Here's my problem: I've got contradictory heroes.
Today Santi links to a Flannery O'Connor blog. Regularly updated quotes. Now I have to admit I haven't read any Flannery O'Connor, although I've been meaning to ever since Carol said I should. But anyone Santi calls a saint and Carol recommends, I know is probably going to go onto my heroes list. As I read the quotes, I'm mentally putting her right next to Dorothy Sayers, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Graham Greene in the "Religion and Reason" subheading. (Dava Sobel, Jill Paton Walsh, Rene Descartes, and T.S. Eliot and Thomas Aquinas are cross-listed in this section as well.)
But Andrew links to a commencement speech given by Alan Alda, on the subject of Richard Feynman. Now Richard Feynman is also a hero of mine, in the "Science and Creativity" category. See also Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell, Freeman Dyson, Robert Wilson, Johannes Kepler, Enrico Fermi, Erwin Schroedinger, Thomas Edison, Paul Erdos, G.H. Hardy, Kurt Goedel, Galileo, etc. Cross listings include Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage, Isaac Asimov, and Ben Franklin.
Thinking of commencement addresses, and of links I'd been meaning to include here at some point, made me think of Jon Stewart's speech at his alma mater, William and Mary. (Incidentally I've applied to William and Mary twice. I feel a funny kind of loyalty for it. The first time I couldn't afford to go though it was my first choice by far, and for grad school... It was a very close thing, but in the end I think Chicago won me.) Some time ago someone (now I can't remember who) also provided me with a link to this fantastic interview he did on Larry King Live. Now Jon Stewart is also one of my heroes, in the "Humor and Truth" category. Terry Pratchett, Gary Trudeau, Joss Whedon, Aaron Sorkin, Amy Sherman-Palladino, Jonathan Swift, Mark Twain, James Morrow, Connie Willis, Tom Stoppard, the Coen Brothers, even Kevin Smith.
Now here's the thing: Flannery O'Connor would hate Kevin Smith. Don't you think? I mean, he made the movie "Dogma" so pretty much everyone in the first category is going to hate him. (And okay, it's not my favorite movie either. But even in that movie I love his stupid characters. That's what the Coen Brothers do too. They make me laugh at, and love, the most flawed people. Okay, that's what everyone in this category does, with maybe the exception of Swift, who is crankier.)
And don't you think that Richard Feynman, who was a fairly militant atheist, would dislike Flannery O'Connor?
And really, just picture Jon Stewart interviewing James Clerk Maxwell. I didn't know Maxwell, but he was a Cambridge "mathmo" right? On the Daily Show, I'm betting he'd come off like the biggest nerd in the entire universe.
Sometimes I feel like all of these people, and all of the people from the other subheadings -- it's a long list -- are just having shouting matches in my head all of the time, and when I open my mouth, there's no telling which voices will come out... (And hardly any of them are female!)
I don't feel like I've reconciled these different approaches to life at all, really. I wonder if I ever will? But I would rather live with the conflict, I think, than have any of them fall silent.