An icon is a representation of a famous person or thing that people admire and see as a symbol of a particular idea, way of life, etc. Of course, not everyone is attracted to the same icons.
Over the decades I have had many icons. As a youth, I was entranced by Biblical personalities and heroes from European and American history. Jesus of Nazareth, Joseph of Egypt, the knight Galahad, Roland of Roncesvalles, Scottish King Robert Bruce, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Robert E. Lee all had a place in my personal pantheon. Later I added some of the idealized and unblemished characters from the cinema – Robin Hood, Zorro, and virtually any person played by Gary Cooper or Spencer Tracy. As for females, I fell in love with Greer Garson. I was a true romantic, and I liked to self-identify with heroes of the silver screen.
As I matured, I became more discriminating. I kept some of my childhood idols, but I became more aware of the clay feet of my former thespian heroes. I also discovered that my own concept of admirable qualities often differed quite sharply from that of many people. For example, I did not like James Bond. His casual and amoral attitude toward sex offended me, and I avoided the Bond movies after attending the first one, Dr. No. I felt the same way about many other cinematic luminaries of the 60s and afterwards. I was unable to self-identify with male actors who projected an arrogant or demeaning attitude toward others, especially toward women. I also had negative feelings toward some of the female stars. Leading ladies like Marilyn Monroe repelled rather than attracted me. I preferred to put women on a pedestal, and it was hard to do that with someone so obviously promiscuous. That did not prevent me from enjoying a hilarious romp like Some Like It Hot, but generally I avoided entertainment that tended toward eroticism.
Yes, I must admit that I had become a bit of a bluenose. I suppose it is because of the way I was brought up. My family experiences taught me to have great respect for members of the opposite sex. My parents had grown up in the Victorian era, and their attitudes influenced me deeply. My sisters were much older than me, and I always considered them paragons of virtue. This was also true of my mother, father and brothers. The females in my family appeared above reproach, and I adored them. My father and brothers were all “one woman” men. When they married, it was for keeps – and faithfulness was the watchword. Each was bound to their spouse till death did them part.
With this background, it is no wonder that I approached romance and marriage with the same attitude. Certainly, I was not perfect. I had impure thoughts at times, and sometimes I said or did bad things; but I had great respect for members of the opposite sex. I never propositioned or attempted to seduce a young girl, and I have been sexually intimate with only one woman in my life – my wife. I do not feel that I was deprived in any way. My wife and I had a great marriage, fulfilling in every way.
Despite being a Victorian, perhaps even a prude, I do not sit in judgement of others. I am fully aware that each person has different life experiences, and their attitude and behavior are affected by those experiences.
Many people have different heroes than mine. I still hold fast to those icons who best express the virtues most important to me: love, bravery, honesty, compassion, love, magnanimity, and faithfulness. Others may reject these Christian ideals and are more attracted to the suave, sophisticated men and women of the world. Nevertheless, I often feel that, in their heart of hearts, there are many men and women just like me. We might not express it, and sometimes we even hesitate to admit it, but we are turned off by the amoral sophisticate, an uncaring womanizer, a promiscuous woman, an arrogant cad. At the same time, we tend to admire a noble hero, a stainless knight, a kind-hearted stranger, a virtuous maiden, a white-hatted cowboy with a friendly smile. Unfortunately, there are too few of these positive icons in modern literature or in the cinema.
One thought on “Icons”
Ah modern heroes and heroines! Dad , like you I am a watcher of people and a lover of literature. How grand indeed it is to find among our contemporaries characters both fictional and real whom we truly admire. Whenever I come across one, I announce it to my students. Here are a few I would share with you : Mother Teresa, Ben Carson , Steven Curtis Chapman (real people) ; Clark & Marty Davis (by Jenet Oke), Father Tim & Cynthia Copperfield (by Jan Karon), Maniac McGee & Star Girl (by Jerry Spinelli) (contemporary American fiction). I am glad to see that just as “God is not dead”, so also “heroism is not dead ‘ either. Our post-modern world can be very disillusioning at times, but God and His heroes still shine through!