Sunday, August 07, 2011

Only One Story


In all the world there is only one story; and in its countless variations it unfolds like this:

We first meet the hero, or heroine, as a child or perhaps a baby, where we discover that they are special; that something catastrophic threatens their life; and that as a result of this they are raised in hiding, protected, sheltered, possibly kept unaware of their true identity for their own safety...

We meet them again years later.  There is a growing threat to the peace of the kingdom in which they live; but they are encouraged by their community to see such threat as aberrations, at any rate removed from their day-to-day existence; and to get on with that existence...

Someone with wisdom – though generally perceived to be a fool – comes to them, and extends to them the invitation-challenge of making a stand against the expanding rule of chaos.  It is not enough to not contribute to evil: the evil that touches our lives is not a series of inexplicable aberrations but a well-orchestrated rebellion against a good world, and must be resisted and overcome by those who would seek to live in a good world.  But, discouraged by their perceived lack of specialness, the hero initially declines to accept...until something happens that really leaves them with no choice...

Setting off on their unlikely adventure, the hero soon meets a companion – because we cannot make this journey on our own.  At first, the companion – who is, in turn, the hero of their own story – and the hero most likely perceive one another as rivals.  But then one or the other falls into mortal danger, and the other realises that it is their moral duty to rescue their companion, resulting in a bond of friendship stronger than the fear of death.  Often, this friendship-story is also a love-story, a boy and a girl, who come to see in each other a compliment, a provision of gifts they themselves lack.  Their romance is a sacrificial love-story, not a tale of sexual-gratification...

Along the way, the hero is stretched beyond what he or she could ever imagine him- or herself capable of.  There are times of success; and times of failure, always followed by re-commissioning encounters: and in this way the hero navigates from a juvenile to a mature character, their true identity revealed to them by the process of experiencing both success and failure, but defined by neither.  There are moments filled with unexpected joy, in the overcoming of seemingly insurmountable peril.  There is loss – for there is no worthy adventure without it – and the discovery of gain which does not reverse the loss, but redeems it.  There is struggle, and there is victory.  And then, there is the ongoing work of remaking the world good; and the struggle of returning to live among those who have not shared in the adventure.

There are other stories, of course, but they are the kind of stories that once read are immediately forgotten; the kind of stories that once watched leave you walking out into the sun thinking, “I’ll never get those two hours of my life back...”

Whenever I watch a Disney-Pixar or a DreamWorks film with my children, there are certain points where I experience a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye, not because my emotions have been manipulated but because the story is telling me, “Wake up!  You know this story to be true.  Take up your part.”  And as I walk out of the auditorium as the credits roll, tears come to my eyes again, because I know that every day of their lives, at school and beyond school in the adult world of work, my children will be told unrelentingly, “Put your head down and settle for as best an existence as you can make for yourself.”

No comments:

Post a comment