The Eroica

Every moment, the hero asks, not what can I get for myself, but what does this moment need from me?

I have been listening to Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony, The Eroica. It was written in celebration of the fulfillment of myth, of the journey of the hero. In Beethoven’s beginning 19th Century, the Ages of Reason and Enlightenment had just vanquished the dark myth of a world of decadent hereditary royalty and aristocratic political and social privilege built on the suffering of the common citizen. The Romantic Age of birthing democracy was beginning and Beethoven wrote the sound track.

The Eroica was originally written in dedication to Napoleon, who before he crowned himself emperor, Beethoven and millions of others believed was the hero who would spread the ideals of The Revolution, “liberté, fraternité, égalité”, across the European continent. Napoleon failed Beethoven; he was not a hero, just another face of power hungry ego. But the heroic ideal of The Eroica remained true in hundreds, thousands of less exalted figures than Napoleon, heroes of the democratic revolutions who lived, fought, sacrificed, triumphed, were sometimes defeated and triumphed again, to change the world. Among them was Beethoven.

The hero. Beethoven, who struggled with his growing deafness, with the isolating madness of his unequaled musical genius, who only knew he had to speak for God, because God spoke to him, embodied the hero. The Eroica speaks of the humble beginning, the answer to the call, the courage, the determination, the dark night of the soul, the closeness of defeat, the eventual victory, the hope for normalcy at the end of the hero’s quest, and the final realization that there can be no returning to the simple pleasure of the company of fellow humans. A bridge has been crossed. An awakening has occurred. The hero is alone. A bodhisattva has been born.

Where are our heroes? In this beginning 21st Century, the darkness of a corrupt age of the barons of finance, capitalism and intellectual egotism is playing itself to its decadent historic conclusion. The unconsciousness of the materialist phase of the human egoic age has taken us into a stagnation and crisis as certain as the stagnation and crisis the royal aristocratic phase had suffered upon humanity in the years surrounding 1800. Beethoven cried out, “Where is our hero?” And he realized the hero was within him. Within him, what was asked of him, was music that would forever change music. And he struggled past the panic of his growing deafness and isolation to turn his inner ear to the voice of God. And he did what was needed of him.

The hero is within each of us. Some will hear the call. Some will make history following the hero’s journey, asking not what can I get for myself, but what is needed from me? This quiet stirring is in each of us. History forces us to listen for it. History is now calling. Who will listen, even if, or perhaps because, their ability to participate in the mundane conversations of their fellow humans has been taken from them. Beethoven’s physical deafness was only a poignant actualization of the soul’s ear turning from the din of the insistent voices of the past, that dominate and deafen the present, to hear a call into the future, that insists instead to the hero, “Follow me toward truth, do what is needed.”

A new age is needed, one that recognizes the simple truth of the necessity of humanity evolving beyond the shadow always thrown by ego. This new age will see the expansion of human consciousness out of competitive separateness into the inevitability of what that ancient, yet prescient, philosophy Buddhism refers to as “interbeing”, the realization of the interconnectedness and interdependence of all life. Who will be the ones to make this new age? Where are our heroes? They are here. They are our revolutionary musicians, artists, spiritual masters, ecologists and peacemakers. They are those who refuse to accept poverty and despair anywhere as acceptable, those who call for an entirely new level of “liberté, fraternité, égalité”, that enfolds the entire planet. They are those who know all humanity is kin, not only with each other but with all life, and the planet itself. These will be the heroes of this new age. Are you ready to join them?

Bill Walz has taught meditation and mindfulness in university and public forums, and is a private-practice meditation teacher and guide for individuals in mindfulness, personal growth and consciousness. He holds a weekly meditation class, Mondays, 7pm, at the Friends Meeting House, 227 Edgewood. By donation. Information on classes, talks, personal growth and healing instruction, or phone consultations at (828) 258-3241, e-mail at

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