I wrote about ANW last year, and this season looks like it’s going to bring out some of the strongest competitors that we’ve ever seen. We’re guaranteed to see last season’s strongest competitors, and we’re guaranteed to see some new competitors. The veteran athletes are exhilarating to watch; they’re what make ANW such an incredibly competitive game that brings out mutant athletes.
The ones to watch, however, are the unknown newcomers. It’s not because they’re blowing away the better athletes, but because there are always new athletes rising to the challenge to replace the older athletes. The newcomers are why I watch ANW.
Per the series name, the contestants are called “ninjas,” but the American public is cheering the athletes as if they were heroes. And they are!
The term hero is bandied about without much regard for what it should rightly be used for. It seems that the word hero is used for everything except what it should be used for: the act of transcending and escaping control by the bourgeois and slave classes.
“… [This] type of ‘hero’ shows a certain greatness, and, naturally, for the types of hierarchically inferior to the warrior, i.e., the bourgeois and the slave types, this war and this heroism already mean overcoming, elevation, accomplishment.”
-Julius Evola, Metaphysics of War, p. 27
Did you catch that? Evola simultaneously described what a warrior is while also explaining to us why the Liberal and Progressive school of thought despises the Hero: The Hero overcomes, exceeds and escapes control from Liberalism and the bourgeoisie. Heroism is the antithesis of Liberalism, and in Heroism there can be no such thing as equality. The Hero is, categorically and definitively, greater than and unequal to all except for other heroes.
Heroism will punch your ticket for immortal fame in the proverbial Hall of Heroes, but, of course, one “does not simply become a hero.” However, what might it look like were such the case? The next best thing to taking a dip in the famed Fountain of Youth is to stay out of the waters beneath ANW’s obstacles. Every season of ANW brings better and better athletes. How high is the ceiling on this athletic bubble? Hard to say, but fair to guess that we’re far from breaking.
American Ninja Warrior, now in its seventh season, is the best thing we’re going to find as a contemporary example of heroism. Great athletes are easy to find. That’s not what we’re looking for here. Heroes are more than that.
The first episode of ANW’s seventh season aired last Tuesday. Here’s a few examples of the contenders: Jon Ryan of the Seattle Seahawks is 6′ tall and weighs 215 pounds. He passed the Quintuple Steps and Silk Slider but failed on the Tilting Table. Olympic athlete Nick Simmonds passed Quintuple Steps but failed on the Silk Slider. Meanwhile, carpenter, beach bum, mutant gymnast and ANW rookie Nicholas Coolridge annihilated the course with a lightning fast time. Was that heroism? Maybe, but let’s work on our definition a bit.
I’m starting on the assumption that heroes aren’t in any greater prevalence than villains, and that the two aren’t at opposite ends of a spectrum but are both nearer together off on one or another end. Both heroes and villains live as if the rules of everyday life do not apply to them, and whereas the villain is (usually) compelled to act for reasons of malicious selfishness, why couldn’t the hero be compelled to act because of a benevolent selfishness? Heroes and villains both forcefully change society to suit their vision, but the only thing that separates the villain from a hero is that the villain doesn’t mind seeing the public at large destroyed in the process.
If you watched all of ANW last year, then you should remember Kevin Bull. One after another competitor failed on Cannonball Alley, not being able to purchase grip on the last hanging ball so as to transition off of the obstacle. I won’t guess as to whether the rules specifically required competitors to grip the final hanging ball with their hands, but since Bull wasn’t disqualified from the course I’ll safely assume it was permitted by the rules.
The rules, clearly, did not apply to Kevin Bull. He gripped the final ball with his legs and executed an upside-down-to-right-side-up swinging dismount and blew away the audience, viewers and the judges. I watched his stunt when it was first aired, and the moment was positively electric: Olympians, Ice Giants, Great Ones, Heroes or whatever else you want to call them are still alive and walk among us today.
Bull’s performance inspired those who watched his performance, and now those competitors are running in this year’s qualifications. Was this what Bull was trying to do? What was his motivation to enter ANW, and did he do it for society at large? When have we ever seen a hero, or somebody we come to call such, set out with the idea of improving society as the first and only goal? Nobody really thinks like that. Even the ones who did, such as the Knights who went questing for the Holy Grail, knew they weren’t REALLY going to find the Grail. I’ve heard one historical account that suggested the Knights used the convenient excuse of “grailing” as a way to escape from their boring daily affairs to run amok for a time.
How about the folk tales of old– stories about warriors who went out and slayed dragons (literal, figurative, or otherwise). None of them did it for the glory of the state. They did it so they might have glory and fame for themselves. The state (society broadly speaking) benefited from these acts, and that’s why political leaders are specifically invested in rewarding heroes for those acts. However, a heroes behave as they do whether or not they will be publicly recognized. Heroes will always gain something, tangible or intangible. for themselves
“The moment the individual succeeds in living as a hero, even if it is the final moment of this earthly life, weighs infinitely more on the scale of values than a protracted existence spent consuming monotonously among the trivialities of cities.” -Julius Eovla, Metaphysics of War, p. 21
Heroes are on a transcendent spiritual plane. They gain a wisdom and spiritual sense of the world not known to the Common Man. I think we would be just as likely to find heroes behind bars as we would villains for the reason that both perform their social drama outside the bounds of normal law. This doesn’t make criminals into heroes, but it’s worth thinking about in regards to whether we’re judging someone to be a villain by the criteria of him or her having been to prison as a result of heroic (or possibly villainous) actions.
Being responsible and expected to perform a noble responsibility doesn’t make a person a hero either. A really rotten king can be executing a noble responsibility, but that wouldn’t make him a hero. Even if he were doing his kingly duties above average it wouldn’t make him a hero, it would just make him “a really swell king.” I don’t think that deductive reasoning is going to put us in a good place for this one because I don’t believe the qualities of a hero can be so simply delineated, stacked on top of each other and then when they’ve stacked up high enough we say “Ah! That’s a hero!”
How about Felix Baumgartner. Remember him? He’s the guy who did the Space-X jump for Red Bull and set a new world record for highest sky dive. Without a doubt he was very well compensated by Red Bull to do the dive. But, for enough money anybody would have volunteered for the task. Anybody might have also killed themselves in the process. Felix’s actions were certainly heroic in the sense that he did something so wild and completely beyond the scope of all known human activity up to that point. He was practically in outer-freak’n-space before he had to jump. He finished the jump and had money, fame, and glory. He is also permanently enshrined as member to a class of people who have left earth’s atmosphere. That’s a pretty short list.
There’s something that heroes, or those who engage in heroic behavior, do for themselves. Kevin Bull was no exception. He wanted to climb atop Mt. Midoriyama and take title of America’s best Ninja Warrior. Society benefits as a consequence of that behavior, but even more so does the person responsible for that action. Money? Fame? Glory? Initiatic rites? A person engages in heroic activity as a means to move from one social position to another more highly valued social position. Another reason for action might be when that person’s family, home, or community are perceived to be in danger.
War veterans are commonplace referred to as heroes. Unfortunately, calling all veterans heroes has a way of watering down the word and what it implies. I’m about to step on some people’s toes here, but simply having served during a time of war or even the mere condition of having deployed to a theatre of war does not make you a hero. Throwing your life away or dying as cannon fodder for the Global War on Terrorism will not buy you a heroes crest.
It’s also entirely possible that a person might never be recognized as a hero within his or her own lifetime. Social, religious and political constraints might delay a person from being publicly recognized as a hero, or even possibly as, dare I say it, a Saint. It’s more sensible to stack up consequences of any person’s actions which have led to a significant societal benefit regardless of the person’s intent.
Consider the Romanian folk hero Corneliu Codreanu. He was, to be sure, politically minded and conscious of all that it entailed. He dreamed of a Romanian land for Romanian people with a Romanian vision. I don’t believe for a second that Codreanu did all of his work as a leader just so that he could call himself a hero. When he woke up each morning, did he say to himself, “What can I do today so that people will call me a hero?” I seriously doubt it. He was a man on a mission wherein he would take control of his people’s future.
Codreanu’s Iron Guard also had death squads. “Death squads” are not exactly a friendly or endearing type of thing. Violence, however, has always been an extension of the authority claimed by a political entity, thus militias, death squads or other armed units are specifically entailed. Laws have no meaning without the threat of violence. Heroism justifies war, and war offers a form of life according to death.
“War, it is said, offers man the opportunity to awaken the hero who sleeps within him. War breaks the routine of comfortable life; by means of its severe ordeals, it offers a transfiguring knowledge of life, life according to death.”
-Julius Evola, Metaphysics of War, p. 21
Heroism demands war. If we are expected to find eternal fame as heroes we must fight and make war. The Lesser War of fighting the enemies outside of ourselves and the Greater War of fighting the enemy within ourselves both offer ample opportunity to demonstrate heroism. Whether your foe is physical or spiritual, both forms of warfare beg for great action. You can fight for yourself or you can fight for your people, but in either case a properly Heroic act will benefit you and all of those around you.