Happy birthday to me!
It’s been one blog-year since I began discussing how ‘desire’ fueled Bella’s quest in the Twilight series. Fifty-odd posts later and I’m still fixated on fictional characters and the sea-change they are forced to undergo as they pursue their goal.
Why am I hammering away on this theme? Because the heroic journey may have something to teach us about the “meaning” of our own lives.
(This is, after all, The Meaning of Life blog.)
And, quite frankly, nobody else out there is examining ‘why we read’ or ‘how fiction works’. Not in depth, anyway. For this reason, I feel compelled to exhaust my thoughts on the subject.
HERE’S MY THESIS: when the protagonist prevails, it’s not simply a product of their intelligence and determination – although those qualities are critical. It’s not just that heroes grow incrementally wiser with each set-back – although they certainly do. No, the dynamics that characterize the endings of most good stories are fueled by something other than the tired old rational mind. The mechanics of a character’s transformation are governed by laws of a mystical nature.
[Mystical: adj. relating to a unifying principle of life.]
The successful protagonist is forced, painfully, to see the limits of the mind. Its strategies have failed him. By breaking with the mind, the hero opens to a wider, more objective, view of reality. He sees the bigger picture. He sees something closer to the truth.
It’s no wonder we watch films and read novels. Instinctively we know that our own destiny lies on the other side of a heroic journey. In the meantime, the vicarious epiphanies we get from bookstores and cinemas provide a kind of stop-gap fulfillment.
Stories of almost any kind and calibre show us how the human organizm ‘grows up’…and it’s not a pretty sight. Like your average protagonist, we are meant to follow our deepest yearnings and suffer the consequences. We are meant to fail. We are meant to exhaust ourselves in the process. As a last resort we rail against the world. Reaching new depths of self-pity, we begin to hate ourselves.
From this lowest and sorriest state of affairs we start our resurrection as more compassionate persons – understanding of others but also of ourselves. It appears to be a miracle, but in fact it’s the wonderfully cruel way we are designed.
You could say that this process – always so frightening – is the meaning of life. I do, as you know.
To those of you who have become regular readers – and to whoever logs on occasionally to see what the heck PJ is on about today…
Here’s looking at you.