Monday, May 6, 2013

"Finding our way through is what we are called to do."

The Hero's Journey (Joseph Campbell)

From Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal, December 23, 2012:

Many religious people and leaders have come forward to try to speak of the meaning of [the Newtown, Connecticut elementary school shootings], and the answers to it, but the most powerful words came from the psychologist and former priest Eugene Kennedy, professor emeritus at Loyola University of Chicago.


Newtown, like 9/11, reminds us of "the mystery of being alone in the world as it is and as we are." The world is imperfect, broken, "with cracks running through it." A central fact of our lives, said Mr. Kennedy, is that "We are all vulnerable. Anything can happen to anybody at any time." We have to understand and recognize our vulnerability "as humans on the earth." We see and experience it every day, "from small disappointments . . . to blows of the heart." And Newtown is a blow of the heart.

But, again like 9/11, Newtown contained within it "the ongoing fact of revelation." Both 9/11 and Newtown were marked by a revealing of "the goodness of normal people, which is seldom celebrated" but is central to the balance of the world. When the teachers tried to shield the children—as when on 9/11 people who knew they were about to die called someone to say they loved them—that was "a revelation of their goodness." It is important in part because "by the light of the goodness of others—by that light we can see ourselves."

We attempt to respond to tragedies politically. We try to take actions that will make our world safer, and this is understandable. But there is no security from existence itself. The only answer is to "plunge into" life. "We have to engage in life and take it on with all the risks it entails, or we won't be alive at all."

He added: "It is better to suffer pain than to live in a world in which you don't allow yourself to be close enough to anybody to have the experience that's bound to give you suffering." And "love guarantees suffering."

"We're all on a hero's journey," said Mr. Kennedy, from where we began to where we will end. The hero faces challenges along the way. We are like King Arthur's knights, entering the forest each day without a cut path, and "finding our way through is what we are called to do."

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