Creating a Larger Story
In continuing my musing on re-defining what it means to be a hero and the difficulties, or rather the challenges, of changing our belief system, I encounter the work of poet Edwin Muir.
He has a delightful little poem,”The Way”, which is a dialogue between two voices. It seems apropos at this time of swirling confusion that we would question the way. Not only is the way forward uncertain, but there also don’t seem to be many handholds to grasp. And those that we thought we had are coming loose.
We have to redefine what it means to be a hero for goodness sakes!
So I was delighted to learn that as a poet, Edwin Muir (who also served as a translator during World War II), placed his simple poems in a landscape that is much larger than his current situation.
Muir’s own story is epic in that he grew up on a farm on a Scottish island. As a teenager, his family moved to Glasgow in the midst of the Industrial Revolution. Over the next few years, his whole family, one after another, dies. He himself is ill. In a stroke of good fortune, he meets a wonderful woman and is, in essence, rescued by a wonderful relationship and marriage. Through that foundation he is able to reconcile his idyllic connection to the universe on that Scottish Isle and the myths and stories that held it, with the imposition and implications of the values that fueled the industrialization of the modern-day world.
Muir advocates that “individual experience becomes meaningful in the degree to which it is seen as a parable that both reveals and conceals the truth of a wider reality.” (J.E. Gillmer, “The Archetype and the Fable”)
With that in mind, what is the wider reality that we find ourselves?
I was struck with the news photo this morning of the #MeToo graffiti that was sprayed on the Sarasota statue of a soldier kissing a nurse in Times Square. It is an interesting twist to think that from one perspective, the streets were unsafe with unrestrained soldiers grabbing and kissing. From the dominate story narrative, the soldiers were merely happy, expressing their joy and appreciation.
We don’t have to decide which perspective is true. We have to reconcile that both perspectives are valid.
This is the examination of our belief systems. This is the basis of our redefining what we thought we always knew.
This is the work of community. In one sense, it is the way.
For more about poet Edwin Muir: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/edwin-muir
For words of “The Way”: http://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/poem/way
Take a look, do some research. What do you think? Comment below.