Archive for December 27th, 2016

I don’t think I would be out of line in saying that there has been a coarsening of our public discourse over the past decade or so. Compassion, empathy and compromise, cornerstones of the history and growth of our nation, have somehow become a symbols of weakness.  We have taken the bait and allowed our wildest fears to dictate our actions, make us accept the craziest propositions and set aside our reason and logic.  

We have lost sight of the fact that our strength was never about simple brute force.  Our strength came from our idealism– things like equality and opportunity– and our courage in doing what was right.  Heroic qualities.

But it seems we have lost all sense of the heroic.

I thought I’d share this post from about 8 years back that features a favorite painting of mine and addresses those heroic qualities.

GC Myers- Legendary Heart 2006

This is a painting from a few years back that always sticks in my memory. There are many things I like about this piece, many things which I think make it notable but the part that sticks most with me is its title. It’s  Legendary Heart.

I suppose the title visually came from the shape of the tree’s crown or maybe it was something in the atmosphere of the piece that suggested the name. I’m not sure exactly except to say that I have always seen something quite heroic in this piece.

What do I mean by that? What is heroic?

Oh, it’s easy to define heroism in terms of combat or competition, the obvious examples for displays of courage and bravery.   Soldiers racing forward through a hail of bullets to capture an enemy or save his comrades, a fireman climbing into a burning building to rescue a child or even a competitor fighting through injury to bring about a victory– all are truly heroic.

To me however, this piece speaks to the root form of heroism,  the element that defines all heroism, from the most glorious to the most mundane  everyday variety that often  goes unnoticed.

I’m talking about self-sacrifice.

Heroism is the giving of  yourself to and for others.  Whether it’s a soldier or rescuer risking their safety so that others may be saved, a parent putting aside their own self interests for the benefit of their children or person who sacrifices their time and fortune for the betterment of those who truly need their help– all are heroic in terms of self-sacrifice.

Heroism is not about amassing accolades or wealth.  It’s about amassing a wealth of spirit and that that can only be achieved, paradoxically, through giving, not taking. It’s about shedding the greed and meanness of spirit that dwells deep within us, side by side with our sense of charity and courage, in some cases pushing aside these better traits and overtaking our characters.  We are living in a time where this has happened all too often.

The heroic is in compassion and empathy, not in domination of any sort.  It is in having the courage to let the better parts of our character shine.

We could all use a little of this courage.  I think many of us are always on a sort of hero’s journey, trying to find this bit of good while fighting back our baser demons. Occasionally, even momentarily, it appears to us and we feel nourished, strengthened  enough to continue forward.

That’s what I see when I look at this painting. Oh, it’s a striking image but it’s the message that I glean from it that makes it stand out and whenever I see this painting, on a computer screen or in my mind, I am reminded to keep moving forward, to hold strongly to my own compassion and empathy.

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