Lance Armstrong and the tenuous nature of heroism |


(CNN) -- We have many heroes: historic figures who battled for freedom, a man who jumps on the railway tracks to save someone from certain death, a whistle-blower who identifies corruption in government or industry. While these forms of heroism focus on a willingness to take risks in the service of other people or noble ideals, the most ancient notion of heroism focuses on humanity's ability to transcend its own physical limitations. Occasionally, there is a man or woman who appears to be almost superhuman in strength and physical ability. The Greeks had Achilles and Athena. Up until yesterday, we had Lance Armstrong...

Moreover, someone willing to act heroically fundamentally challenges our own notions of ourselves. Heroes are, in some ways, subtly dangerous to our sense of social order. Even though they are human, just like the rest of us, their actions are outside of the normal human experience.

If there is a whistleblower in our office -- even if his or her motives are noble -- it is human nature to search for an alternative explanation. Maybe this person was really disgruntled at the boss. With Lance Armstrong, there is a natural tendency, perhaps in all of us, to say, "See, I told you so, no one could be that good."

via Lance Armstrong and the tenuous nature of heroism |