How to Build Your Personal Legend

In our SBNR motivational about William Blake and seeing Heaven in a Wildflower, we talked about the transcendent personality of Jesus Christ and how that should be one of our goals as Progressive Christians (or as Sons and Daughters of God, regardless of our religious persuasion).

Some readers have interpreted this motivational to imply that we advocate the building of personal legends ala Paulo Coelho. Nothing could be further from our intent. Legends are by their very nature simplistic but fanciful variations of the genuine life—which is littered with multiple twists and turns, failures and triumphs, and punctuated by long bouts with the mundane.

Legends are often built on the idea of the mythological hero, who follows a straightforward path of separation, initiation, and return. That is, we (as heroes) leave our homes and/or comfortable surroundings (separation) to confront new, mysterious, and life-altering experiences (initiation), which ultimately lead us back again to our community (return) as a kind of savior or spiritual gift giver.

If only life worked out in such a tidy fashion. But it doesn’t, and never has. For centuries we’ve been building personal legends around prophets and artistic geniuses, forgetting that it was not they who built their legends but us. How much better for the suffering artist legend of Van Gogh to have him cut off his own ear and give it to a prostitute than tell the more likely story that it was cut of by his friend (and fellow painter) Paul Gauguin because Vincent attacked him.

To truly build a personal legend we have to give up all ideas of a personal legend, and simply live, laugh, and love. That is how we build the transcendent personality of Christ. To the victors (survivors) go the spoils, as well as the legends they create about their predecessors.

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