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Wednesday 28 October 2009


I know an elderly woman who dislikes most people she meets but the moment that they pass from this life, she turns them into saints and won't hear a bad word spoken of them. In some ways she resembles Queen Victoria, I think. Although she adored Prince Albert, Queen Victoria made much of his life so difficult by her mood-swings and criticism and her own neediness. The same is true of her daughter, Alice, who - because she had criticised John Brown - Queen Victoria described to relatives all over Europe as having 'too high an opinion of herself', but the moment she died, she was suddenly a perfect example of humility!

How odd people are in their worship of those who are no longer physically here, and how quickly someone who was vilified in life can be turned into a saint once they have passed on! It's fascinating how many so-called 'saints' were hounded by bishops during their lifetime, and only later the good they did was recognized. John of the Cross, for example, was imprisoned - I believe - by the Church. Julie Billiart was constantly criticised by bishops; Bernadette of Lourdes was all but banished to her convent to keep her out of the way (and typically thought suffering was the only way to heaven, so died young). Jesus was crucified by the Church authorities.

I wonder why it is that people are so drawn to messages only after someone is no longer here to expound their message further?? Is it because it is too challenging to face when they are still here? It's safer and easier to create the image in our own likeness when there is no possibility of that false image being challenged?

In my opinion, heroes are never really heroes - they are all the products of our own image of what we would like to be and believe about all that is finest in ourselves. Dead heroes don't challenge that so it's easier to enshrine them and fit them into boxes. Truth be told, there are thousands of heroes - people who have lived out their lives according to their own lights, and bringing more joy and wonder into the world. The heroes established by 'history' - which often means by the government of the day - are seldom any more or less than the small child walking past their monument, doing whatever we do to get by, to improve our understanding, to be who we really are, unswayed by the need to fit in or fit someone else's mould of how we should live.

I like statues of heroes (and England is littered with them!), and what is most interesting, is scraping the surface to find, underneath, a person who is no different from all the everyday people we pass and talk to as we go about our daily business. We don't have to be dead to be heroes. We just have to be our true selves.

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