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The Death of Finn Hudson (and why it matters)

imagesThe recent death of Cory Monteith could be labeled tragic from a number of perspectives: his youth, his talent,and his fight with addiction. But, and not to diminish the man’s life, it is the death of Finn Hudson that also bears some analysis.

In North America, TV and Film have become the vehicles of our cultural myths. The medium can have the intimacy of a campfire: it is what we huddle around in our home, and the visual power has a different effect than books, we are presented with flesh and blood channeling our fantasies, fears and hopes. These characters then take on a kind of weight that goes beyond popularity, and instead hold keys to understanding what we are grappling with as a culture.

Finn Hudson was an attempt to evolve the all-American hero: classically Anglo-handsome jock myth of yesteryear then morphs into a man who can hold strength, integrity but now also feelings and creative expression. Finn was not yet fully a man or a leader, but in that character we saw the emptiness of an old American myth: the white-bread quarterback (a position that developed in the 40s alongside America’s cherished ideal of the individual leader) and the emergence of what looked like the best of that myth combined with emotional intelligence and the idea of more consensus leadership, i.e., as Finn attempts to teach he abandons Mr Shue’s more dominant leader role to a more collaborative one. Yes, the Finn character is funny with the deadpan, slightly clueless delivery of black humour, but the overall moral “goodness” that shines out of the character is compelling (and why Cory should get acknowledgement for his portrayal). Finn acts like an emerging moral compass in a changing America, one that feels unstable, unsure and often violent.

The Finn character, to useĀ Episcopal priest and theologian Matthew Fox’s idea, is the archetype of the Spiritual Warrior: the one who will fight for what he believes in, who fights and leads for the good, but not necessarily with physical violence but by holding himself accountable for his actions and beliefs, by holding the good of the group above a desire for person power. Not to sound like a rabid Glee fan with an underused film minor, there are plenty of scenes that support this interpretation, such as Finn refusing to lieĀ to Mr Shue about kissing Emma: there is little to be gained for Finn in this act other than a commitment to integrity.

So what does the death of Finn Hudson mean for this archetype? Is it the death of the integration of a past mythic America with a new one? The new myth is needed as many of our old stories are broken and we need stories only slightly less than air and food. America continues to search for an identity that makes sense of its new world: the death of Finn may mean that nothing from the past can come into the present.

Parenting as a spiritual practice: giving

buddhaThere is nothing more humbling than raising children. Up until this point, I had it in my mind that I was a fairly evolved person. I did yoga and meditated, I was a compassionate friend and a dedicated volunteer, and there was no shortage of spiritual texts on my bookshelf. But the daily practice of raising my 4 and 1.5 year old has shown me the truth: I am selfish, I like being in control and no, I have not yet submerged my ego in a vat of Beingness and now radiate a gentle and calming glow. I didn’t realize that while on the surface I thought I was a giving person, how little I did that actually involved, you know, giving up something. Most adult relationships are predicated on a mostly tacit reciprocal agreement: I will assist you with something and one day you will do the same. We take turns as adults and while we are not keeping any kind of exact score, we do know when the balance has tipped too much one way. Being with children is more like being in indefinite servitude to a benign dictator that you are alternately maddened by and besotted with. Your needs are not perceived (though for some odd reason I find myself attempting to articulate them anyway) and there is not the brain development for them to actually matter. So the giving you are asked to do is not in any way reciprocal. There is no way for a child to understand sacrifice. This can be beautiful when you give freely to a child, when you give without expecting anything in return, particularly appreciation or understanding, which is what we seek in our adult relationships. But it can also bring out a kind of frustration that is deep and almost primal: the frustration that comes from not being seen, not being considered. In it you can tap into the wellspring that comes out in their temper tantrums. Parent and child can act here are a mirror to each other of an essential human desire. This is where the parental desire to be patient should spring from, this recognition that all of us wish to be seen and understood and loved. Sometimes, that is worth waiting for.