Kill your heroes
Before it’s too late.
“In December 2014,” reads professor Walter Lewin’s Wikipedia, “MIT revoked Lewin’s Professor Emeritus title after an investigation determined that Lewin had violated university policy by sexually harassing an online student.”
I was never good at Physics, or Math. They disinterested me to the core. The teachers I had, I think hated the subjects more than me.
“Bad teachers are criminals”, proclaimed Lewin, as I went deeper and deeper, reading and watching his interviews trying to learn more about him because you see, I had started to like, no, love Physics after watching just 3 hours of his lectures on YouTube, and more importantly, I had started to like something else, teaching. Teaching, which I never gave a second thought to as a profession or a hobby was suddenly charming and meaningful to me. All because of Lewin. I look up to him, he is my hero. So when the news of his dismissal broke out, I was bummed. It didn’t make sense to me.
The most influential artist of the 20th century, an artist that lived till 92 and painted all into his old age, never retired, never renounced his work or love for painting. Showing clearly to the world that “retirement” is a word that is meaningless to the people who love what they do to their bones. You have probably heard of him, he’s Pablo Picasso. Pablo Picasso once slashed a set of his paintings that he had spent months toiling over because in the spark of a moment he realized he hadn’t been true to the muse, the paintings did not meet Pablo‘s standards. Pablo also, fucked an underage girl.
Marie Therese Walter was 17 when they met, Picasso, was 45 and still living with his first wife. Marie quickly became his mistress and the muse for many of his paintings. Beautiful works of art. All of this, though, doesn’t change the fact that she was seventeen. Also, none of it changes the fact that Picasso was a misogynist, which he didn’t take much shame in because the quote, “There are only two types of women, goddesses, and doormats” among others, is in public record.
“I have never believed in god, but I believe in Picasso.” - Diego Rivera, the famous painter of large frescos that helped establish the Mexican Mural Movement. You probably know him because of his volatile relationship with the one, considered the greatest surrealist painter of her time and even today, Frida Kahlo. Regarding whom Diego said, “If I ever loved a woman, the more I loved her, the more I wanted to hurt her. Frida was only the most obvious victim of this disgusting trait. ”.
Also, not to ignore the fact that he once asked a doctor for a prescription that mentioned it would be physically impossible for him to be with just one woman. So he had his share of affairs, including one with Frida’s own sister. Frida didn’t care, or she must’ve pretended to not care because she loved Diego, she really did. One of the entries in her diary reads, “Diego, my husband. Diego, my friend. Diego, my mother Diego my father, Diego, my son, Diego, me. Diego, universe.”
Frida, on the other hand also had her share of liaisons with both men women. “I don’t think the banks of a river suffered because they let the river flow” - Frida Kahlo. She was an infidel, and not in secret. Though her marriage with Diego was supposedly an open one the affair that hurt their relationship the most was one in 1937 with the Marxist revolutionary Leon Trotsky. The affair was supposed to be illicit, but when you look at one of Frida’s paintings, Self Portrait dedicated to Leon Trotsky, you wonder how ilicit was it really. The painting shows Frida dressed up in all her feminine beauty with a letter dedicated to Leon Trotsky in her hand signed, “With all my love”.
“Are these occurrences only in the arts, Nash?” What do you think? I don’t know much about your field, I have only researched and read about the field that interests me. But if you insist, let’s not forget the Tiger Woods scandal or the fact that Andy Rubin, the father of Android coerced someone into having oral sex. Or if you’re a musician, let’s not look away from the fact that maybe most of your heroes are drug addicts.
Why are all these people we look up to are born with a broken moral compass?
Let’s agree on something first. It’s a fact that it’s not only that the works of these people receive scrutiny and limelight, but the same also goes for their lives, faults, and flaws. Abhorrent deeds are done everywhere, every second. But we only see the faults of the ones we put under our narrow laser-sharp scrutiny, and from our scrutiny we even exempt ourselves.
It is not that these people, who have most definitely changed the course of mankind’s progress are born with a broken moral compass or are born flawed it is that all of us, you, me, humans are born that way. It is just not absolutely possible to be so pure that you’ve never had an evil thought occur in your head even once.
Having evil thoughts and acting on them are two different things. The “Good” people are just the people who don’t and evil are the people who follow through on those thoughts. Because being a homophobe, racist or a pedophile is often not a choice but not being one of those, is, it’s a constant choice to not indulge.
I am not writing this in defense of the cruelty and immoral things the people mentioned and not mentioned have done and do. I am writing this because if you love painting and your favorite painter turned out to be an infidel and an asshole, don’t stop painting. Don’t ignore your inclination towards writing if you discover your favorite writer is a misogynist and don’t be bummed because the person who inspired you to pursue teaching, to enjoy it, watching whom you learned the ins and outs of it and discovered the performance that teaching can be. The person who made you realize how bad teachers destroy lives and cannot be distinguished from criminals and how you should try and change that with the time you’ve been given on earth. Don’t look away from all of that because they sexually harassed a woman 30 years younger.
Humans are not perfect, you are not perfect, I am not perfect, people who portray they are perfect are the ones who are the most uncomfortable with their imperfections. We’re so fundamentally flawed that if the reality of it was to present itself to you in all its naked glory you would prefer gouging your eyeballs out than to bare to look at it.
Don’t let a person inspire you. Let their work be the beacon you follow. Let that be the standard you raise your work up to and beyond. Do not raise yourself up to that person or use them as an excuse to follow through on your evil thoughts. Kill your heroes.
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