What happens to the hero inside us?
I was reading a biography of singer-song writer Leonard Cohen recently. He has always been a figure that aroused great curiosity in my mind. Through my teenage years in the 1970s and as a young adult, Cohen’s songs, never exactly ‘catchy’ tune-wise, his lyrics and simple style, were the focus for praise and awe among people of my generation.
Clearly a deep person who crafted words from somewhere way down deep inside, Cohen captured the essence of the human joy and pain of love and human intimacy, and the rawness of disappointment and brokenness.
Then in more recent years in my own experience of life, as events have unfolded, some wonderful and others really difficult, I’ve grown into a place that takes suffering and life’s setbacks seriously, seeking to make sense of things that cannot be neatly pigeon-holed. Paradox has become a familiar feature of this new landscape. So, it is not surprising that Cohen’s words and thoughts have become more fascinating, resonating with many of the insights of spiritual writers like Richard Rohr and others whose deeply Christian approach is informed by many valuable insights from human psychology.
I cannot tell you how many men (and some women!) I have spoken to who are in the second half of their lives and are wondering how to make sense of life which has often been informed by ideas about God that are frankly OK for the Sunday School room, but definitely not for adults who have faced setbacks, losses and shocks.
These ‘defeats’ are acknowledged beautifully in a quote in Cohen’s biography. The words are of a friend of his, a Buddhist monk he calls Roshi: “The older you get, the lonelier you become, and the deeper the love you need [now there is a quote worth spending sometime meditating on to start with!]. Which means that this hero you are trying to maintain as the central figure in the drama of your life – this hero is not enjoying the life of a hero. You’re exerting a tremendous maintenance to keep this heroic stance available to you, and the hero is suffering defeat after defeat. And they are not heroic defeats: they are ignoble defeats. Finally, one day you say, ‘Let him die - I can’t invest any more in this heroic position. From there you just live your life as if it’s real….’”
Letting go, allowing things within the familiar landscapes of our lives to die is a central theme in Christianity. Acceptance is key, not passively but intentionally, this is a turning that has the aim of clearing the decks, getting out of the way of ourselves, so that our true self can flourish; the self that is connected to the source of all love, light, peace and grace (aka “God’).
By Fr David Evans, Team Rector, Brereton, Rugeley and Armitage Team Ministry
PS. If you are a bloke who wants to explore this a bit more, Adam's Return is the group for you. Follow the link.