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Why heroism matters by Ben Murnane

In the history of humankind, there are probably few ideas more dangerous than the notion that we can offload our problems onto some external force, who will solve them for us.

And yet we need heroes.

The latest instalment in the Two Suitcases Project – Planet of the Capes – struck such a chord with me, because it involved young people who’ve had cancer (members of CanTeen) creating and becoming their own superheroes.

I grew up with a rare and debilitating disease, Fanconi anaemia, and one of the main sources of succour and inspiration when coping with my illness, was the fantasy of being a superhero. When the body is sick and incapable, it seems only natural that a fantasy of having an all-powerful body, to accomplish whatever one wanted, would be writ large – correcting the injustices of fate.

Heroism is about the experience of illness and associated with it so much. We refer to cancer survivors as heroes, when all they have done is survive. Why? Because their survival in the face of adversity inspires us, gives us hope that we can survive our own challenges, whatever they may be.

This is also where the true power of the superhero lies: in inspiration. The superhero does save lives, because imagining yourself as a superhero helps you to survive; that’s been my experience.

A hero is most powerful when they inspire us to be better ourselves – not when we expect them to save us.

Ben Murnane has been a script mentor on Helium Arts’ Two Suitcases community film project since 2012. An adaptation of Ben’s memoir Two in a Million, about life with Fanconi anaemia, became the award-winning pilot film on the project. Two Suitcases was written and directed by Ben with project manager Emma Eager and created in collaboration with young people living with illness. Ben is currently a writing a follow up to his memoir

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