The only difference between Bob Marley and me is context. Sure, he may be dead while I may—may—be alive, and he may have hailed from Jamaica while I was born and bred in a great-to-do New Jersey suburb. Macro-culturally, however, the only thing that separates him from me is his universal acclaim. At its root, we’re both folks who decided to pursue music via a stringed instrument. His context, however, far outweighs mine: he is a “poet and a prophet,” according to Anthony Kiedis, a venerated human rights revolutionary, the subject of documentaries, biographies, tribute albums, posters, and Jamaican national pride. I am a semi-lazy bassist who primarily plays alone, or, if not, in front of no more than a couple of hundred people. Our essences are the same, however, just as Michael Jordan and I are both people who play basketball, or Buzz Aldrin and I are both interested in outer space. What makes the former a hero and me a nobody is simply context—Aldrin is, culturally, a celebrated astronaut, and I am not. Jordan is a sports hero of unparalleled prestige, and I am not. But that has nothing to do with Jordan, or Aldrin, or Marley, per se. The world could just as easily ignore them as it does me or anybody else, and then they, too, would be people who perform a certain task to little or no fanfare. Popular lionization is what truly separates the men from the boys.
With that in mind, there is a varied pool of heroes in which we tread: Marley, Jordan, Aldrin, Hendrix, Marin Luther, Martin Luther King, Paul Revere, Einstein, Jonas Salk, Shakespeare, Gandhi, Suess, etc. Some are more hallowed than others, but all are regarded as indispensable cultural fixtures. I, on the other hand, am not. All of these people somehow struck a chord with the general public, and enlivened in others a profound desire and need to exalt them. Perhaps these icons’ excellence aroused in onlookers a hint of their own potential transcendence, so that the latter latched on to a vicarious greatness. Or, more likely, there is a definitive psychosomatic formula for greatness, such that if one achieves the finite checklist of “great” qualities, one will be worshipped as a result. In short, the only difference between Bob Marley and me is context, sure, but the ACTUAL difference is that Marley fulfilled the prerequisites for that context, and I have not. Marley discharged (ha!) the basic elements that assure canonization, while I continue to listen to the Damnwells and drink watery coffee in my room.
Just think about it—not all of those people deserve their “hero” status. Paul Revere was instructed to ride from Boston to Lexington to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock that, as we all know, “the British are coming.” Revere managed to tell a few others along the way, and the next day there were about 40 riders carrying news of the impending British offensive. That’s all he did. He didn’t fight a battle that night, he didn’t run on foot for hours on end, and he didn’t save a cat from a tree. He simply did his job (and, by the way, he didn’t even do it alone; both he and William Dawes went on the “midnight ride,” which is an absolutely spectacular name for any activity that takes all night and involves two men and two horses); yet, he is an patriotic hero, and Dawes is not. Many men lost their lives in the Revolutionary War and were never to be heard from again; such was not the case, however, with Revere.
I don’t know exactly what those things are that make someone occupy a worshipped context, but I will figure it out. And when I do, I will exploit that knowledge for my own aggrandizement, and I will prey on fawning, loving people for my own hedonistic gains. Til then, it’s back to the Damnwells and diluted Hazelnut. But not for long.
Stay Sublimated, My Own Glory