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A Time for Heroes

We’ve all had heroes as kids.  We’ve all felt that complete euphoria when our heroes actually talked to us.  Oh, my lord, what an event that was!  In that split second, you were on their level; you felt like a god had reached down from the heavens and given you wings.  It lasted for days.  I miss those childhood days when I knew somebody I wanted to be exactly like.  I miss that sense of awe for someone, of being in the presence of someone great.  I miss that hint of power and the unspoken promise that now everything was going to be okay.

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt those feelings for somebody.  I wondered if maybe I had just forgotten what being a hero was all about.   I did think of Mother Theresa and the Dalai Lama, but I need a more practical definition of hero – I could never be saintly.  But two or three steps down would be good.

I looked up hero in an online dictionary.  It described a hero as a figure “of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability;” “a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities;”  one that (shouldn’t that be “who”?) shows great courage.  There were three other definitions, including “an object of extreme admiration and devotion:  idol.”

Then I looked up heroine.  We women didn’t fare as well.  First of all, we were defined by the male definition:  a “woman having the qualities of a hero.”  There was no separate mention of admiration, nobility or courage.  There was also no mention of devotion, or idol status.  Probably to save space on the page, but I wonder about the little girl who looks up the word “heroine” and sees that you have to go to the male version first.  Course, we weren’t defined as a baloney sandwich, so I guess we women and little girls can feel good about that.

I didn’t look up the definitions to identify gender discrimination, though.  I had hoped to be inspired with a name when I read them, but I felt zippo.  The definitions of hero and heroine appear critically outdated.  We need a definition that is gender free and can be applied to anyone, male or female, child or adult.  I came up with some examples of what I could aspire to be like.

1) One who displays great respect and reverence for life; is admired for his/her ability to make decisions based on this value.  Ex:  strong, generous, ego less leaders or business owners; legislators who stand up against discrimination and self-gain, and vote for diversity, individual freedoms, privacy, a healthy earth, and global relationships that are based on mutual cooperation and respect.

2) One who exhibits the strength and courage of individuality and the allowing of those who are different.  Ex.:  men who ignore the macho myth; men who are good fathers; women who do not criticize themselves or other women;  women who are good mothers; children who are happy to be children.

3)  One who continually demonstrates consistency of character, dependability, and trustworthiness, who accepts worth not as defined by others, but by those acts that consistently reflect such traits.  Ex.:  kind and thoughtful family members;  generous and grateful community members.

4) The word for hero should be genderless.

Being a hero is rather simple, when you stop to think about it.  It simply requires the intended action of doing the right thing for the right reason, with respect and grace.

The irony is, we accept the high position of authority in business or government — areas ripe for heroism — as a place that cannot do the right thing for the right reason, as it wouldn’t be profitable.  We allow a substandard kinda guy or gal – the one with the biggest ego or the largest personal agenda — to determine our national policies.  As a society, we seem to accept this unquestioningly, as if we were brainwashed into thinking no other way is possible, and so we shouldn’t expect anything different.

We need to return to the expectations of our childhoods…when heroes accomplished great deeds and great joy was unleashed upon the people.  We need to expect — and require — that the people who represent us, do so in the right way, for the right reasons, for the highest and common good of all.

It’s time for our children to have heroes like we did.

I kinda want one again, too.

— ( c ) St. John 2006

Sweet Good-bye and Eager Hello

I don’t understand those who mourn the end of summer.

Who could weep for the disappearing ultramarine of the sea or swimming pool when one has only to look upon the gorgeous, deep palette that is now autumn?

Bright red berries popping upon branches, burnt orange, russet red and golden yellow leaves twirling to the ground in a dance…Even the sounds have color and taste.

Crows shriek over and over, a rhythm to their speech that sweetens the memory of ripe apples, juicy grapes and plums.  The low barking of a dog knells a few times in the distance, beckoning one back home.

All of these spark a strong desire in me to put on my shoes, grab some books to carry and walk in the leaves, kicking them up as high as I can in the air, just like I used to do as a kid walking home from school.  But on closer look, there aren’t enough leaves yet so the only kicking I can do is in my brain.

Lazy, Hazy, Crazy, Hot Days of Summer

The air chokes with heat.  Not a leaf or parched blade of grass is moving.

The lone tomato plant in the pot guzzles water for its six clusters of small green orbs.  Tiny yellow flowers announce more orbs will be arriving soon.  Four days ago the peppers  were no bigger than a fat thumb.  Now they are almost as large as my palm.  How do they do that??  How does a flower or tiny thing change into a substantial, edible vegetable so quickly and wondrously?

Clearly, my plants are loving the heat, the blistering rays of the sun, the hugs of the stifling air.  Remarkable.  As a human, wilting in the early morning, I am humbled by the power of nature to win out.

My scalp beings to sweat and I have only been in my patio chair for three minutes.  It feels like someone has placed a wool blanket over my bare legs.  My skin is beginning to feel oppressed.

The grounds are so ugly now.  Little band-aids of green will soon disappear into the dry, mustard yellow brown of a scorched earth.

Cicadas are screaming, competing to be heard above the traffic, and they win.  The high pitched vibrations drown out the tire and engine noises from the nearby pavement.

A bright, beautiful red male cardinal lands on the corner of the balcony.

I swear, its eyes looked disapprovingly at me.

The cardinal flits away to a nearby branch and waits.

He has me well trained.  I place a handful of seeds on the corner of the balcony railing.   OOPS.  The “rules” here prohibit kindness to birds, but I sneak a bit of it in any way.  Some rules are just stupid.  I know of no one who can resist beauty, especially when it comes around just for you.  And he is gorgeous.

My entire body is beginning to melt.

I am going to celebrate summer today.  I will purchase a bag of lemons and squeeze all the juice out of them.  I’ll pour in some sugar — the natural, healthier, Dr. Oz kind.  I’ll get unhealthy brats, some peppers and onion, and fat hoagie buns and grill the brats in the corner of the balcony that will still be in shade at lunch time.  We’ll drink up the cold lemonade and eat the brats.  I will remember how my nine-year-old self didn’t give a hoot how hot it got in the summer.  There was no school and I was with my best friend.

Yep.  It’s time to celebrate what is; and summer…in spite of its current drought and brutal temperatures..has alot to offer.

Cheers.

Are you feeling uneasy in 2012?


 

There’s no getting around it.  2011 was a bad year upon a not-go-good year, going into an iffy year.  There is not one person who has not suffered in some way, innocently or by their own behavior and actions.

We are all in this confusion and void together.  It’s not the best way to be united as a country, as a people…I’d rather be dancing…but there is strength in standing together and facing it down.

Whether your grief has been emotional, physical, economic, or spiritual…or a combination of more than one or all of the above, the wall of pain can be walked through.  You can come out the other side not only intact, but with greater peace.  I may not have the answers to get you through it, but perhaps I can lean upon others for inspiration to help guide you.

It’s hard being in a void.  The economy…environment…government…world unrest…nuclear threats.  Who knows what the heck will happen to the world tomorrow…next week…next month.  Election year only makes the void echo insanely because it is the same ole, same ole, with few promises acted upon.  Andrew Peterson, EdD, in his book “The next ten minutes” looks at the void a bit differently though.   He absolutely agrees it is a place of uncertainty and how we human beings are not wired to like uncertainty.  But he happily goes on to say about the void, “…it’s the gap between the poles, where all things are possible.  It is, in fact, the present moment.”  He’s particularly delighted about that, because that’s what his book is all about:  being in the present moment.

All spiritual books point to this present moment.  “Be in the moment, in the now.”  But when the present moment and the now are painful, why would you ever want to go there?!  Give me a great fantasy escape any day.

But I get their point.  In spite of our humanness to avoid uncertainty, we cannot avoid the lure of beauty.  And there is beauty in the moment, even if it means just paying attention to how you breathe and how you don’t even have to think about it to stay alive.  Can you imagine how tedious it would be if you had to remind yourself every few seconds to breathe?!  If I want to be reminded to “breathe…just breathe” or to “take a deep breath,” I want it to be because I am so excited about something that if I don’t slow down my breathing, I will surely faint dead away in pure delight.  But it doesn’t have to be as common as paying attention to your breathing…whatever causes you to concentrate so heavily that you hear nothing else around you…that’s the present moment.  That’s the now.  That’s pure delight.  That’s the best escape fantasy going.

I certainly hope that Andrew Peterson is right, and that all things are possible at this moment.  Because that’s how I want my dreams to come true…when I’m not paying attention because I’m having so much fun, just being.

Next I turn to Julie Cameron, a particular favorite artist/writer of mine (The Artist’s Way, Transitions, etc.).   In an inspirational prayer book she offered this consolation:

“Sometimes people fail us in terrible ways.  We are betrayed, abandoned, cast aside.  In times of such personal trauma, we must hold to the larger picture….I realize that while people may indeed fail me and turn away, there is an underlying goodness to the Universe which brings to me new friends and new situations.  These gifts heal and soothe me.  I see the merciful hand of providence despite my pain.”

The larger picture can mean many different things to each of us.  For me, it’s the idea of goodness; that it can exist in one human being or another without ever disappearing completely.  When you can reach outside of your pain and grab on with all your might to that goodness – kindness and respect – and offer it to others, you find the friends who are connected to the higher picture and can elevate you to that higher place of healing and peace.  And, better yet…

sometimes those friends even find you.

But for me it’s Don Miguel Ruiz and his book, “The Four Agreements” that really brings things home on this idea of we humans suffering at the hands of others.  Maybe I’m quoting directly or maybe I’m paraphrasing…I’m most certainly jumping around…but he gets the credit for the following perceptions:

We all love the best we can.  We all can trust ourselves.  We all suffer.

We can’t always give what the other wants or needs.  Sometimes, someone leaving your life or disappointing you is a gift.  It hurts to be with some people.  But the hurts will heal.         When the hurt heals, you can choose what you really want, how you really want to relate to others.  You don’t need to trust others as much as you need to trust yourself to make the right choice to be with them or not.   Your sadness, anger or humiliation will disappear.  When you establish a new belief you won’t be in that hell of pain ever again.  You will become immune to disapproval, shame and harsh resentments.

As for the gossips, the hell that they create when you go your own way, don’t take it personally.  It won’t affect you.  You can stand in that hell, in serenity.  The poison of harsh words will poison the sayers of them, not you.  You are not responsible for their words, neither is your behavior responsible for their unkind actions.  You did not cause the harshness, resentment of abuse.  You can stand in the middle of this pain and still experience inner peace and happiness.

Every day you will become better at being you.  You will remain a beautiful soul and you will live up to that soul.  Accept yourself.  Do not commit the sin of self-rejection.

Regardless of how high or down you are in this challenging year of 2012, one bit of prophecy or truth, if you will, keeps popping up…kindness and respect connects you to the innate goodness of the universe to other like-minded souls.  So if all those you are connected to are neither kind nor respectful, just hang tough and don’t waiver…those who already are will be grounded in your space even more deeply.  You and the goodness of others in your space will draw to you the same.   And the best part is, that those in your life who aren’t kind or respectful and can’t/won’t become so, will suddenly find there is no room for them at your inn.

Too bad, huh.  And you didn’t have to do anything, except be your higher self and stay the course.  See?  Life can be good.

(Because chose it to be.)

— ( c ) St. John 2012