Thursday, May 5, 2011


There is something unkind, or perhaps just egotistical, about elevating those who have accomplished much ... or even a little. "Heroes," after all, were actors in the accomplishments for which they are applauded and to burden them with praise ... well, they know what others can only praise. Their accomplishments are part of their tapestry, like a leaf on a tree. Does a "holy man" imagine himself to be holy? Only if he wants to be overcome with whatever it is that is "unholy," I imagine. What a burden it must be to have children nattering at their knee. They may bear it, but I see no reason to inflict such a burden. Perhaps all praise is self-centered and self-serving ... just like blame.

But if such things are self-serving, they are also a good lesson to all of us who are prone to praise and blame. It's a honey trap no one needs to fall into, but it can bring a reflective moment to the self that is praised or blamed. Who is this quasi-deity, this self? It is one thing to see what seems laudable or despicable and to learn the elements that will allow anyone to emulate or avoid. But it is quite another to wallow in the agreement of a believing throng.

I guess what put me in mind of all this was the news story today of  Claude Stanley Choules, known to his comrades as "Chuckles." He was the last known combat veteran of World War I (and also served in World War II). He died today in Australia at age 110. He lived through a time when the town turned out to see the first automobile and when cigarettes were a penny a pack. He spent his life in the Navy and when he retired, he became a pacifist, refusing, for example, to march in the Anzac celebrations, Australia's most revered military remembrance day.

If Chuckles had died at 90, and if he had not been "the last," there would have been no Associated Press story. If Gautama had not had the teacher's knack, there would have been no story called "Buddhism." If our heroes and heroines had not somehow gained a foothold in our minds ... well, they would have slipped quietly below the waves, much as those unremarked and "unremarkable" among us have or will. Outside some few, no one would know.

But we would know. Heroism and holiness are tentative designators. We may all have a desire for ticker-tape parades or medals or Associated Press stories celebrating our accomplishments, but resting on such laurels would be a fool's errand, don't you think? The only heroism and holiness is no heroism or holiness to the heroic or the holy. So, rather than running around burdening others, I think it is time to make some effort to get straight with the facts.

Now is the time -- there is no other time. Now is the parade. There is no other parade. Now, if you must, is the time for heroism and holiness. Now is the time, Chuckles.

Wash the dishes.

1 comment:

  1. It's all about the press isn't it? Or the beginnings of it, after dinner stories around the fire, stories from guests? Someone saw it and told someone else who thought it was a good one and told everyone else.

    Information is a commodity now, at least it trades on Wall Street now. But I think it always was, even if just the cost of feeding a stranger, we've always paid for gossip/entertainment/education.

    Might we call Peter Jesus's press agent? Avalokiteshvara or Shariputra Buddha's? I always thought George Carlin and Bill Hicks were heroes in the realm of teachers, just smaller business than religion and had to promote themselves, at least at first. But maybe Jesus and Buddha began similarly.