Monday, February 16, 2009

someone to watch over me

i think it must be true that all human beings are, in some ways, deep down scared. why? because in all the storytelling and mythologies, including our own in 2009, there are stories that include:
  1. innocent/powerless/small people;
  2. boogeymen/monsters/murderers/thieves;
  3. protectors who look after us.
the protector stands in the scary in-between place, on behalf of the people.
there are lots of other kinds of stories - this is just one kind of story, but human beings keep telling it over and over and over in millions of iterations. if you started to list the movies and tv shows and books and fairy tales and comics you know, how many would you come up with? (post 'em if you want and we'll compare notes.)
in "taken," liam neeson is the protector. his daughter is abducted. he goes to rescue her.
that's pretty much it.
so why do we care? because look at this poster:

i'm sorry, but that's just HOT. it makes me happy inside. i want the man or woman, god, friend, whatever, who has agreed to protect me, to bring that kind of clarity and purpose and resolve.
plus, liam neeson isn't someone to be trifled with. don't kidnap his daughter.

whether it's westley in "the princess bride," who refuses to let go of true love and fights for it, or beowulf or king arthur who fight for the good of the people, or clint eastwood fighting for the little band of misfits at the end of "the outlaw josey wales," or clarice starling in "the silence of the lambs," or batman and superman. or the woodsman who comes and kills the wolf that's eaten little red rider's grandmother. or the smart and upright town marshall in the old west.
(i would name the person who kills Freddy Krueger or Jason or Michael Meyers but i don't watch those slasher movies so i don't know who kills them - but then, it isn't working, with all the sequels, so why honor him/her?)

whoever it is, the protector does something those around her/him cannot do: be willing to sacrifice her/himself for the good of those being protected. and there are parts of me that feel strong, parts of me that feel secure, and parts of me that feel terrified, or stuck, but what will i do, god? i'm facing terror and challenge and uncertainty.
Well, god says, tell me a story about that part of yourself that is strong. make it look like you.
and so we create the story of the hero.

the protector's job is to give us hope. we read the story and the boogeyman seems less imminent.

when we're young, we need bigger people than us to watch over us. but as we grow up, it becomes time for us to step up into our own power. some days we do, some days we don't. we can remain victims forever, and rely on protectors or circumstances or money (another protector!) or control to keep us insulated from danger. but thre is, ultimately, no avoiding danger, or loss, or death, or weeping. and superman can't be everywhere.

so, it's up to me. that's maturity. that's growing up.
the tribal hero/protector/my-own-personal-jesus/triumphant cowboy-woodsman-knight-avenger is ultimately not a symbol of anyone else; it's a story told about what is inside me, waiting to be grown up enough and strong enough to take the job.


Anonymous said...

Wow, that's heavy for so early in the morning. I like it: a story about what's inside me. Elaine

mike said...

I think of David vs. Goliath, or "Straw Dogs" in which the little guy/underdog/nobody/wimp (David and Dustin Hoffman)rises up and accepts violence to kill the bad guy/monster/oppressor/evil.

I also think of Jesus and Clint Eastwood ("Gran Torino") where the protector protects by sacrificing life, opposing the bad guys and the violence, and thus exposes the basic weakness of the bad guy/monster/oppressor/evil with an ethic that the violence cannot overcome.

Interesting how the violence often seems more satisfying to our sensibilities, yet perhaps not as effective as nonviolence --"the monster is dead, long live the monster"