Posts Tagged ‘Hero’s Journey’

A Return to Heroism

Oath of QuietIn the last couple of days I’ve written about heroism and how I see its qualities in everyday lives.  Being a blog, there’s a superficiality to such an examination, as there is to anything written off the cuff.  I’m never sure if I’m fully getting across my point .

I think the main thing I want to say is that we are living in a time where some of the basic qualities of the hero, compassion and empathy, have come to be seen as weakness.  We live in a culture that has over the last thirty or so years come to think of greed and self-interest as signs of strength.

Until we can restore compassion and empathy to their rightful position as the hallmarks of the strong and courageous, we will continue to linger knee-deep in the cesspool created by our allegiance to greed and our refusal in taking personal responsibility for for our actions.

That is the gist of what I’ve wanted to say.  I’m sorry it’s rhetorical and painted with a broad brush but I think this is a basic philosophical problem  and needs to be addressed at the broad brush level, starting from the bottom up, with people taking responsibility for the world immediately around them, living each day with their eyes open.  Living with charity and empathy for others.

I know it sounds simplistic, even naive.  That is just another product of  being immersed in a “get mine” world.  Without empathy, everything that challenges your worldview must be belittled or destroyed.

And that’s where we appear to be…

So. let’s try to see the strength and courage in living an empathetic life. Okay?

If you can agree to do that I promise to not preach tomorrow…

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Legendary HeartThis 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, a fireman climbing into a burning building to rescue a child or even a competitor fighting through injury to bring their team 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.

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