Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Discernment of Heroes - Week I

Each week of Lent I'll be posting a few questions for general discernment, drawn from the blogging of Matt Bird, a scriptwriter and film critic who is interested in heroes.

Ash Wednesday, a day when we recall that "You are dust, and unto dust you shall return" might seem like an odd day to begin discerning the heroism to which all Christians - indeed all men - are called. But in fact, humility is a key part of the story arc of every hero. Often the event that pushes a hero off on his heroic quest is a humiliating one. Sometimes the hero is threatened socially, other times physically, or spiritually. It is only out of such struggles, Bird argues, that a hero comes to understand his or her true nature, embracing strengths and rejecting vices. So that is our arc for this Lent.

Shifting gears a little... Bird suggests a number things a writer should know about his characters when crafting a script. If the writer does not have the full picture of a character, he or she will come off flat. In a similar way, self knowledge allows us to think about ourselves and God's call in our lives in a way that matches the vibrancy and complexity of life. Today we'll start with seven of Bird's items. Most of these matters are such that you could breeze through them in 5 minutes, or spend the entire day in meditation and prayer. A happy medium might involve taking a walk and spending a little time with your thoughts.

Age: How old are you? This might seem an open-and-shut question, but think of it in a fuller sense. Where have you lived? What have you done? What do the X years of your life represent? With God, all things are possible (Mt 19:26), but grace does build on nature. In other words, God works with us where we are. So where are you? How long have you been on the road.

The one-line description: This usually comes in the pithy form of “the sort of person who…” What sort of person are you? There are better and worse answers to this. You might be “the sort of person who puts ketchup on french fries,” but then again, most of us do. Slightly better, you might be “the sort of person who wears a tie with birkenstocks.” I am. But while that tells you something about my sartorial taste, it tells you less about my character. “The sort of person who turns a childhood hobby into a career.” Now we're getting somewhere. The possibilities are endless.

Who might play you: This question clearly shows its scriptwriting roots. But I include it for two reasons. First, it is a fun parlor game to wonder who might play you in a movie. Second, we often have trouble thinking outside ourselves. We're use to being on the inside looking out, not the other way around. That's why hearing your own voice is such an odd experience. Thinking about who would play you in a movie is a clever way to think about "seeing" yourself from a new viewpoint. If actors are not your forte, feel free to cast a fictional character or a friend as yourself. The exercise is more important than the outcome.

Profession: Like your age, your profession should be obvious, but related questions can be quite demanding. Why are you in the field you are? How did you get here? What does it mean to do X?

Where you work: This might seem like a repeat of the profession, but there are new details worth considering here. A scriptwriter needs to know what hours a character works, what the building looks like, who the co-workers are, and other related details. Just as those are not minor details in the hands of a good writer, but key details worked into the plot, so too the details of where you work reveal something about who you are, where you are, and where God - the Master Scriptwriter - may take you.

Hobby. Yes, life includes leisure as well as work! How we spend our leisure time - and how we came to the hobbies we have - can tell us a great deal about who we are.

Totem object. Objects certainly make great props for writers and they can certainly move a plot along. In real life, treasured totems are less common, but they certainly still exist. If you don't have one, try looking around your desk: What sits on it, and why? Or try cleaning out your wallet. (For some, that alone is Lenten penance!) What do you carry around? Why? Not only do these objects have stories in themselves, but the kind of objects you keep and the way you keep them also reveals a great deal.

Today's image comes from the LOTR Wiki.
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