Heroism in Everyday Life

Angus WilsonThe novelist Sir Angus Wilson was my teacher and my friend and in 1997 I wrote a short book about his work. Born in 1913, he lived through WW2 working in the Japanese decoding section at Bletchley Park (where, curiously my future step-mother was also working). He had a breakdown while there and started writing as a form of therapy. His vision of the place of courage was, I believe, unique among writers, in that he used to speak about the heroism needed in ordinary life. That is to say, courage was not some specialist virtue to be generated only in times of international crisis. Heroism is needed to face every day anew, to get up in the morning, to undergo the challenges of the work-place and the vicissitudes of personal relationships and the strange dance of family-life.

His best books depict ordinary English people struggling to find this courage; his fine novel The Middle-Age of Mrs Eliot concerns the courage needed in bereavement; and in perhaps his greatest novel, Late Call, he traces the life in retirement of an ordinary working-class woman called Sylvia Calvert, as she faces the end of a working life as a hotel manageress and the attempt to find new meaning in her existence. She comes to live with her difficult, obsessive, widowed son Harold whose three children are all affected and hurt by his style of being. She is hugely sympathetic and her journey towards independence is wonderfully funny as well as disturbing and moving.

Angus did not really understand Buddhism, which he thought of as a form of quietism or escape. But it strikes me that Shambhala Buddhism is itself unique among Buddhisms in fore-grounding the need for courage in ordinary life and unique too in the various skilful means it has for developing courage: the courage or warriorship needed to face the minutiae of existence, not to turn away, but to rouse what our tradition calls ‘wind-horse’, which connects in turn to our life-force and to discovering how to uncover our natural brilliance. There is courage or heroism entailed in learning to be with one’s own mind: and courage entailed in learning simply to be…

Peter ConradiPeter Conradi is English Professor Emeritus at Kingston University, and the author of a number of books including Going Buddhist and Iris Murdoch: A Life. He is an elected fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He was a student of Chogyam Trungpa.

Cultivating Warriorship with Shastri Jim O’Neill and Shastri Peter Conradi is a nine day meditation retreat open to beginners and experienced meditators. 

Bleddfa (near Knighton on Powys) offers both on-site accommodation in dorms and also camping in the orchard; while two tied cottages at Cwmygerwyn, within walking distance, provide individual rooms.

For further information email: [email protected]

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