Sunday, April 27, 2014

Helen Keller Admiration

On the one hand there’s the kind of admiration I will refer to as superstar quarterback admiration. On the other hand there’s the kind of admiration I will refer to as Helen Keller admiration.

And make no mistake, there’s a shitload of Helen Keller admiration out there. Gallup took a poll to determine the most admired people of the 20th Century and Helen Keller came in fifth, just ahead of FDR.

But still, Helen Keller admiration just doesn’t stack up when measured against superstar quarterback admiration. Ask yourself this: Does anyone want to be that superstar quarterback they admire so much? And the answers you get to choose from are a) yes b) yes c) yes d) all of the above. Tons of children dress up like that superstar quarterback and pretend to be him. So do tons of adults. But even the people who most deeply admire Helen Keller don’t say to themselves, “Boy, I sure hope someday I’ll be deaf and blind like her.” Children don’t plug up their ears and wear blindfolds and pretend to be Helen Keller. Adults never dress up like Helen Keller, except maybe as part of some kinky sex fantasy role-playing game. But for our purposes today, that doesn’t count.

On the third hand, there’s the kind of admiration I will refer to as war hero admiration. War hero admiration falls somewhere between superstar quarterback admiration and Helen Keller admiration. People who admire war heroes would like to live the life a war hero lives, but only up to a certain point. Like for instance, there’s a city park here in Chicago that’s named after a war hero. This guy became a war hero when he sacrificed his life to save the platoon by throwing himself on a live hand grenade. Now let’s all admit that we all have something deep inside of us that would love to have a city park named in our honor. But if we have to throw ourselves on a live hand grenade in order to earn that status, we don’t want it that bad. We’ll continue living our ordinary, unheroic lives. Thanks anyway though.

When it comes to war hero admiration, we’d all love to live the hero part of their lives, if we could somehow bypass the war part. Still, that’s more than we can say for Helen Keller admiration. Is admiration even the right word for how humans today feel about Helen Keller? Can we call it admiration when our warm regard for someone is surpassed only by our gratitude that we are not them? I don’t know. I’ll leave that for the great philosophers to decide.