When I was an awkward, shy, home-schooled child, I loved to read. Reading gave me a chance to feel people out without actually having to put myself out in the world. Through stories, I had the opportunity to experience dealing with people and to learn how I should act in different situations. I need heroes to emulate because like most human beings, I learn by mimicry.
From infants, most of us learn how to function in society by mimicking those around us, especially our heroes like mom and dad or big brother. As we grow, that doesn’t really change. At 40 years old, I am still looking to my heroes to figure out how to be.
Human beings are mimickers and we need heroes to mimic, so the best way to communicate with a whole society on how you want them to behave is through a story that says: “This is what we want you to be. Emulate this hero.”
I am teaching Greek mythology right now. The Greeks used their stories to communicate their societal values. In “The Iliad” by Homer, Achilles is given the choice as a youth to live a long and happy life and end up forgotten or die young as a glorious hero who would be remembered forever. He chose the latter and this story communicated to ancient Greek’s that a hero’s death was preferable to a safe and comfortable life. This served them well because they produced strong fighters who conquered many countries. Achilles gave Greek’s a hero to emulate that furthered the needs of his society.
Achilles did not need to be an actual historical figure to affect the course of history. His story mattered more than reality because in his story, he could be the perfect and strong hero that the Greek’s needed. Real humans are fallible and therefore poor choices as heroes.
For example, I may look to Martin Luther King Jr. as a hero, but when I learn that he was an adulterer, this tarnishes his story and makes me less likely to want to mimic him. Every real human is tarnished and therefore, a real human is a poor choice as a hero to lead a society.
Our religions are built around stories and these stories do not need to be real. Indeed, religious scholars have professed that the societies that created our major world religions were far more concerned with telling a good story than actual, historical fact.
They were smart. The story is what changes the world, not the reality.
Emulating a hero is ingrained in our DNA. Jesus understood this and told many stories as his way to communicate the principles he came to teach. He was more than a story teller though. He was THE story. His life story has been extremely powerful in affecting our current society because he is the perfect hero.
Jesus is without blemish, so he is a hero that we can emulate without fear that we will find a fault. A fault would make him an undesirable hero, and in order for him to be perfect, there has to be a supernatural element because no human being is without fault. He is the poor, farm boy who we find is really a prince and he rides off on his donkey to slay the devil and save his beloved. He is the ultimate hero of sacrificial love and sets a precedent for a whole society to imitate his example and lay down their lives for each other.
His story was and is good news to so many people. However, like anything that has the power to control a society, people have sought to taint the most beautiful of stories for their own gain. And misusing his story has caused many problems.
A society functions well under one common story and that is where religion has served us well, and this religion does not have to be Christianity. The common hero can be Mohammad, Buddha, or Krishna. It doesn’t matter all that much. But a common hero means the society is working together to promote the same values.
In the United States of America, we have moved past a common religion. As I evaluate the need for a common hero, I see how this may have weakened our society because we are left floundering, searching for someone to show us how to be. Currently, the people we see the most become our heroes. We emulate the people that have the most air time. Popularity has become the gauge for deciding what we should be.
We know the Kardashians. We know Donald Trump. We know Kanye. These people are in front of us more than others and so we see them as the goal. They have become our heroes because we have chosen popularity over what is best for our society.
In losing a common hero, we have adopted sub par replacements and our society will mimic these people. You are choosing now, with your clicks, who your children will become.
Please, choose more wisely.
Because here is the deal, if we do not choose a hero that we can all agree on, a tyrant will come in and choose it for us. History shows that the conquering army conquers with more than a sword; they conquer with a story. The Romans used Jesus’s story; the Moors used Mohammad’s. To conquer a society fully, you have to give them a story to agree on and you have to remove their old story. The story is where the power is. The story is enough to cause a revolution and give people the motivation to sacrifice even their lives for a something bigger. Even in our own country, we knew that when we took over our land from the Native Americans, we, white Christians, had to destroy their stories and convert them to ours or we would not be able to stop them. We were stronger in numbers and weapons but yet, we still knew that we needed to remove their gods and heroes to bring them to a state of submission.
Military power is not enough to conquer. You must change the story.
We are changing our own story with our clicks without a full understanding of what we are doing and our obsession with viral stars has caused a serious problem. We are destroying our own myth of being a strong and heroic country. The symptom of this rapid weakening is that that we choose popularity over nobility in our leadership.
In the past election, we were given the choice between two characters lacking in heroic qualities; before the votes were even cast, we lost a huge battle for the good of our society by not providing people who could even feign heroism to the masses who desperately need someone to mimic.
This conundrum let to the election of Donald Trump as president, and that will weaken our society more than you know. We did not need to choose an actual perfect person, as this is impossible due to the fallibility of humans, but we did need to have someone who could pull off the appearance of heroism. We do not have that in Trump. Our story is weakened now and that is the beginning of the end of our society.
We can find common ground as a mixing pot of religions and cultures. We can decide together what we will mimic, but we must be conscious of our choices in order to choose our heroes and keep a stronger society with a better story from overtaking ours. With each click, with each article you share, consider that you are participating in your culture’s story and setting the plotline for your children. Going viral cannot be our culture’s ultimate goal.
We can and must do better.
So choose heroes in your daily life. Follow a faith. Read tales with morals to your kids. Seek out people that make the world a better place and then copy them. Mimicry is not a bad thing. We will all seek to mimic, but our free will gives us the choice on who we imitate.
Today I cried for the first time since the election. My daughter came in and sung me “Lost Boy” by Ruth B; A sweet song about my favorite childhood story sung in the sweet innocent voice of my beautiful daughter. I want to run off to Neverland and away from this adult world and take my family with me. I get you J.M. Barrie! I don’t want to be a grown up.
When you grow up, you have to face the broken of the world and you realize that no one is going to protect you from it anymore. You are all of a sudden hit with the reality that the adults are no different then then kids; confused, scared, and wanting big poppa to come in and make it all better.
We all crave someone who can protect us because we are all scared.
We try to ignore our fear or mask it with addictions, but the world is terrifying and eventually the fear becomes so great that nothing can keep it down.
We are nothing more than children, scared and looking for someone to take care of us. Children who feel unsafe and neglected will seek out a strong personality to give them security. Children who don’t feel safe are vulnerable to predators.
In the wise words of Tina Fey in a letter to her daughter: “May she be Beautiful but not Damaged, for it’s the Damage that draws the creepy soccer coach’s eye, not the Beauty.”
The damage is what lures the predators. The feeling that no one hears you and loves you. No one will protect you. That is the feeling that a predator seeks.
America is scared. America is feeling unheard. America is damaged.
Then along comes an admitted predator and he pretends to listen. He seems to care. He is loud and seems strong. He promises to protect her. He says he will keep her enemies away and make sure she has what she needs to thrive. He moves in closer, whispering comfort in her ear and his hand moves up her thigh and she ignores what she knows is so wrong because she so needs to feel safe and heard. He will take what he wants from her and leave her more broken than before.
I am so sorry America. I am devastated to realize how unheard you have been and how unsafe you feel. I am sorry that you felt he was the only option.
Today, I cry for my country, but I will get up and go love my children now and listen to them and then I will try to listen to my family and friends that voted for him. He is a symptom of a bigger problem and it’s time we all starting listening to each other so that we can find the root of our fear, pull it out and heal the wound.
Put your arms around each other today America. We are not enemies. We are a broken family that needs to heal and we can only do that by laying down our pride and anger and truly seeking to hear each other.
Last December, a man stepped in front of news cameras and broadcasted to the world that the United States of America should ban all Muslims from entering our country.
That statement was so completely shocking that I could not believe someone said that out loud where people can hear. Being raised in a small, sometimes racist/bigoted town, I had heard talk like that before, but no one would say that out loud in public. That talk was kept behind closed doors because even the bigots knew that was inappropriate talk outside of the bigot bubble.
For almost 20 years, I have been a teacher and I have strongly condemned bullies, racists, bigots and sexists. I have taught my students not to use this kind of language and to see their fellow humans as more than a label. I believed with all my heart that these kids who used this type of language were being raised on the fringe and that our country agreed to condemn bigotry, racism and sexism.
He said “ban Muslims” out loud, on camera, with the world watching.
“The country will condemn these words,” I thought. I felt so sure that our country held the values that I had been teaching.
Our country did not. Many people were emboldened to come out of the fringes and share this view that our country could and should discriminate against people based on their religion.
“Just temporarily,” many would say when I protested.
There is no temporary in bigotry. Once you judge an entire group as bad because of their faith, you don’t get to go back. The damage is done.
Soon, it became apparent that bigotry was not a fringe problem; our country was infested.
Then, racist comments became ok.
“Mexicans are rapists.”
Then sexist comments were fine.
“I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married.”
“I did try and fuck her. She was married.”
“Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”
“Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”
I feel like a naive child who’s parents had always told her that adultery was bad, only to find that they have been cheating on each other her whole life. The premises that I was so sure we valued as Americans are gone.
My naive innocence has been ripped away. I no longer see the United States of America as a champion for good in the world.
America, you elected him President. You elected an openly sexist, racist bigot President of the United States of America.
What do I do now?
When I go to teach, do I continue to stop the bullies and condemn that hateful remarks? Or do I give up and accept that our values as a country are not what I thought they were?
This morning, in the wake of heartbreak, I am trying to remember the voices of my heroes.
“It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
Today, I will keep doing the right thing. It may not be in my power to stop what is happening in all of my country, but I know that teaching children not to judge who people groups by their skin color, religion or sex is right. I’ll keep doing that today…..and tomorrow…..and they day after that.
My fellow fighters for human rights, keep going. Don’t give up. Hope remains that if we keep doing good, good will result.
I had my son within a year of being married. My husband was my first sexual partner and we waited to start having sex until after we got married. Good Christians and all. When I had my son, I remember feeling a panic that we couldn’t have sex for 6 weeks. I wasn’t worried because I wanted to have sex. Dear Lord. No. My body was ripped apart and needed to heal. I did NOT want to have sex. But somewhere, deeply ingrained, was the idea that if I did not have sex with my husband for an extended period of time, he would cheat on me. We had dated for almost two years without having sex. I knew that he could go 6 weeks without it and yet, the idea that my husband was incapable of controlling himself was placed somewhere where logic could not reach.
We’ve been married 10 years and my desire for sex has fluctuated in that time. When my desire is low and I have sought advice to help, the message I most often receive is that I just need to do it to keep my husband from temptation. This message is preached my friends, clergy, marriage books and even doctors. My husband’s desire to stray is my responsibility according to this well meaning but very damaging advice.
Do you know what will kill a woman’s sexual desire faster than anything? The idea that her husband needs sex more than he needs her. Tell her that and believe me, sex is the last thing she will want.
I love my husband. I want to care for him. We are in a partnership. However, I am not responsible for his actions. If he cheats because I am going through a time of low sex drive, that is on him. Not me.
My husband is not an animal, driven by instinct. He is a capable human with reasoning and self control.
So where does this idea start? This idea that women are responsible for a man’s sexual actions?
It starts as soon as you tell a young girl that she needs to cover her body or change her behavior so the boys in her class are not tempted.
Don’t do that.
Boys will be sexually attracted to girls and girls will be attracted to boys. That is a healthy, normal response, but she is not supposed to control his desire. He is. Our boys are capable of controlling themselves.
Telling them anything else is damaging to our boys as much as our girls.
Christians, I am looking at you; stop telling your girls that they need to cover up to protect their Christian “brothers” from temptation. You are feeding into the idea that she is responsible for his actions. A boy can refrain from grabbing a girl even if she is wearing a short skirt. To tell them otherwise is to rob our boys from becoming men who can take responsibility for themselves.
The behavior of a certain grown man in the media who is seeking an office of great responsibility is appalling, right? That behavior is deeply ingrained in our society and how we raise our children. If you are appalled by the idea that a man cannot help but grope a woman and then brag about it as much as I am, then join me in changing the way we raise our children. Teach your boys and girls that they are not the keeper of the others’ instinctual desire. Give them the tools they need to be reasonable human beings, not animals.
We can and must be better.
One of my dearest friends wrote this and I am so in love with it I had to share:
Let’s start with an extremely over-simplified biology refresher. Eyeballs contain special light catching cells called cones that respond to color. More types of cones means more visible wavel…
I have always been a fan of stories.
Stories are like people watching from inside. We get to know what the characters are thinking and feeling and by doing this, we get to live out a myriad of life events and learn to feel what the characters feel when they suffer loss, hardship, love, joy and adventure.
Fables and stories tell the hearts of people. You can know a people and their culture by reading their stories and here is what I find: a good story translates across borders and languages, across faiths, because a good story speaks to being a human being and in the core of our humanity, we are the same.
I have had a book sitting on my shelf for years, a gift from my dad, titled: Creative Mythology The Masks of God by Joseph Cambell. The book is hard read, jam packed with information on mythology. I have picked it up several times and put it back down, overwhelmed with too much information. Learning is hard. Stretching my brain hurts. I would often just go back to reading Facebook posts because Facebook posts are easy. They give that rush of information and meet the desire to people watch inside other people’s heads, but besides a few posts that seek to delve into the real struggles of being a human being in our world, they don’t often go all that deep. When words go deep, you are forced to go deep with them, and that is difficult. Avoiding depth is much easier.
However, I closed my Facebook account and because of that, I have the mental energy left to go a little deeper. I pulled Cambell’s book of the shelf and decided to just skip around to find something to digest. I skipped to the chapter titled: The Legacy of Islam because Islam is a big deal right now. The division between the Western world and the Muslim world is deep and causing immense suffering on both sides.
What I found brought me to tears.
In the midst of wars between Christians and Muslims in the first two millennia of the Christian calendar, there was a beautiful sharing happening in the stories. Muslim philosophers and poets inspired some of our most beloved Christian stories. Dante, in wrestling with his understanding of the Divine, connected with the works of Sufi mystic Ibnu’l-‘Arabi (Cambell, 129). The beloved stories of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, their quests to serve the Christian God and uphold chivalry, are mirrored by similar Arabic stories (136). Muslims and Christians have taught each other and shared ideas on philosophy, science and literature and that have shaped both of our world views.
We are connected. The stories show that we have the same longing in our hearts to know God and to do what is right.
So why all the division?
Soon after my conversion to Christianity I was warned about my faith being corrupted by outside influences. I was encouraged to spend the majority of my time with other Christians, to only seek romantic relationships with Christians and to read the Bible and Christian authors more than others. Having literature from other faiths was discouraged because I may be swayed by the devil to turn away from my own faith by the outside corruption. I know Christians who will refuse to read a book that includes ideas contrary to the dogma they have been taught because they don’t want to give the devil a way in to their minds. I had been advised not to even have artifacts of other cultures in my home, such as a Hindu statue, because demons can somehow hitch a ride on these cultural icons and take over my faith. This advice solidifies a division between Christians and other faiths. Currently there is a specially strong division between Christianity and Islam, but all non-Christian world views are seen by fundamental Christians as dangerous to the purity of the faith. Isolation is a tool of control and systematically used in faiths to turn the innocent desire to serve God to other nefarious goals such as world domination. The Christian church is every bit as guilty of this as Islam.
When I was advised to avoid outside influence, I complied. I was young and naïve and believed these more mature teachers on how to preserve the purity of my faith.
They were actually right because as I have explored the faiths of others, listened to my friends of all faiths speak about their love for God, and read the stories of other cultures, my idea that Christians are the only ones to have rights to the one true God has been corrupted.
God is so much bigger than one story.
God has flowed through humanity, every being feeling the touch of the Divine, since the beginning and our stories tell of this. Our desire for Love is universal.
So why is the idea of one Love; one God that we all share; so looked down upon?
Division is a powerful tool. Fear of “the other” can unite people of one faith to kill their brothers and sisters of another. Division allows for innocent people to be exploited by their very real and pure desire to serve the source of Love.
Do not be afraid to be inspired by other faiths or to love your brothers and sisters of other cultures. We can and must learn from each other.
The mythology and stories of Christians and Muslims have overlapped from the beginning. We are more alike than different and the way to combat the growing quarrel between our faiths is to refuse the exploitation of our fears and seek to find the truth.
Education can end this war.
Cambell, Joseph. The Masks of God. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1982. Print.
Hey there Democrats. Can we talk? I think it’s time we sat down for a little catch up.
We’re super fired up after watching some kick ass speeches at the convention; riding on a high of inspiration. That is all great and amazing. I am stoked that you are excited about Hillary’s nomination.
However, some lines are being crossed that I don’t think you want to cross.
First, there is the reaction to the Bernie Or Bust crowd. The media has been ridiculing them as being silly for not wanting to vote for Hillary, but you know what? She was not who inspired them. Bernie did. Bernie is very different than Hillary and I am not saying that she is bad, but his message, his integrity, and his ability to make people believe that we could, as a country, take care of each other is what made his his followers “Feel the Bern.” Hillary is not Bernie and it is not at all ridiculous that Bernie’s supporters need to be won by Hillary. She may convince them that she is the best for the job, but ridicule is in no way a good tactic for getting someone’s vote. Leave the bullying to those that would go low.
Second, promoting Hillary as the lesser of two evils is just the worst. To say, the people must vote against Trump by voting for Hillary is a fear tactic that is beneath the Democratic party. Fear is not inspiring. Fear does not cause us to look outside of our own needs to do what is best for our country. Fear does the opposite and causes us to want to hide and protect what is ours. That is going low.
Third, Republicans are not idiots. They have a different view on how the country should be run but they are not fools to be mocked. They are our fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters and the guy that will pull over to help when we break down on the side of the road. They are our fellow Americans and their views matter. Don’t mock. Listen. You can absolutely disagree, but do not write anyone of your neighbors off as fools. That is far too easy. Far too low.
Go high, Democrats. Ridicule, fear tactics and bullying have no place in your party. Do not use them. Inspire us, tell us that we can be better, and then lead us there. A humble desire to understand is incredibly powerful in the face of fear and bullying. Stay humble, stay open, seek to understand and you will lead a force of change in this country that is so much more than a knee jerk reaction to a bully.