The one who wants to be a hero -- yet does he dare?

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Make me a hero

England's Saint George
I vow to thee my country
knight-martyr, liege-man of Jesu Christ
Protector of Women, and Patron saint of chivalry

"Make me a hero"

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less travelled by,

by Robert Frost
favorite poet of JFK

Robert Shepherd
Bob Shepherd Coming into adulthood, I knew I wanted to do "something real" with my life.
I guess I wanted to be a leader or prophet, wanted to challenge my generation. My first 'hero' was a relative I had never met, my uncle Warren Shepherd, who (under intense fire) risked his life to save the lives of comrades during an engagement in the Spanish-American war. For his heroism above and beyond the call of duty, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor (CMH).

Later heroes have been John F. Kennedy, and his hero Winston Churchill, and then Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela. In recent years I discovered the papers and letters of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and similarly have been inspired. All these people are individuals who, I have felt, did something real with their lives. All of them let their candle shine, and truly served their generation, yes, and generations to come. All of them set such an example, that they put others on the spot.

What makes a hero? Obviously there must be a spirit of service. There must be a spirit of self-sacrifice. But self-sacrifice must be somehow offered purposefully. Foolish self destruction is all too vain and wasteful. Reading the splendid biography of Lawrence of Arabia by John E. Mack of Harvard, I learned how important upbringing can be in the molding and shaping of a great man, or a hero. Whence come the heroic vision and exemplary exploits? Somehow there is something instilled in the future-leader, a kind of spiritual "royal jelly" becomes part of his nurture and breeding. In the case of T.E. Lawrence, there was a drive, angst-impelled perhaps, pushing him toward excellence.

Guy R. Odom wrote an insightful book, Mothers, Leadership, and Success (1990), laying out the careful evidence demonstrating the highly critical and essential role of mothers in the motivation and future accomplishments of their sons. See quotes on mothers. T. E. Lawrence was similarly shaped and obviously inspired by his mother, and Dr. Mack shows dramatically how crucial that influence was on Lawrence subsequent endeavors.

How could I not yearn to be such a "giant" of accomplishment and self-sacrifice? Lawrence followed a star, so to speak. The stirrings of discontent and despair within him, the turmoil of almost neurotic proportions always simmering beneath the surface .... somehow alchemized into a life of heroic self-giving and valor.

Ironically, in my own make-up, has been an obstacle to the kind of greatness I think I see in someone like T.E. Lawrence, or the others mentioned. Wanting to be a hero, I nevertheless found it difficult to even be myself. In therapy I learned some of why I found it so hard to be true to myself. Much has been written by professionals in the field, by psychologists and others. Going back (it was 1980) Dr. Irene Kassorla pointed out that when you are an approval seeker, you will find it hard to impossible simple to tell the truth, simply to be who you are. I realized an uncomfortable fact. I am thoroughly an approval seeker of the kind Dr. Kassorla described.

Wanting to be a hero, I have found it difficult even to stand up against the pettiest of prejudices. How can I set a good example, something I've always desired to do, when I am a slave to "approval seeking" -- as Dr. Kassorla said? Dare I risk the loss of approval by taking a stand of integrity and self-disclosure? Do I have the simple courage to truly challenge my generation to a higher standard?

Being an approval seeker stands in the way.

As a child I sang a song "Dare to be a Daniel, Dare to stand alone. Dare to have a purpose firm. Dare to make it known." The Bible heroes from Joseph in Genesis, to Daniel, to the martyrs of early Christianity ... all set the example of a kind of heroism or self-sacrifice that I could hold up for my own possible emulation. They, as humans like me, lived the values of faith and fortitude that I also sought to internalize ... and then to live out, in my own life.

The Water's Edge
The question of sexual dominance can exist only in the nightmare of that soul which has armed itself, totally, against the possibility of the changing motion of conquest and surrender, which is love. [James Baldwin]

Rob Shep

Bob Shepherd with some pizza pals, 2008

My humble origins

ecce enim in iniquitatibus conceptus sum et in peccatis concepit me mater mea

True Prayer is Faith in Action

Annalee Skarin writes

Cultivate the joy of ecstasy and your life will become filled with light. Live each moment to its fullest glory, filled with divine anticipation, vibrating with an inner song of high devotion and gladness, and the world will lay its choice treasures at your feet -- and heaven will unfold its glory. These higher realms of light are man's true heritage.

[p73. Annalee Skarin. Volume I]

Joy is the mainspring in the whole
Of endless Nature's calm rotation.
Joy moves the dazzling wheels that roll
In the great timepiece of Creation.


Of Course there is only ONE real Hero - and he is
the LION of Juda

Lord help us honor those who "made" us

Footsteps that make the pathway glow .....

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime
And departing leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

from Psalm of Life by Longfellow

Are you running with me, Jesus?

You Shaped Me

Mothers and Sons

a little lower than the angels
"her price is above rubies"

God could not be everywhere, so he created mothers
[A Jewish proverb, Eastern Europe]

mother and son
This represents St. Augustine and his mother

Robert E. Lee
If we take [his] own word for it, and the testimony of his many biographers, Ann Lee [his mother] was the master-builder of his character. The sweetness of his character, his legendary stoicism, his studied integrity, his spotless morality are all attributed to Ann Carter Lee. (see Holmes Alexander, p 69)

I remember my mother's prayers and they have always followed me. They have cling to me all my life. -- Lincoln

Men are what their mothers made them. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

The future destiny of the child is always the work of the mother. -- Napoleon Bonaparte

Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children. -- Thackeray

All that I am my mother made me. -- John Quincy Adams

A man is mostly what his mother makes him. -- Sir Richard Burton

All that I am or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother. -- attributed to Abraham Lincoln

We can probably say with confidence that most of the great men in history owed their characters to their splendid mothers, rather than to the example of their fathers. -- Sir John Glubb

If a man has been his mother's undisputed darling he retains throughout life the triumphant feeling; the confidence in success, which not seldom brings actual success along with it. -- Sigmund Freud

It is a general rule that all superior men inherit the elements of their superiority from their mothers. -- Jules Michelet

Richer than I you can never be
I had a mother who read to me. -- Strickland Gillilan

All that is purest and best in man is but the echo of a mother's benediction. The hero's deeds are a mother's prayers fulfilled. -- Frederick W. Morton

The mother's heart is the child's schoolroom. -- Henry Ward Beecher

No man is poor who has had a Godly mother. -- Lincoln

Barack Obama, recalling his late conversion to Christianity, praised his mother (Ann Dunham) who he said was "skeptical of organized religion, even as she was the kindest, most spiritual person I've ever known. She was the one who taught me as a child to love, and to understand, and to do unto others as I would want done. [see]

A Singular Woman

Barack Obama and his mother
Ann Dunham with infant Barry
Ann Stanley Dunham
'the kindest, most spiritual person I've ever known'

In an interview, Barack Obama referred to his mother as "the dominant figure in my formative years... The values she taught me continue to be my touchstone when it comes to how I go about the world of politics." More on wiki.

My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her. -- George Washington

        One day you'll thank her.
Humorous piece by Bobbie Pingaro

Jan Goodwin writes:
Throughout his life, the Prophet Mohammad's affection and concern for women, and for mothers in particular, was evident. On one occasion when asked by a follower to whom one should show the most respect and kindness, the Prophet responded, "Your mother." "And then who?" insisted the questioner. "Your mother," Mohammad replied again. "And then who?" "Your mother," responded the Prophet for the third time. The questioner persisted: "And after that who?" "Your father," Mohammad replied, positioning men in fourth place. Similarly, on another occasion, when the Prophet was asked whether there was a shortcut to Paradise, he responded, "Paradise lies under the feet of the mother."

Selma Karamy never knew her mother (Gibran's paean to Mother)
Kahlil Gibran writes:
The most beautiful word on the lips of mankind is the word "Mother," and the most beautiful call is the call of "My mother." it is a word full of hope and love, a sweet and kind word coming from the depths of the heart. The mother is every thing -- she is our consolation in sorrow, our hope in misery, and our strength in weakness. She is the source of love, mercy, sympathy, and forgiveness. He who loses his mother loses a pure soul who blesses and guards him constantly.

Every thing in nature bespeaks the mother. The sun is the mother of earth and gives it its nourishment of heat; it never leaves the universe at night until it has put the earth to sleep to the song of the sea and the hymn of birds and brooks. And this earth is the mother of trees and flowers. It produces them, nurses them, and weans them. The trees and flowers become kind mothers of their great fruits and seeds. And the mother, the prototype of all existence, is the eternal spirit, full of beauty and love. [Kahlil Gibran. The Broken Wings etc]

The Mother-heart of God: mystics through the ages have invoked the maternal side of the divine. The first woman to write in English, Juilian of Norwich, must have shocked the clerical elites of her day when she talked -- and listened to -- our Mother God.

In America, Eliza R. Snow (a saint of the LDS tradition) has done much the same thing in her hymn, O! my Father. Snow's hymn reasons that since we have a Father God, the idea of a "Mother God" only follows. For more on Snow's hymn O! my Father.

Echoing this thought, Marion Weinstein applies the same clear logic, stating, "If there is a God, There must also be a Goddess. Neither is more important than the other, both are in balance, together they create a Whole." (Or Why not BOTH God and Goddess?)

What if we men, steeped in Western boorishness, have lost sight of the Goddess wisdom of ancient times? What, after all, was chivalry and courtlyness trying to teach us? I am indebted to Fumiko Mistato for her inspiration, as well as Mark Redmond (restating George Gilder's principle that WOMAN is divinely appointed to tame the brute in man.)

"The relationship which stands at the origin of all culture, of every virtue, of every nobler aspect of existence, is that between mother and child. It operates in a world of violence as the divine principle of love, of peace, of union. Paternal love appears much later. Woman is the source of all benevolence, all culture, all devotion, and of all concern for the living and grief for the dead." [J-J Bachofen, quoted by Elizabeth Gould Davis. The First Sex. p119] Also see natural female superiority

Richard Smoley observes:
The human mind, in encountering that which is beyond all its known experience, still has to make use of that experience in framing and expressing such encounters to itself. When we experience a force of transcendental compassion and limitless love, it is only natural that it should take the human form that most resembles it, and the closest thing to unconditional love that most of us experience is mother's love. [Inner Christianity, p151]

Man puts woman on a pedestal so he won't have to look her in the eye.
[Marian Stewart]

Images of the goddess of justice

Leonardo da Vinci said 'Of Christians' -

There are many who hold the faith of the Son and only build temples in the name of the Mother.

Henry Adams, travelling in Europe seventy years ago, made what was to him, a nineteenth-century patristic American male, a startling discovery: the magnificent cathedrals of medieval Europe, those "pæans in stone," were built not to the glory of God, as the Church had intended them, but as expressions of the adoration of Mary. "He loved their dignity, their unity, their scale, their lines, their lights, their shadows, their decorative sculpture; and he was conscious of the Force that had created it all -- the Virgin, the Woman -- by whose genius the stately monuments were built, through which She was expressed. . . . All the steam power of the world could not, like the Virgin, build Chartres. . . . Symbol or energy, the Virgin has acted as the greatest force the Western world ever felt, and has drawn men's activities to herself more strongly than any other power, natural or supernatural, has ever done."

[Elizabeth Gould Davis, p248, quoting The Education of Henry Adams]

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making the pathway glow
the walk

Lord help us walk the walk
And follow the footsteps of the Master

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