Thursday, 23 June 2016

Hounded to death: the last years of T. E. Shaw. 10. Joseph Campbell on the public hero

Joseph Campbell
photo: Joan Halifax
This episode is an addendum to yesterday's post and is needed to set the scene for part of what life had in store for t. E. Shaw after he left India. There are two main threads in the psychology of his subsequent life: his efforts to pursue his personal hero-quest; and his efforts to overcome the public image of his abandoned heroic life in Arabia as Lawrence. He had created himself anew. His identity and legalized name change to T. E. Shaw was the only completely authentic name he had ever had. Of illegitimate birth, Lawrence was a name inherited from an assumed identity taken up by his parents, Sir Thomas Chapman and Sarah Junner. I am no stranger to the reasons that lie behind the creation of a new name and identity as that is something my late wife also took on with her name change to Carin Alizarin Perron, but that is a story for another day.

I have tried my best to refer to T. E. as Shaw when dealing with his later life and as Lawrence in his former life without adding too much confusion to the story. How anyone else chooses to name him is up to them and depends on if they prefer the legend or the man behind it.

So here are some excerpts that are pertinent to both the Lawrence of his younger years and the Shaw of his later years, and the how and why of  the persistence of the legend. What is not included, however, is that the perception of a legend being different from the person behind it is sometimes expressed as a negation of the legend itself. There are biographies that cast aspersions on Lawrence's character in Arabia and paint him as an egotistical fake. They fail, through a psychic necessity for their author, or through an attempt to destroy the hero legend for other reasons, to see the self doubt and feelings of previous betrayal that Shaw experienced and the importance of his later life in understanding the man, himself.

"Moses is a hero figure, for example. He ascends the mountain, he meets with Yahweh on the summit of the mountain, and he comes back with rules for the formation of a whole new society. That’s a typical hero act— departure, fulfillment, return."
Campbell, Joseph; Bill Moyers. The Power of Myth (p. 166). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. 

"...there is a certain typical hero sequence of actions which can be detected in stories from all over the world and from many periods of history. Essentially, it might even be said there is but one archetypal mythic hero whose life has been replicated in many lands by many, many people. A legendary hero is usually the founder of something— the founder of a new age, the founder of a new religion, the founder of a new city, the founder of a new way of life. In order to found something new, one has to leave the old and go in quest of the seed idea, a germinal idea that will have the potentiality of bringing forth that new thing.
ibid, (pp. 166-167). 

"In these stories, the adventure that the hero is ready for is the one he gets. The adventure is symbolically a manifestation of his character. Even the landscape and the conditions of the environment match his readiness".
ibid, (pp. 158-159).

MOYERS: In the political sense, is there a danger that these myths of heroes teach us to look at the deeds of others as if we were in an amphitheater or coliseum or a movie, watching others perform great deeds while consoling ourselves to impotence?
CAMPBELL: I think this is something that has overtaken us only recently in this culture. The one who watches athletic games instead of participating in athletics is involved in a surrogate achievement. But when you think about what people are actually undergoing in our civilization, you realize it’s a very grim thing to be a modern human being. The drudgery of the lives of most of the people who have to support families— well, it’s a life-extinguishing affair.
ibid, (p. 160).

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