What Gifts Do You Bring?
by Juliette Jones
“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.”
Quite a few of my friends don’t watch television. However, I choose to watch “the tube” for a number of important reasons—even if it exactly isn’t a “tube” anymore, but a high-tech plasma display screen.
When I was barely four years old and still an only child—although my brother was on the way—we became the first family in our neighborhood to purchase a television. From my perspective, this peculiar looking cabinet might just as well have been a spaceship with enormous powers of attraction.
On the evening of the same day it was delivered, every child on the block filed quietly into our living room and perched with legs crossed before the mysterious cathode ray tube. My father stepped forward and twisted a knob on a panel, and we heard a click as patterns of bright light flashed before our eyes, accompanied by a grainy sound. Moments later, Dad adjusted the reception, and we viewed our first television program as a little community.
Most of the children were absolutely riveted by the pictures and sounds appearing on the screen of this magic box—they were literally taken away in consciousness. I don’t think I will ever loose that image in my mind. As for me, the TV wasn’t my chief focus. I was positioned at the edge of the first row and able to see the faces of the other children watching the program. As I had no playmates, these other children were of great interest.
I was fascinated by the influence of that magic box—how it had the power to bring the children to our home and absolutely captivate their attention. I regarded the box as a powerful electronic shaman able to transform the consciousness of those who peered into it.
One word about the featured program—it depicted a tale of a man on a beautiful white horse, wearing a black half-mask. Although he was called the Lone Ranger, he wasn’t alone but largely accompanied by a Native American ally named Tonto who galloped along on an equally wonderful painted horse. One detail was clear about this mysterious duo—they worked together, they trusted each other, and above all else, they were epic heroes sharing an adventure.
As a technology, television continues to appear to me as something of an electronic shaman, wielding consciousness altering capacities, especially over those who are unaware of its profound influence. Unfortunately, the content of mainstream programming—inclusive of the tele-pollution generated by repetitive commercial interruption—assaults the viewer’s psyche in ways reminiscent of a bad dream.
Such is the distorted reality field of a troubled culture. This powerful technology is, more often than not, used to bind the psyche to ideas and images that fail to be of real service, to raise awareness, inspire well-being or evolve our human condition. It isn’t true to the dream.
“We must reclaim the visionary, the utopian, the dream of the better or happier world. These are not childish or lies. These are the transcendence of men and women—the loss, hurts, realization of mortality we all face—and then celebrate the present life moment also.”
—Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces
To reclaim a vision of a better and happier world, we must find a higher vision of who and what we are and a passion for the heroic possibilities in the adventure of living, then picture this in our daily lives. Every individual who is able to “live for something bigger than himself” gives the world a transcendent gift.
To embrace the challenges of earth school—to find and live-out the good and deep satisfaction of purpose—involves both self-discipline and suffering through the processes of transformation. The ultimate goal to be realized is the joy of identification with the invisible reality of everlasting life within us and creation.
The Hero or Heroine in Daily Living
Around the holidays, we pause to remember some of the great heroes and heroines of human history, particularly those who’ve demonstrated spiritual service to humanity. What about the heroes and heroines we meet in the course of our daily life? Do we even know them or recognize who they are when we see them?
I was struck by the statement made by a young firefighter who appeared in a documentary after risking his safety fighting one of the recent California wild fires: “I like the fact that I’m up here doing something for someone I don’t know.” Listening to this young man brought to mind something I read in Joseph Campbell’s Power of Myth.
It was a story about a policeman who saved a man from a suicidal jump off a cliff by leaping out of his car and catching him just as he went over the side. He would have gone over along with the man had it not been for a second officer who arrived at the scene, and was somehow able to pull the two of them back.
Later, a reporter asked him why he didn’t release his grip, as he surely would have been killed without the second officer’s assistance. He replied, “I couldn’t let go. If I had let that young man go, I couldn’t have lived another day of my life.”
Campbell then comments, “Do you realize what suddenly happened to that policeman who had given himself to death with that unknown youth? Everything else in his life had dropped off—his duty to his family, his duty to his job, his duty to his own life—all of his wishes and hopes for his lifetime had just disappeared.”
Just the other day, I received assistance from a Deputy Sherriff, a bright young woman whose dedication and professionalism caused me to ask her why she joined the police force. She responded, “My dad was in law enforcement, and I always knew it was my calling.”
She introduced me to an inspirational piece of writing titled What are Policemen Made Of? conceived by the radio personality Paul Harvey. While the piece is too long to quote here in its entirety, it’s worth the read, as it moves the civilian to a greater appreciation of the critical and dynamic nature of law enforcement service.
Here is the opening paragraph: “A policeman is a composite of what all men are. I guess a mingling of saint and sinner, dust and deity. What that really means is that they are exceptional, they are unusual. They are not commonplace.”
“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: The hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”
—Joseph Campbell, The Hero With a Thousand Faces
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