Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Essence of Heroism

“Responsible persons are mature people who have taken charge of themselves and their conduct, who own their actions and own up to them--who answer for them.” --William J. Bennett

“Self-responsibility is the core quality of the fully mature, fully functioning, self-actualizing individual.” --Brian Tracey

We live in a time where Reality Shows create celebrities, and being notorious can lead to instant fame. Let’s face it… Self-responsibility is not hip. This is the age of Gangsta-Rap. A time when being a victim of circumstance is celebrated and the true heroes who strive for honor and integrity get lost in the shuffle.

I read this great article by Naomi Rosenblatt in “Women of the Bible,” a U.S. News collector’s edition. I’ve long been intrigued by mythology and theology, and, with a Jungian perspective, like to explore the stories that lodge within the collective consciousness of humankind. This article, titled “The First Rebel” reexamines the Adam and Eve myth with a unique view.

The details we know. Eve tastes the fruit and offers it to Adam. Although Ms. Rosenblatt explores a common theme—the fruit represents an awakening of sexuality—the writer twists off into a new direction. When the first couple hears God, they panic and hide. God calls out “Where are you?”

Now, being all-knowing, the deity obviously is well aware where the two are hiding. And what they have done. Yet he questions them. Why? To find out how they will choose to handle their transgression. Their choice immediately becomes apparent. Adam blames Eve and the serpent. Eve blames the serpent.

This leads to a revolutionary interpretation of the age-old story. One where the Original Sin is actually Avoiding Responsibility.

“It is easy to dodge our responsibilities, but we cannot dodge the consequences of dodging our responsibilities.” --Josiah Stamp

Self-responsibility is not glamorous. There are people who file for bankruptcy not because they’ve been hit by hard times but because they racked up too many credit card bills and they’re not willing to take the action necessary to pay them off. Who wouldn’t want a clean slate? Especially when the only thing lost is self-responsibility. And maybe the last shreds of integrity. Too many people find that a small price to pay.

I once knew a woman who insisted I provide emotional support no matter what actions she took. If I objected, she would throw in my face that she’d support me no matter what. “If you were to become a Russian spy, I’d still stand by you.”

Except I wouldn’t have become a Russian spy or whatever outlandish thing she proposed. To say to another, I'd love YOU even if you had no ethics whatsoever is a perfect ploy. It implies that you're shallow and mean if you don't offer the same. It's also convenient, since the ethically-challenged person making the lofty proclamation knows full well that you won't ever cross that line. The strategy is common among conmen and thieves. By tapping into their victim's own moral code they elicit and imply trust.

Had I been wiser and stronger, I would have objected long ago. I wasn't. And I was hampered by the love I held for this person for many years. I simply wasn't clever enough to see the manipulations for most of my life.

Had she wanted to convince people she was the Princess of Caraboo and not demanded my endorsement, it might have been different. But that wasn't the rule she laid down. If she were to tell everyone that she was actually from another planet and used me for a reference, I was expected to back her up. No matter what. If I didn’t, I would be labeled judgmental or be told I had no compassion, no heart. Basically, I was a Bad Person unless I compromised my integrity entirely. Lovely.

“It is not size or age that separates children from adults. It is responsibility.”— Jules Feiffer

I finally called a halt when she created an elaborate childhood fantasy that I supposedly took part in. Something akin to Athena springing from the head of Zeus. The indignation and anger I’d suppressed for decades came flooding out. I simply couldn’t take anymore.

“Half of the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm. But the harm does not interest them.”--T.S. Eliot

Everyone yearns to be special. Yet few yearn to be self-responsible. Today’s essay is a personal exploration of a quality that gets little fanfare in today’s world. To me, it is the essence of life itself.

“I believe that all of us have the capacity for one adventure inside us, but great adventure is facing responsibility day after day.” --William Gordon

I’ll be posting another essay tomorrow before switching to a weekly publication. My other writing is demanding more of my time. A good thing, right? Thanks to all who’ve been reading my words.

One final quote for the road.

“Self-truth is the essence of heroism.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Embrace your heroic self!

--Chiron O’Keefe

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your heroism, and will miss your writings. I will also look forward to your other writings. :-) Cathy

Chiron O'Keefe said...

And I love YOUR heroism, dear Cathy!!

Thanks for being here...

Smiles to you,
Chiron