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Swimming the Echo by Brian L. Tucker

Swimming the Echo

by Brian L. Tucker

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4th of March

Villains are people, too.


DarthVader1

Yesterday, we explored the journey that a hero must undertake in any great story. Likewise, we discussed heroic feats of greats such as Neo from The Matrix, Frodo, and Luke Skywalker.

Those that represent the light. We cheer for them, because we are able to assimilate their victory into our own lives. If young Skywalker wins…we all do. If Frodo destroys the one ring, then, Sauron is gone. It’s an exciting end to an epic saga.

The way it should be.

But, what happened to make the ending so sweet in each tale?

Why was the victory so satisfying? The win awe-inspiring?

I’ll save you the lecture on rising conflict and plot points, but suffice it to say that one thing made each hero’s journey so utterly monumental and terrific–

The Villain.

Yes. I love the cry that we sometimes hear from the bad guy camps around the cinematic (and literary) world: “Hey! We’re people too!”

It’s true. The bad guys make the story a lot of times. Think about it.

  • The Joker played by Heath Ledger made The Dark Knight stand out from other all other Batman films.
  • Voldemort (yes, I typed his name…I didn’t say it) made Harry Potter interesting.
  • Heck, even Agent Smith from The Matrix added layers with his beautiful repetition of, “Mr. Anderson” when addressing Neo.

 

They are all villains drawn up to make the hero’s journey even more epic. The more 3-D a villain becomes it allows the storyline to become even richer. The rising conflict reaches a peak that draws the reader/audience into the turmoil.

Look at how much Anakin Skywalker changes from Phantom Menace (Star Wars 1) to Revenge of the Sith (3). He becomes Darth Vader. Not just a small shift from bad-to-worse but a complete overhaul as a person. The once highly touted Jedi is no more. The seduction of the dark side is too much for him. And thus, a villain for the ages is born.

I want to keep using Darth Vader as an example of the magnificent height that a villain can reach in making a storyline epic. Yes. He gives in to the dark side. But, his journey started as a Hero’s Journey.

Talk about a twist of fate, right?

Anakin was set on a course for greatness…to become a Jedi respected by all. Yet, instead of delivering on those promises, he crushes them. Anakin becomes Darth Vader and rejects peace for war. He unleashes a hell on the goodness around him, and he casts his quest for heaven aside.

It’s heartbreaking and…uniquely its own take on the “hero gone astray” motif. But…there is redemption.

*Spoiler alert*

Darth sees his son Luke in trouble with the Emperer and saves him from death. As a result of his spiritual change, Darth is restored as Anakin Skywalker just before his death. The hero-turned-villain-turned-hero has come full circle. It isn’t something we’re used to seeing in literature (or film), and the range of this villain makes for one of the best examples of all-time.

Please take in this next part, because it isn’t the model of a villain existing for the sole purpose of giving the hero some opposition, someone to fight. Yeah. The fighting is nice and battle sequences are, too. But, it’s the humanity of the villain that makes the story so well-balanced.

Again, think of your favorite story of all-time.

Got one?

Now…imagine that story without the villain roaming around, wreaking havoc.

Is it as good?

I surely hope not.

Stories given 5-stars, 2 Thumbs up, 10/10 ratings have a beginning, middle, and end. The characters depart, initiate, and return. But, the truly great ones also have flesh-and-blood good guys and bad guys fighting for their lives.

And sometimes the bad guys might’ve once been good guys and aren’t quite sure how to become good guys again…And just maybe…they do learn by the end of the tale.

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3rd of March

The Hero’s Journey


hero-935633-m

Joseph Campbell claimed that heroes endure 17 stages in a journey, which in turn, constitutes a novel, trilogy, etc.

17 stages. 3 main headings: Depart, Initiate, Return.

How many of these are recognizable steps as you think about your favorite book, movie, TV show?

The stages being:

I: Departure –The call to adventure!

  • Refuse the call
  • Supernatural Aid
  • Crossing the First Threshold
  • Belly of the whale (willing to change)

 

II: Initiation–Road of trials

  • Meeting the Goddess
  • (Woman) as temptress
  • Atonement with the Father
  • Apotheosis
  • Ultimate boon

 

III: Return –Refusal to Return

  • Magic flight (adventure/danger, pursuit, obstruction/evasion)
  • Rescue from without
  • Crossing Return Threshold
  • Master of two worlds: physical & spiritual
  • Freedom to live: no fear, live in moment

 

If you analyze this 17-stage process like George Lucas did, you will definitely see the symmetry between his storytelling in Star Wars and the Departure, Initiation, and Return of young Luke Skywalker.

Similarly, you can note these changes in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy as Frodo embarks on his quest to Mount Doom, and in The Matrix, as Neo realizes he is The One.

There are specific stages that heroes must endure, in order to accomplish the tasks set before them.

What is your favorite example of Campbell’s detailed process? Do you have a story that works so seamlessly within this system that you almost forget there’s a storyline behind it?

Maybe that’s the secret of the world’s greatest storytellers…seamlessness.

If a story can be told so flawlessly that we forget we’re being led through Middle Earth, battling the White Witch in Narnia, we’re related to Darth Vader, and/or no longer need to dodge bullets, then, we can fully believe that the 17 stages aren’t what’s most appealing about the journey, but the entire journey itself.

I re-read these stories (and re-watch their film adaptations), and I appreciate the genius behind their storylines each time. Essentially, the 2-D becomes 3-D to the reader/viewer in each rare example. There aren’t any glaring holes or glitches like we used to find in our beloved early video games (RIP Contra).

It’s storytelling of the highest order. I ask again if you have a favorite example that can be put through this 17-stage ringer and come out relatively unscathed, up to par?

No story is completely perfect, but many have the makings of it. Only a select few reach us at a level where we appreciate their creation…marvel at the brilliance of a world newly discovered.

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2nd of March

Etiquette.


top-hat-1395333-mEtiquette.

Not a word that gets thrown around as much in 21st century living as it did a few hundred years ago.

Imagine the streets flooded with men wearing top hats and tipping them at passersby to show their acknowledgement and respect for other forms of human life–not just their own.

The act of holding open a door so that others might enter before oneself was a thoughtful gesture but also a sign of dignity and valuing others.

The golden rule: Do unto others…as you’d have them do unto you.

Politeness was a sign of good decorum. It was reflective of good breeding.

Nowadays, when I think of the word etiquette I immediately think up images of where the salad fork should rest in formal dining settings, and where a server stands while pouring drinks for restaurant patrons.

This isn’t really the context of etiquette that I wanted to discuss. But, I’m sure there’s a right way to eat with 3 different-sized forks, if the situation requires it. (Let’s save that conversation for another time.)

I want to just think about the word holistically, and what it used to mean in 1750, when it was derived from the Old French word estiquette: “prescribed behavior” or, just plain, old good manners.

In the southern US, etiquette often became ingrained with societal rules and conventions, and these weren’t necessarily bad things. Sure, the styles of dress, usage of proper English, and day-to-day etiquette were reflective of a much different US, but the overarching message was still the same.

The golden rule applied then like it does today, 3/2/2015. People still love to have doors held open for them, elevators halted, and places in line saved. Regardless of whether someone is wearing a top hat and 3-piece suit or UK ball cap and blue jeans, the hospitality (and heart behind it) is what matters most.

It’s true that a top hat is a lot of fun, and I pray everyone starts wearing them in 2015 like they did in the past. But, I think a person’s heart is still intact in 2015, despite our change in dress and lifestyle. We might not look as good in our day-to-day functioning as our forefathers did, but we haven’t forgotten our etiquette altogether.

The French got something right in 1750 when they pointed out this trait and gave it a name.

Good old manners.

They’re not something that should ever go out of style. Whether you choose to play on your cell phone while walking out into a busy intersection or forget to wash your hands at a greasy buffet, common sense still applies today.

Ask yourself: Am I hurting others with my actions? Think of that golden rule and ask: Would I do this to myself? Truly? Or, am I treating myself as being better than others?

It might make someone else’s day all the better, if you treated them like a king or queen. It will definitely make yours that way.

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1st of March

Being someone’s keeper.


playing-at-the-beach-196156-m Today – I heard a message at church about being someone else’s keeper…being beholden to someone else. In the case of the Old Testament, it’s depicting the story of Cain and Abel and Cain not owning up to telling where his brother, Abel, was, when asked. (He actually killed his brother out of jealousy and envy.)

This is an extreme case, but still one worth noting where selfishness and self-centeredness can lead a person. It’s fairly safe to say, we have a love affair with egocentrism in our country.

Let me clarify. Many of us have a real ongoing struggle with love of popularity. I know I do. It’s something I battle everyday. Facebook updates, over-booking my daily schedule with hobby-based activities, profile views on LinkedIn, etc. It’s all a status check daily, and it reminds me of the child-like attention craved in grade school.

Like I said, I wrestle with social media and it’s false sense of security. If you don’t wrestle with this, then, I am thankful that you are free of it (or, can balance it with real-world interactions).

At church today, we saw a video of a guy driving a sports car recklessly around a corner with a sharp bluff below, and an on-board camera showing him going over the bluff and crashing. The camera gave us a vantage point that we really (as an audience) didn’t want.

It was a reminder (to me) that life is more than just profile updates and social media feeds. Also, it showed me that people looking out for one another is an essential part of living on this planet. No person is an island unto themselves (thank you, Mr. John Donne). We need others in our lives that can invest and mentor us and vice versa.

Someone should not only be our brother’s keeper but we should be someone else’s too. It’s the way life was meant to be lived. In a community. With real human beings. When a friend drives off a bluff, we shouldn’t stop to watch from a safe distance, but instead, we should run to help them. Letting Cain’s issue with loving his brother Abel be a lesson to us, we should love those in our lives that genuinely are there for us, and continue to be beholden to those that want us around as mentors.

Happy March 1! -Brian

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