Heroes and Their Shadows

A couple of weeks ago, while we were on vacation, Mark happened to watch a biography about Thomas Jefferson. As it so happens, Jefferson is one of my ‘historical’ favorites from our country’s humble beginnings. I admired many things he did – mostly innovations in business and politics – and knew that he, like many others at the time, chose to have affairs with his slaves and took care of them, too.

What I did not know, though, is how he was the earliest ‘propaganda’ planter. He fed information to a local reporter who wrote about his opponent and ended up calling for the President to create a law about talking about the President for political purposes. I just thought, “What? My Thomas Jefferson??? Did what?” I sighed wondering how I could be so forgiving of falling in love, adulterous behavior and be so intolerant of greed and power mongering.

A few days after we returned from vacation, the same theme presented itself – again in the form of one of my heroes. Thomas Edison was an inventor, innovator and creative genius. I loved how he would ‘dream up’ answers to his inventions – specifically, with the light bulb coming to him in a dream after nearly 10,000 attempts.

Again, Mark was the messenger. He watched a biography about Nikola Tesla (another hero of mine) who is responsible for changing our world through his alternating current technology. This is literally what operates EVERYTHING in our world from power plants to tvs to car engines. This guy was a GENIUS! We both wanted to watch this biography, but Mark found himself up not being able to sleep so he watched it alone.

“Did you know that Edison cheated Tesla out of his bonus commission?” he asked me the next morning.

“What? EDISON did what?” I said, echoing from the week before.

I felt so let down because I think of these geniuses as GREAT people. Edison had a creative, engineering lab where engineers would work day after day inventing things and submitting patents. It is reported that Edison promised Tesla a $50,000 bonus if he created certain inventions. Tesla was easily able to do this, and then when he went back for the bonus, Edison said he was ‘joking’ and didn’t pay Tesla the 50 grand despite the fact he had already made MILLIONS on them. Ugh!

Say it isn’t so!

Tesla was very much in alignment with wanting to contribute his greatness to the masses, yet he always seemed to have to go to the people who had the MONEY to be able to work on his projects since he, himself, did not have a drive for money. After he left Edison, it became ‘war’ between the two and Tesla hooked up with the founder of Westinghouse. In 1893, the two won the bid to ‘light’ the world’s first illuminated world’s fair in Chicago. The only snag was that Edison wouldn’t let Tesla use ANY of this patents (including the light bulb). The two had been warring prior to this with their respective technologies – Edison was all about direct current (DC) and Tesla was all about alternating current (AC)…I’ll spare you the science lesson, but Edison tried to show how “dangerous” Tesla’s AC was by ELECTROCUTING an elephant, and suggesting that the first execution by electricity use AC, thus PROVING it was dangerous!

Say it isn’t so!

Tesla, undeterred, created his OWN light bulb, and Westinghouse figured out how to manufacture 250,000 bulbs – the invention and manufacture all complete within 6 months! Tesla’s light bulb ended up being easier and faster to produce than Edison’s.

Okay, so what does all of this have to do with you or me?

It has to do with our heroes and how we can often project our brilliance onto people outside of us…being in AWE of them and their creations (Jefferson, Franklin, Edison, etc.) – insert your OWN heroes here. This also has to do with how we can strip away our heroes brilliance by focusing too much on their flaws – their shadows.

When we do this, we unconsciously do this to ourselves at the same time. If we hold one person to a higher standard…that they must be perfect, then we do the same to ourselves, but at last…none of us are perfect in our humanness.

I wouldn’t electrocute an elephant because of my competitiveness or start a rumor because of my desire to win, but that energy within me must be alive and well as I so harshly judge it.

My heroes are always people who benefit mankind in some way…Einstein, Bohr, Tesla, Edison, Hill, Jefferson, Franklin, Mother Theresa, Gandhi, and many, many more.

Some played out their shadows in the world, and some played them out internally. Mother Theresa, for nearly 50 years served without wavering though she could not feel God’s touch or grace. She literally could not feel Jesus with her!

Spirit has taught me that everything has value. When the ego gets involved as I’m writing here… saying, “Oh, please no… my beloved inventors!” We take sides, we get emotional, we become divisive.

However, who is to say that Edison’s shadow wasn’t part of what helped Tesla’s light shine even brighter (literally!) At a collective level, we all move in and out like the tide…one falling while another steps up…give and take, give and take, and though it may look one way from the ego…what these hero stories have brought to me (at just the right time) is that there is always a collective balancing – just like in all things – Mother Nature is moving into equilibrium – always.

“Our virtues and our failings are inseparable, like force and matter. When they separate, man is no more.”

– Nikola Tesla

For all that Tesla desired to ‘gift’ to mankind. He was SO visionary, SO ahead of his time, and SO eccentric that many people thought he was crazy. That’s what most people think about geniuses until about 50 to 100 years after they die and the world catches up to them!