor and has beaten anything and everything the world, has thrown her from her Schizophrenia to beating out Cancer. I don’t want to give away too much from her memoir-but she is my most recent and closest living hero to myself.
Finally, I’m sure there’s a bit of Obama in there-what’s not to love or respect-

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SusanHenderson July 9, 2009 at 3:42 pm

An impressive list and says a lot about the person you are.

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eileen_rita July 11, 2009 at 12:10 am

I can’t describe how fitting it is to me that Astro Boy is hovering at the top of page that talks about heroes. I used to get up at 4.30 every Saturday morning and watch that cartoon when my parents were seperating. He was my hero at the time…there’s very little shouting at 4.30 in the morning..

It’s so hard to pick just one! There are so many iconic figures that have existed and done amazing things, but Douglas Badar who’s story I still keep within arms reach of my bed and Kate Sheppard who gave NZ women a voice are two people I think of often.

Hero. It’s such a small word.

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SusanHenderson July 11, 2009 at 3:41 pm

How sweet and heartbreaking to think of you being saved by Astro Boy at 4:30 in the morning!

This Douglas Bader? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Bader

I had to look up Kate Sheppard, too: http://www.nzedge.com/heroes/sheppard.html

Love learning of people for the first time – thanks!

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eileen_rita July 11, 2009 at 5:10 pm

Yes thats him!

I don’t know that he changed the world, but I find his story inspirational. The version of of the book ‘Reach For The Sky’ is a junior edition I brought when I was in Intermediate School (ages 11-13). It’s written in the simplest language, with double spacing and thick paper. I just love it 🙂

p.s. got caught humming Mariah Carey at the bar last night….thanks for that 😉

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SusanHenderson July 12, 2009 at 12:55 pm

I’m so sorry for getting that song stuck in your head.

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eileen_rita July 12, 2009 at 3:55 pm

lol – that’s ok. Worse things have happened 😀
It actually started a great conversation once I had convinced everyone that Mariah Carey wasn’t MY hero. haha

I love your questions each month, they leave me thinking about them for days afterwards. Thank you!!

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SusanHenderson July 12, 2009 at 7:51 pm

So sweet.

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