I have lots of role models, so I expect it shouldn't be too surprising that I think they're serious business. I've blogged about some of my thoughts on them before, so that seems like a pretty good place to start.
Your role models and philosophical heroes sort of have to tell you that it’s worth living. That’s not what makes them special. I mean, it’s what makes them special as human beings, but it’s not what makes them special among notable people.
We can’t all affirm life in the same way. Walks in the woods make some people feel deeply connected with humanity. For me, the thing most intimate and uplifting about a long walk in the woods is seeing the glow of city lights in the distance, knowing there’s a place close enough to see its aura where people have come together to live and cooperate.
The reason this comes to mind now is because Ze Frank is starting up a new show, and he's about as close as it comes to the quintessential internet role model. His new video, "An Invocation for Beginnings," is inspiring in all the ways I need to get myself started working. He seems to say aloud all the secrets that artists have to know, and have known throughout history, but which tended not to be mentioned, out of pride or machismo.
I learned about Ze Frank in more depth than the 'How To Dance' videos through another pair of role models, the Vlogbrothers. And I've got other role models, too -- Neil Gaiman, Greta Christina, Tim Minchin, pretty much all the people I like to learn about, I do so because I'm inspired by them in some way.
That's what I mean to say when I say role models are important. Plural. Because it's important to have a lot of them. Having just one doesn't really do much to teach you about yourself.
We develop our self-identity in relation to other people, but if you only rely on the people immediately around you you'll only rise to the standards of your immediate community.
Role models, if you've got a lot of them, provide the necessary examples to develop a sense of self that fits into the sort of life you aspire to.