Tag Archives: redemption

of rogues, jedi and growing up

lukeAt four years old, I saw Star Wars in the theater – I can still remember the opening scene – the massive Star Destroyer chasing Leia’s ship.  I can trace nearly all my love for space to that moment.  When it was revealed in “Empire” that Vader was Luke’s father, I was so devastated I tried to wish it away.  Luke was my hero – the hero. All through my childhood and teen years, it was an established fact – bordering on a right of passage – that Luke was the dominant hero figure.  I still remember being so disappointed that Leia told Han “I love you”.  And then – to make matters worse – finding out that Leia was Luke’s sister!  Wasn’t the hero supposed to get the girl, too?

Then something happened.  I grew up.  The safe & insulated world of my teens disappeared amidst the emotional tsunamis of divorce, college & moving away.  The endless optimism and hope I had for the future began to be tempered by real experience.  Luke started to sound a little whiny.  I found myself more sympathetic to Han.  Sure, he was rough around the edges, but likable.  He flew a fast ship, knew how to come through in a pinch, understood loyalty, took care of his own and I could appreciate that.

Then something else happened.  I experienced deep heartache over someone I dated in college.  I graduated, toured regionally with some bands and scraped by on peanut butter sandwiches and the free employee lunch at Macaroni Grill.  I discovered I hated always playing other people’s music and never having time for my own.  I decided to switch careers.  As a melancholy artistic type suddenly thrust into the heart of corporate America, I was unprepared for the backstabbers.  The white collar backstabbers weren’t anything like the blue collar backstabbers of my warehouse college jobs – they were a vicious breed apart.  I had to grow a thicker skin, think on my feet, learn how to get cussed out in front of others while staying calm – all the while trying to better my skills so that finding a new job would be a reality and not just a wish.  I was married.  I had kids.  Things like self-defense turned into home and family defense.  I had to ask myself – in the unlikely event of someone breaking in or attacking my family – would I be willing to use deadly force.  I was surprised not only at the answer, but the depths from which it resounded a loud “YES.  I WOULD NOT HESITATE.”  Images of Mel Gibson from the Patriot come to mind.

hanI wasn’t just sympathizing with Han, now.  Here’s a guy that improvised everything.  Even the ‘fast ship’ of his – without which he would never have met Ben and Luke, gotten connected to the Rebellion and ultimately redeemed himself – had been won in a game with best “frenemy” Lando.  Simple chance.  And let’s not kid ourselves – he wasn’t just rough around the edges.  He could take cold, calculated risks to get out of danger.  Don’t believe your eyes on the re-released versions of Star Wars.  In the original, Greedo never got a shot off.  Han shot him cold, all the while trying to look relaxed and stall for time as he unsnapped his holster to take the shot.

I would have taken that shot, too, and I find that unsettling.  Life is wonderful and full of so many incredible gifts – but it can also be darker than the darkest dark.  No human being emerges from the dark unchanged.  Archetypes like Han Solo, and Maximus Decimus Meridius from “Gladiator” resonate with men because we often have so much in common with them.  Improvising, and trying to look calm while we’re wondering if the hyper drive is actually going to work the next time we fire it up.  We have an emotional depth we don’t always know how to communicate, so we’re left telling the woman who just said “I love you” a simple “I know.”  In the case of Maximus, we feel betrayed by existing power structures and we overwhelmingly react with passion to the moment of his greatest discovery – who he truly is.

“My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.”

This was an identity forged & discovered through tremendous hardship & loss.  Are there any other truer revealers of who we are?

There’s something about anti-hero redemption as well.  As much as I loved “Back to the Future” as a kid, I sheepishly admit that most of my childhood was spent feeling like this guy at this moment:

mcfly

George has no idea he can knock Biff out.  He acted more out of courage and principle than he ever had up to that moment.  He goes from “peeping Tom” to true rescuer, and his timeline is forever altered for the better.  Han learns there are better things to fight and live for – and goes as far as being willing to die for them.  Joseph Donnelly reaches the moment of his dream and shouts “This land is mine!  Mine by destiny!” and all the hardship that passed before pales in comparison. 

That’s what these anti-heros’ redemptions really offer – hope that you don’t have to let the darkness turn you into a cynical has-been.

Edward F. Mooney writes, “Job gets the wonder of a world returned, but he does not learn why he suffered.”  That can seem unfair, but the answer is a good one: “The reception of a life beyond dust and ashes throws the need for an answer aside”.  I don’t want to stop at just not being a cynical has-been.  I want move on to the reception of a life beyond dust and ashes…

In Which I Gain Some Fatherly Perspective…

Most of us have heard our parents say, at some point, that they’ve tried their best to do better for us than their parents did for them.  Most of us that are parents have figured out that they really meant it when they said that.  It’s far too easy, though, to focus on where our parents have fallen short, and miss their sometimes herculean efforts to be better parents than their own.

My parents separated when I was 15.  The ugly reality of divorce is that no matter how well all parties involved handle the aftermath, it’s still an aftermath!  Take the classic teen-know-it-all-hormone-induced-confusion-and-angst of most 15-year-olds, couple it with a divorce and constant conflict with your father and what you get is a recipe for long term negative focus, to put it lightly.  Complicating things, I misread my father for several years.  You see, we have a lot in common – shared interests, personality traits, values, habits, vocal inflections, etc.  It’s easy to assume you know the other person’s motives and intent when you have so much common ground.  About ten years ago, one of my sisters had us take the Myers-Briggs assessment and I was amazed that my father and I both weren’t “ENTJ”.  That was a critical moment for me, after which I really began to pay more attention to who my father was – and respect our differences.  Gone were the arrogant presumptions – now replaced with at least some humility.  Over the last two decades – and as a result of moments like those – my relationship with my father has improved beyond my expectations and hopes.

This year, my father’s birthday coincided with Father’s Day, and I took my oldest son with me to visit him for the weekend.  I found myself thinking back over the stories he’s told me of his childhood.  The youngest of 7 children – over 20 years separating him and his oldest sister (a sister who was more a mother to him than sister, and more grandmother to me than aunt).  His mother died when he was 14.  His father was, by all accounts, a good man, but strong on discipline and sparse with praise and emotional connection.  I learned this weekend that his father never took him camping or canoeing – something he did with me for many years when I was young.  And it occurred to me that those weekend trips (and many were week-long trips) that my dad took with me cost him real vacation time & rest.  Canoeing 50 miles, while tons of fun, isn’t terribly relaxing or easy on the muscles and back!  Many dads simply want to sleep on the couch during a football game, rather than in a tent in a south Georgia swamp, cooking cheap hot dogs over fires made with wet firewood.  What 42-year-old wants to don a backpack and hike sections of the Appalachian Trail with a bunch of 12-year-old boy scouts?  My dad did.  He made the choice to do something with me that I loved, something his father never modeled or did for him.

Our parents are children, too, just like us.  They carry their own set of hopes, fears and disappointments which they shared with their own parents.  I am tremendously fortunate that, regardless of all the ‘aftermath’ of coming from a broken home, both of my parents have fought hard to give me a better life than what they had.  I’m not dismissing or trivializing the challenges – don’t get me wrong, divorce sucks.  There are years we can’t get back, and words all of us wish we could forget having ever said.  But then the picture of redemption arrives.  Maybe at first it’s just fragile ‘green shoots’.  But it grows up in the presence of – in spite of – the pain, difficulty and scars, almost as if to prove to the hurt that it can’t be stopped or overcome.  Redemption, by its very nature, not only rescues us, but laughs in the face of our former captor.  “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies…” (Psalm 23: 5)