I’m going to do something a little out of the ordinary today and focus on a quote from something that I read that isn’t really an aphorism for one of my reflections. It’s a quote from Clyde W. Ford’s The Hero with an African Face (Amazon affiliate link), and I found it very interesting for its clarity.
Typically I’ve tried to gravitate toward short aphorisms, but I’m beginning to exhaust the ones that I have at my disposal that speak to me, so I’m probably going to wind up going over a greater range.
This is both exactly what I hoped would happen when I started doing this, and something that I feel a certain amount of hesitation over. Ironically, I don’t even keep close track of who reads these, so this may just be me writing for myself anyway. Lest I sound vain, I do this as part of a self-improvement exercise, and I’m not able to work diligently without some accountability, so the publication of my thoughts is a necessity toward a different end than fame or success. Still, I won’t object to any money thrown my way.
Across time and throughout the world, the hero strides out of myths and legends as the one who has ventured beyond the security of the present into an uncertain future, there to claim some victory or boon for humanity left behind.Clyde W. Ford
The Hero, in an archetypal sense, turns chaos into order. That is what they do.
I do not believe that I have ever heard the notion of the hero expressed as a traveler in time before. That is something that is an important concept, because time and space have both unique and parallel expressions in consciousness.
I like the notion of the hero moving into an uncertain future, which speaks to me in a way that I don’t often hear.
We have a tendency to think of stories as something static, something that gets set in stone and never changes.
Of course, there’s also Reader Response Theory, which argues that stories are always what people make of them, but I don’t like holistic approaches to understanding because they’re never as good as what you come to piecemeal.
The truth is somewhere in-between. Stories have the intended meaning of the author (RRT doesn’t deny this, but basically ignores it) and their more immediate purpose and meaning in our lives.
There’s a link here in the form of the archetypal, Jung would say the collective unconscious, elements that are common across all times and places. People can see the archetypes and connect to them, even if they are not aware and conscious of what the archetypes are.
A lot of these archetypes are most clearly expressed in myth–which does not mean that myths are simple and primitive–because ancient myths carry meaning for us only in the sense that we are aware of it. There are things that an American will see that would never occur to an ancient Arabian, or African, or Asian, or Greek mind. There are things that were very important in the original context that have fallen away from our knowledge (and knowing these can allow us to make even more connections which sometimes are obvious in their universal quality only once we awaken to them).
But the real thing here is that the Hero moves from the current unbearable world into the world of chaos and potential. It’s a cosmic force, in the literal sense; it is the sun rising in the east and falling in the west, being brought across the sky on a fiery chariot.
And this is why we have anything good at all. Everyone is a hero when they move the world in a better direction. It is the act of sacrifice for a noble purpose, even if the sacrifice seems insignificance (sacrifice is, loosely defined, merely giving up something in the tangible present for intangible benefit), and this is what builds society.
The Hero is the basic unit of life. We can choose to rise to the call or fall into squalor.
Step into the uncertain future.
Sacrifice now, feast later.
Tell the stories that lead to the way of life.