You Are Not The One
Structuring our readings of stories around Protagonists can be one of the limitations of capital-L Literature education. How it deals in capital. You’re offered worlds with arrays of characters, characters with worlds within them, and the first inquiry you’re taught to pursue is: ‘Who is dominant? I want to tend to them and view everyone else as their subordinate.’ We do the same in our daily lives: who is dominant? I want to tend to them and view everyone else as their subordinate. This subordination is more of a loop-dee-loop around many gradients than a linear sliding scale - everyone is broken but some of us catch more breaks than others. Usually, the more you resemble a shadow - dark, amorphous, broadening, and more - the more you are expected to fail and flail - second-fiddle to the light.
I’m in my last stretch at an elite school where I am usually alone, usually by choice (by ‘choice’ I mean looking at my dealt hand—mostly a series of camaraderies with people who have shown they don’t choose me—and choosing the fuck-it card). In the over-three-years I’ve been here (that I’m mostly over), I’ve watched how people peacock. You know, the puffed chests, the my-feathers-are-bigger-and-brighter-than-yours (but does it really matter? because we’ll pass and your feathers and mine will probably be plucked and worn as accessories beyond our control, or ground into the ground, or tossed around until they’re only resemblances of what we wanted. Those pretties won’t be what or how we’ve done).
I’ve watched people play without permission, making people into grounds of self-discovery like some rescaled manifestations of manifest destiny.
But people are not yours and you are not a Hero.
I’ve watched how people peacock. You know, thinking recognition from the powers they protest puts them on a higher plane of personhood.
Your degrees, your awards, your campaigns, they only fill out your reputation—not yooou. You could infer that this is a dig at people being flat beneath the inflations of their egos. But no, that’s not what I'll say. A hero complex is a flat thing but a person with one is not—they’re just playing a flat part. I think people, like characters, whether they’re seen speaking much or little, are full and undiscoverable. And the fun of living, can be finding out how full you and other people are. You and other people.
Because people are not yours and you are not a Hero so you’re going to be figuring all of them out for the rest of your life.
What if people are full of empty? What if people are full of acids and venoms, and intimacy with such people means some kinds of death?
Fullness is not a flattery, it’s a fact. Fullness is not certainly positive, but it’s a potential. It means there is room. To fill ourselves with somethings different and take somethings out and maybe choose fillings that don’t encourage us to be so full of ourselves that we resemble somethings flat like Heroes.
And ‘such people’ that don’t give you life, that take it, are not everyone. Such people tend to stand on and in front of many people but they are not everyone.
One form of a Hero complex is thinking you’re the only one who sees the ways the world works. You’re not the only one. Let’s find out about each other.
Aren’t we somebodies?