In American culture, ancient mythologies and folklore passed from generation to generation have been replaced by cults of celebrity. We rely on musicians, artists, athletes, actors and writers to show us the way. They stand above us and apart from us and demonstrate what we can achieve if we are truly great. They are inspiring and they are Gods Among Men.
Ted Williams hitting a ball out of the park in his last game when any other player would have been well passed their prime Muhammad Ali dancing around the ring with cheerful bravado as a lesser man tries and fails to beat him to a pulp; Elvis Presley on the Ed Sullivan Show all loose limbed cockiness smirking at the camera; Janis Joplin breaking out with a throaty growl fill with promise, raw and primal; Martin Luther King speaking so that angels would weep and devils would change their mind.
But our gods are temporary gods. Struck down by their own success, by cowardly men, by drink and drug and bullet. In that final moment, in the moment when they prove that they were human all along, they show us the greatest truths.
In the old days, ye olde ancient times, humanity created gods that were petty, jealous, bickering things that lived above us, but still fell into predictable patterns of human behavior. They were powerful, they could do wonderful, terrible things; but they were, tragically, so much like their worshipers.
And now we have come full circle.
We select those chosen few: the geniuses, the artists, the performers, the entertainers, the writers, the poets, the athletes and the leaders. We select them and place them so high up and aspire to them. We put them so high up and out of reach; the Platonic Ideal of Humanity. And then, when they fall, when they prove that they were just like us all along, they continue to show us the way.