Who Do You Think You Are?

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I love Atticus O’Sullivan, the Iron Druid, and his author, Kevin Hearne. I love them even though the series’ end, Scourged, left me somewhat cold. Things did not turn out as well as I’d hoped for Atticus; fate caught up with him and he was required to pay his karmic debt. He’d made a lot of enemies over the years, and many of them came home to roost. Atticus had to pay for his hubris, his willful ignorance and his refusal to back down once he set himself on a path. Kevin Hearne implied that Atticus got what was coming to him but that with time, it might end up making him a better man.

The question that remains on my mind is; who did Atticus think he was to make decisions that created a myriad of enemies and incited those eager to see him fall? In the end, after hiding for two thousand years, Atticus didn’t have the sense to hide the brightness of his light, which, in turn, encouraged others to snuff it out. 

It’s such a mixed message, Mr. Hearne. You are my favorite therapist/author but you’re killing me here; you’re no help sorting out the truth from the fantasy in this particular instance.

For centuries, Atticus hides his light under a bushel. And then one day he decides to fuck that shit and twinkle for all the world to see. And see they do; Atticus becomes quite visible. Suddenly, he’s forced to answer the question, “Who the hell do you think you are?”  There is no acceptable answer. The question is designed to take us down. It takes Atticus down. A better question is whether he was right to invite the question in the first place. 

Let me clarify. It seems to me that Mr. Hearne is reinforcing a false modesty, the societal imperative to make ourselves small so that others don’t feel bad by comparison. This is an imperative I struggle against, and some of my favorite authors rail against this idea. For example, in a passage that never fails to make me cry, Maryanne Williamson wrote the following, commenting on A Course of Miracles:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Maryanne Williamson, unlike Kevin Hearne, suggests that living large and shining bright is not merely our birthright, it’s our responsibility. Through Atticus O’Sullivan’s fall, it is my contention that Kevin Hearne suggests that keeping our light hidden is the better part of valor.

Who do you believe?

I’m with Maryanne Williamson. My deepest fear – and it does scare the shit out of me - is not about being inadequate, it’s about becoming a target. The brighter we shine, the bigger the bullseye. Just look at what happened to Atticus. But if Maryanne Williamson is right, then Atticus did not have much a choice; every child of God must shine as brightly as possible. It’s our mandate. Our prime directive for those who, like me, seek to live long and prosper. 

Granted, this metaphor may be askew.  Atticus did great harm as soon as he stepped out of obscurity and onto the world stage, blazing like a comet streaking across the sky. But he harmed some fairly nasty people and it was hard to feel too bad for his less-than-innocent “victims.”

There are lots of beings who feel wronged, harmed or just plain offended when brilliance -- ours or others -- highlights their lackluster nature. Sometimes, we can make others look bad by comparison without trying even a little. Because there are those who want to embrace mediocrity, mendacity and indolence. And they don’t want anyone’s light - even if it’s not at maximum wattage – to show them up in any way. So, they aim to highlight mistakes and showcase imperfections, to take down that which threatens them. Such a sad life for these petty people.

Just because they are petty doesn’t mean they aren’t dangerous. Just ask Atticus, who was brought low by those who wanted him to know that he is not all he thinks he is. They sure showed him. He’s no one. 

Or is he? What can we learn from Atticus’ fall from grace and his response to his diminished circumstances? Does he give up? Does he go gently into that good night, no matter how seductive the allure? No, no he does not. He continues to demonstrate the superior quality of his character by refusing to extinguish his light. He refuses to slink away. And maybe that’s the answer. 

Maybe in the end, Kevin Hearne only paid lip service to those of his readers who live smaller than they could or should. But in rejecting a final surrender for Atticus, perhaps Hearne is offering a tip of the hat to those readers who choose to face our fears and shine brightly no matter who wants to mute our light. And in so doing, keeps his own light shining brightly for others to follow.