Do You See Heroes with feet of clay, or clay shaped into Heroes?
I just finished re-reading Victor Davis Hansons “The Soul of Battle”, and this morning watched the movie “Patton”, who is the last subject of the three leaders examined in the book(Epaminondas, Sherman & Patton). I surfed around reading a few related articles, and not surprisingly found that several of them were eager to jump on Patton’s theatrical façade, his error’s… his “feet of clay, slapping soldiers and using Nazi’s, were his undoing!”.
I think it interesting that the quote “Heroes with feet of clay” is always some variant of “the hero had feet of clay, and was undone by them”. Now there is a legitimate way of making such notes, of directing students to be careful of hubristic oversight, etc. But the usual intent seems to be of pointing out that "people are flawed, we’re all flawed, and these posers, these puffed up self important SOB’s – well, they’re flawed too! They’re no better than us, and like us they can’t stand up higher than the rest! Not for long!”
What I find interesting in that, is that the perspective they don’t see is that these people, these heroes, they DO come from the same stuff as the rest of us, and they manage to form themselves, to mold themselves, to shape themselves into this larger than life Hero who accomplishes what the rest of us can only marvel at. From “mere clay” (which by the way, is the implication they wish us to accept without thought, that we are all only merely people), this person has managed to fashion from the same material common to the rest of us, an Inspired Hero for all time to be astonished by.
How is that so rarely the lesson deemed worth of teaching?
What would be a better use of the clay footer's breath and language, rather than chortling at the heroes’ feet of clay, would be to make an examination of what enables the clay man to fashion his own moist clay into that of the carefuly sculpted and kiln fired clay of the Hero - that would be a lesson worth teaching and learning.
What is it that enables someone to take the features of his life, those features which most of us look back on as isolated scenes and periods that on reflection have led only to where we are; and instead draw such scenes into one force, one synthetic whole that doesn’t just lead to where you are in life at this moment in time, but to see this moment as being part of a unified and continuous whole, one which can be seen not just stretching into the future, but existing complete in the past, present and future - a life unified and whole,destined and Heroic!
That IS Heroic! That is someone who manages to take their common clay, and fire it with the human Spirit into a real life, larger than life Hero. The deeper tragedy is that the rest of us, so awed at their accomplishments, so rarely realize that such heroes were in essence no different from us, that we too could choose to unify and form our lives into a continuous, purposeful whole.
That someone makes errors and has flaws as most of us do, should be nothing to remark over. That someone who has those human inherent errors and flaws and yet still manages to fashion their life into an Heroic Life, an inspiring life, a life worthy of emulating, THAT should impress the hell out of anyone who sees them. It certainly should be what those tasked with teaching others about this Hero, should teach. Not that they were merely human, but that here was someone who was of the same human clay as the rest of us, yet managed to form that material common to us all into a life of heroic proportions.
When such Heroic lives are examined, and when such lessons are taught and taught well, then when trying times do come upon us, it will be through the lessons of Heroes of the past that we of the present will be able to be in some part inspired, inspired with the realization that we too can be worthy of the heroic – in such times generations such as those of the Founders and those of WWII, do stand and form themselves straight and tall to endure and prevail, and fitting prophecies of the end of the world which would have been singularly appropriate to come to pass, are seen to be merely fanciful fears averted once again.
The ever-present End of the World Apocalypse is only ever brought about by small minded, narrow visioned peoples too focused on their uninteresting petty pleasures (see the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire). Apocalypse means a "lifting of the veil", a revealing the end of the story - and it comes about because such peoples ARE the end of their story, there is no where else for their story to progress towards; by their own actions they write their doom, and the next story prepares to begin from their ashes. Examples of the recent sad socialist sinking of Britannia, or the present waffling of our own times, most definitely should give people pause - we should be worried about an Apocalypse, Life and History won't pause for long, there are far too many more stories waiting to be told.
The Apocalypse, The End, is only averted, the story is only continued or picked up for another season, through the actions of the lives of Heroes formed from human clay, inspired and fired by the wholly Spirit of Truth and Principled Purpose (see Victor Davis Hanson’s “The Soul of Battle”), their deeds and actions are the inspiring stuff needed to rally entire peoples to continue on, to live and tell other tales of their own.
Future times will look back on our times for lessons in one direction or the other – do you have more stories to tell? Do you see your life leading only up to the present, or extending into the future? Will your contribution to history be a life of moist clay or Kiln Fire?