The Alchemist-Hero: Forging Destiny From ‘Bad Luck’

In the Conan The Barbarian movie, the young Conan sees his parents killed and tribe destroyed. Then he is taken into slavery. Likewise, in ancient European mythology, Volund the Smith is captured by a greedy king, lamed, and set to work in the forge. He, like Conan, rises up to get his revenge. Again, in the Icelandic Poetic Edda, we hear of the hero Sigmund, whose father is killed before his birth, and — after his mother remarries — is sent as a foster to the treacherous and greedy Regin. This is not an auspicious beginning.

None of us hope that things will go wrong. We see those born into privilege — being handed chances at lucrative careers that are denied to others, marrying the beautiful and the equally wealthy — and we want to be lucky too.

But, from the perspective of self-actualization, for most people, good luck and bad luck are the same. They are carried along by circumstance, one individual into riches, another into the gutter. But neither really questions who he really is or what he is capable of, good or bad.

Continue reading “The Alchemist-Hero: Forging Destiny From ‘Bad Luck’”

Forming The Habit of Self-Development

Becoming aware of our weaknesses, or finding someone or something that we’d like to be more like, we make promises to ourselves that — once conditions are right — we will work on changing. It will be next month when things die down. Or once I’ve saved up for the best equipment. Or it will be at the beginning of the new year. And so on.

These timeframes won’t help you. Things won’t quiet down. Unless we’re already accomplished, we probably don’t need the most expensive equipment for that field. And New Years come and go with most people quitting their “new year’s resolutions” by the end of January. Continue reading “Forming The Habit of Self-Development”

The Optimism of the Will

The intellect is a curious thing. We talk about ideas spreading like viruses throughout society, or even across societies. (And note how, every few months, we see a sudden burst of moral outrage — around some antiquated symbol — flaring up in different states and countries only to die out like so many health scares. The moral outrage, the idea, literally spreads.)

But, although marketers and social media campaigners want to spread their particular “idea virus,” typically, we try to avoid catching actual viruses. But the term is a good one. Ideas not only grab hold of societies, they can become malignant in individuals themselves. Good intentions can pave the road to hell, to paraphrase a well-known proverb. Ideas can metastasize. Continue reading “The Optimism of the Will”