01.29.15

the poet king

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:44 pm by Administrator

there are so many kinds of leaders that i have met, but the one kind of leader i have always loved most is the one i would describe as the “poet king”. in a world like ours that so values certitude, pragmatism, and infallibility, it is so rare to experience those qualities that define the poet king: ambivalence, doubt, and personal transformation, as a result of sharing in the sufferings of others.

i once heard slavoj zizek use the term “military-poetic” complex to describe the unique political dysfunctions of the former yugoslavia, and as comical as the idea was (in contrast to the more oft-used “military-industrial” brand of the West), something about the term has continued to resonate with me. after all, i’m the kind of person who would follow a charismatic demagogue (or perhaps become one himself), and my heroes have been of the same ilk. king david, the classic poet king, who inspired a nation to go to war and emerge victorious, who won the hearts and minds of his friends with his words, his music, and his spirit of dark rumination, but who died with sadness, betrayed by his sons and unable to achieve his greatest dream. king solomon, who spent the days of his rule contemplating (and eventually grieving) the very nature of rule. Christ Himself, who gave Himself to His people in the form of riddles, strange stories, esoteric prophecies, and deeply mournful prayers, before submitting Himself to a death worthy of a tragedian epic.

the poet king stands in contrast to our more straightforward paragon of leadership: the undoubting, ever-courageous, and indomitable superman who crushes his foes and embraces a pure and unambiguous victory. the presidents, generals, and industrialists that we esteem—they are zealots and veritable supermen of our times. but the poet king—he that leads with a soul of brokenness and longing—does not fit the bold pragmatism of our times. in the face of science, reason, and ever-expanding technologies, the poet king lays down his pen and his sword and unequivocally exhorts his shareholders to abandon doubt in the interests of progress.

as such, i find myself an odd fit among other leaders of my generation. i try to inspire improvement by talking about my mistakes. i seek to inspire belief by exploring my doubts, openly and in great detail. when i offer a solution, i have to be the first to critique it; and when i receive help from others, i reward them not with a transaction but with deeper relationship. it’s ingrained in what i am to be weak among others, in order to be with them in heart and in mind. i count my successes in personal breakthroughs, not in objectives accomplished. my resume resides in the people who have read the poetry of my uneven and searching life and have found my troubles worth considering for themselves.

and i think that the same can be said of the men and women i have called my mentors: an older brother in my baltimore church, who confessed his sexual sin and inspired the men of his community to join him in seeking forgiveness; a pastor of the church i attended in my childhood, who shared with his congregation the nature of his personal and debilitating battle with clinical depression; my mother, who showed through her pains, struggles, and hopes what an enduring faith in Christ actually looks like.

how i do wish for a poet king for me and for my people, in these times. someone who will question our progress, grieve our violence, and long not only for peace but also for reconciliation. someone who will not presume; someone who will seek us out and call us into light, whatever the cost may be

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