Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Discernment of Heroes - Week 4


In the first two weeks we mostly considered what you might call background information.  These are items that Matt Bird or other scriptwriters would use to craft a character.  Last week, when we considered roles, we began getting into the meat of a story, its plot.  This week we'll continue that shift toward our story arc.

In terms of discernment, the shift is similar.  For the past three weeks we have been essentially asking who you are or where you have come from.  This can be quite enlightening, but is, in some sense, water under the bridge.  The bigger questions we often ask tend to involve where we are going.

This may be the week where the fact that these reflections are essentially natural (or literary) and not supernatural (or theological) becomes truly apparent.  Why?  Because ultimately our future is in God's hands.  If you really want to know where you are headed, ask Him.  But grace builds on nature and God often speaks through the rational workings of our minds, so let us probe as best we can our own stories, and hope that divine light will aid our task.

Stated goal: What do you tell others you are pursuing?  For most of us, there are numerous answers to this question: a good job, a nice spouse, holiness, the ultimate home-brew beer...  The list could go on.  The key here is to consider what you tell people.  When you meet someone at work or at a party, what do you tell them you do?  If you are wrapping up one stage of your life (graduating, moving, etc.) and someone asks you what you're doing next, how do you answer?

Secret goal: What are you really after?  This is a classic movie element, the protagonist who has a goal he has not revealed to his love interest.  But it is worth taking a moment to consider the secret goals of our own lives.  In the first place, are the goals you tell others really the things you plan to seek?  In other words, are you being honest with others?  But, secondly, we can take this deeper: What are you really interested in?  One way to approach this deeper meaning is to ask yourself about alternatives.  If you could do things over again, where would you go?  What would you do?  If you had all the money you wanted, what would you buy?  Stripping away limitations sometimes helps us think about what we'd really like.  Often circumstances force us in a particular direction, and we tell ourselves we have accepted that new direction; and yet, we cling to some part of our original dream, working at cross-purposes with ourselves, pursuing both the conscious, limited goal, and the unconscious, unlimited goal.  That can be a lot of baggage, things we need to bring before the Lord.  But you can't give Him what you do not know you have.

Moment the audience decides to trust or loathe them: In some ways this is a restatement of the one-line description we met the first week.  What is the essence of who you are?  And when does this become apparent to others?  The opinions of others can be fickle, and ought not be sought for their own sake.  But I think the question here points to something deeper.  Why would an audience trust you?  Because you revealed your truly heroic side.  And what is that?  Ah, now we're getting somewhere.  If you are a business manager - not merely by occupation, but by vocation - the moment others trust you may be the moment you reveal not merely your competence and your drive, but also you humanity, when you sacrifice your own well-being for that of your employees.  For some of us, we can point to moments in our past when others saw us for the heroes we are called to be.  For others, that moment may not have come, at least, not in a big way.  But thinking about what it might look like in the future can be a useful thing, giving us a source of inspiration for our future actions.

Emotional Arc: How many emotional states do you pass through?  Bird clearly implied "in the course of the movie" to be added to the end of this question.  Our lives are, of course, much longer.  But it may be useful to ask the question for a variety of time intervals.  How many states in a given day?  A week?  A semester or year?  In the last few years?  The answers can tell you a number of things, not only about your propensity to emotional fluctuations, but also about patterns of your usual emotional arc.  And seeing patterns, in turn, allows you to get some sense for where you are now and where you are likely to be in the future.  Patterns can, of course, change.  ("Past performance does not guarantee future returns.")  But even if you deviate from established patterns in the months and years ahead, that change itself may be noteworthy.

Today's image from Star Wars comes via the Business Insider.
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