As I read the final chapter of a beautiful version of Robin Hood to my 8 year old son recently, I was only a little surprised to find myself with tears in my eyes, almost unable to finish. (He knows his dad is an emotional soul, he wasn’t bothered).
In the final moments Robin, against all odds, courageously rescues his companions, finally defeats the Sheriff of Nottingham, and … well the endings vary at that point (does he die? Is he pardoned by King John? Does he disappear back into the woods once more?).
As I read, something hit me, which I’ve continued to reflect on.
There is a hidden character in the story of Robin Hood.
A hidden character
It is hidden in plain sight throughout the story. Little John, Friar Tuck, Much the Miller’s son, Will Scarlet, Maid Marian, these all we know.
So, who or what is hidden?
Hidden in plain sight, then and still today, is the Green Wood. The living power and presence of the wood in which the whole story takes place.
It is the Green Wood in which Robin hides. But hiding is not quite the right word. It is the Green Wood into which Robin and his band of outlaws disappear when they can no longer remain in the world of the Sheriff. The Green Wood is not simply a hiding place. It is a place of freedom, of nature, health and vitality. In contrast to the Sheriff’s world of endless taxes, oppression and the violent search for power and security, the Green Wood is also a place of goodness.
It is, in fact, a true refuge. A refuge is not just a place to run away to. It is a place (or state of mind, or aspect of our own being) to rely on. The living presence of the Green Wood is the hidden character in the story of Robin Hood. And also (so it seems to me) a hidden part of our lives today.
The world of the Sheriff
The world of the Sheriff of Nottingham is very different. The Sheriff is obsessed. He is obsessed by following the orders of the King, so is fundamentally in a state of fear. He is obsessed by accumulating gold – shiny, metal objects that he and the King believe will secure their power The Sheriff cares little for Life – the lives of the poor, the health of the Kingdom.
And he fears the Green Wood. The place of freedom and life for Robin Hood, is frightening to the Sheriff.
Most of all, the Sheriff is obsessed by Robin Hood. This outlaw – one who lives outside of the law, must be hunted, captured and killed. This enemy lives inside, and is sustained by, the Green Wood.
It seems to me that this story is indeed a story of our time, and of each of us, right here and now. As Arnold Mindell helpfully reminds us ‘history is in the present.’ And what is true for history is certainly true for myth.
What does this mean for your Life?
So, the question is: Are you living in the world of the Sheriff or within the heart of the Green Wood?
Is your life driven by anxiety fueled routines centred on the gathering – in any which way – of pieces of metal (or today’s equivalent, money number digits on a computer screen)?
And if so, who, or which parts of you, pay the cost? Which parts within you are oppressed and beaten down by the rule of your inner Sheriff?
There is no need for blame. This story is an old one, and a universal one for good reason. Each of us can be just like the Sheriff – grasping, insecure, oppressive, unaware of those parts of us that are in poverty. Each of us can fear and mistrust the possibility of freedom.
Each of us sometimes treats the spirit of the Green Wood, as an enemy, a trap, a hostile place.
Meanwhile, whether we do this or not, the bulbs in the Green Wood continue to grow and to poke their yellow and purple heads out of the wintry ground. The river deep inside the heart of the Green Wood continues to flow endlessly. Whether we choose to visit it or not, or even recognise it, the Green Wood is always there. In every story, and in each of us.
Life Path & Money Path
In the Money Workshop we explore this idea by talking about two paths – the Life Path and the Money Path. Most of us are brought up to believe that we have to sort out money first (The Money Path) and then, and only then, are we free and safe to life The Life Path. But looking closely, it is not so. When we fixate on Money believing it will eventually lead to the things we want, we are in the world of the Sheriff. And when did you see him really enjoy himself? Attachment to the Money Path is inevitably a state of postponement, frustration and future projection. We believe the things we truly long for lie in money, and thus experience them as ever just beyond our grasp.
To trust in the deeper pattern of the Life Path is to remember that just a few footsteps, or an exhilarating horse ride away, and also right here and right now, is something new; something ancient. Something hidden in plain sight. The invitation to move fully right now toward whatever is most deeply calling you in your life, in your heart and soul. And to do this regardless of the gold you can count in your coffers.
So this week I’ve been asking myself, ‘what would it mean for me to live, in plain sight, as an out-law? As one whose true home is ever in the Green Woods?’ Even as I sit right here at my wooden desk typing these words.
Wishing you all a happy and fertile Spring.