Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Scenario 3: "Modern Myths"

Setting: An old, run-down comic book store in a sleepy American suburb.

Its a cool day for July and the wind echoes as it floods through the silent alleyways of this middle-American town. Children occasionally ride up and down Main Street on their bicycles, dressed in t-shirts and shorts. On the corner of this village is a place called Moira's. It is a dinette/eatery that has barely seen any business in the past six months. Next door is a Bookseller's that shares space with a hardware and appliance store. Both of which are two months over-due in rent. There hasn't been much of anything lately on this once cheerful strip. Down the block at the opposite corner is an old, dusty store. A large, weathered, wooden sign hangs diagonally and is covered in peeling red paint. A shadowy figure stops in front and pauses for a moment at the door as he looks up at the sign. "Universe Comics." A bell rings as he enters. The clerk is a teenage boy, asleep behind the front counter.

FIGURE: Ehem. Excuse me, I didn't mean to startle you. I was just wondering if you carry the Year One graphic novel by Frank Miller. It's a Batman comic. Not too old, but it's a classic. I've been looking for it for some time now and this place has been the first to strike me as a carrier of valuable comic commodities. What with it being so rustic and all.

CLERK: Well... uh... I can't say that we do. I ain't never heard of anythin' like that before anyways.

FIGURE: Ah, I see. Would you mind if I had a look around then?

CLERK: ...Wha? Uhh, yeah whatever. Just don't make a mess, alright?

After rummaging through some old cardboard mail carts, the figure approaches the front counter only to find the clerk dozing off again.

FIGURE: Ahh, here it is! I'm so glad to have found it. You wouldn't believe some of the wisdom these things have to offer. I mean its not even that old of a story although its been widely influential today. They used some of the material in this graphic novel in the recently released blockbuster, Batman Begins. What a great flick. What'd you think about it?

He flops the thin graphic novel on to the counter top and begins excitedly navigating through the pages.

CLERK: Heh. Me, watch that garbage? Shit man, I'd rather forget about this stuff altogether. Bad enough I gotta babysit this kid's stuff five days a week on the pay I get. No way in hell I'd ever actually take time to watch some freak run around in tights tryin'a fly an' whatnot. That'll be ten bucks buddy.

FIGURE: Oh no, I'm not going to buy this. I haven't got any money. It's just been a while since I've read it and I find much of the premise quite intruiging. I assure you... this is far from kid's stuff.

CLERK: Ha, ha, ha, ha! Oh man, what're ya kiddin' me?! Look at this right here, I mean come on. The fella's wearin' a bat costume and kickin' people in the face! Ridiculous man, ri-di-cu-lous!

FIGURE: Well sure, the idea of a vigilante bringing justice to a corrupt town under the guise of a huge bat may seem a little far-fetched at first, but that's not its essence. Have you ever read The Iliad and The Odyssey?

CLERK: Well, I remember we had ta read The Odyssey for English in eleventh grade, but I didn't pay much attention. I did think the guy's name was cool, though. Odyssius... means the giver and receiver of pain. Heh, heh.

FIGURE: Yes, well many of the superheros that have been created since are just an extention of those same characters. They're called archetypes. Batman's parents were killed and that was his life-changing trauma that would haunt him forever; engulfing him in perpetual pain. In turn, he then decides to become reborn and punish all those who like him, have suffered but have chosen to inflict pain on others due to their own wounds. There's a very thin line that separates Batman from his enemies. He's just as insane as they are, but he chooses to do good.

CLERK: So what's that got to do with the Odyssey?

FIGURE: The ancients had a great way of using myths to convey timeless messages. The ancient Greeks and Roman were most well known for it, but the oral tradition that we've come to know as the myth has been passed down from time immemorial. What is the first thing that comes to mind when I say the word
myth?

CLERK: Fiction.

FIGURE: Ahh, see the connotations we have connected to these words? So much so that it obscures any of the true meaning. Myth comes from the Greek
mythos meaning "word of mouth." These oral traditions were passed down from generation to generation as great traditions of education. Each story has an essential moral. In the 17th century, Rene' Descartes began discussing the idea of nature and nurture being two of the most influencial forms of human development. In other words, your genetic predispositions and your most early indoctrination effect much of your behavior throughout your life. The ancients had some grasp of this concept so they told their youth of these stories we know as myths. While the stories were epic and gradiose, they served to subconsciously indoctrinate certain values and virtues in the youth of the ancients that would pervade throughout their civilization. They taught them the morals of kindness, compassion, greater good, higher power and respect for nature just to name a few.

A strange look has come upon the clerk's face. While he had at first made up his mind to ask the unidentified customer to kindly depart from the establishment, he felt a certain importance and urgency in his message. Oddly enough, this apathetic high school graduate felt for the first time he was actually learning something.

CLERK: So you're sayin' that them Greeks and Romans didn't actually believe in all these gods and heros?

FIGURE: Many of the common folk later came to misconstrue the true meanings of myths and metaphors with history and dogma. As a matter of fact, we know much less about many of these beliefs and religious systems than most scholars would have you believe. The foremost authoratative figure on Mythology has for the past forty years been Joseph Campbell. He taught that these archetypes took on a thousand faces and forms, but were essentially the same hero. It was the same message being conveyed in a less dry, text book manner. We learn alot more from ficition than fact sometimes.

CLERK: Ya know man, I did see Spiderman in theaters. I went with a bunch of my friends. I figured it was gonna be lame but I did really like one of the lines in the movie. The Green Goblin says to Spiderman, "We are who we choose to be." I was thinkin' about that for a very long time. Makes so much sense... I mean I sit here every day, open to close. This isn't me, this isn't who I am. And I feel stuck here some times and I curse everything else around me when, really, I'm the only one who can do anything to change it.

FIGURE: That's absolutely right. These are the things we take away from our modern myths. One of my favorite lines is from Batman Begins... Batman
is my favorite super hero. "It's not who you are underneath, its what you do that defines you."

CLERK: So much truth in that, man. I mean I hear all these kids talkin' about how one day they're gonna graduate and be somethin' big... an' all I ever see em actually doin' is drinkin' and going out til real late... not even workin' any jobs. I think it's one thing to root for the good guy to win when you're watchin' a movie, but knowing the difference between right and wrong is different from actually doing good. You can talk all you want... all theory and no action. At the end of the day its only really what you do that determines who you are. So sit back and spout out all your prayers, likes and dislikes about humanity, society, the way things should be. But in the end actions speak louder than words and all you're doing is paying your ideals a lip service.

FIGURE: While Batman may be my favorite hero, the quintessential hero is Superman. He is the epitome of every great self-sacrificing hero ever written about. He has been blessed with a gift and he chooses to sacrifice his own happiness every day only to do what he believes is right by other people. Talk about actions speaking louder than words. He's not Clark Kent... he's Superman. He loves humanity and that is why he is its savior. His alter ego is a shy, mild-mannered, timid, unsure, man, which is exactly how he sees the people he is defending. If ever there has been a dying and rising savior (and there have been since long before the time of Jesus) Superman embodies our contemporary ideals about that savior. He's really our hope that in each of us there lives a hero; a savior. He is that idea we hold on to. He's that hope that no matter what happens we will always possess a power that is greater than most anything. That power is the ability to do great things.

CLERK: I guess if we just pay lip service to justice and good, but don't act on our higher voice, or what some people'd call our "conscience," we're just a walking hypocrisy and nothing else man.

FIGURE: Well... we are always who we choose to be.




Leave the cave.



References:
http://www.context.org/ICLIB/IC12/Campbell.htm
http://classics.mit.edu/Homer/odyssey.html
http://www.age-of-the-sage.org/psychology/nature_nurture.html

1 Comments:

Blogger sarah said...

Pete, you *are* batman. plus, you're just hot. i created a blog just to leave you this comment. what a nerd i am...

2:34 AM  

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