Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Fallen Hero

The last few days, I've been thinking about a post I wrote a few months back. It was about being the hero or heroine in your own story and life, and I still believe there are a lot of good things about that idea, like taking action and responsibility to make things happen.

But I think there are also some potential pitfalls.

I recently started reading The Hero With a Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell, which talks about the universal traits of a hero -- the characteristics that show up in every story, regardless of culture, of every man or woman who has been preserved in story. It's fascinating, but I came across something even more interesting:

The Tyrant.

Campbell refers specifically to King Minos, who started his own story as a hero. His people loved him, he won the favor of the gods... and then he started acting in selfishness.

The short version, for those who don't want an instant education in Greek mythology, is that his self-centered living resulted in the Minotaur, a monster that lived in an underground stone maze and was fed human sacrifices. And despite causing the death of countless innocents, King Minos continued to see himself as the hero.

I think that's still true today. People live their stories believing they are heroes, though they act as tyrants.

One way you can identify them is that they don't believe in other stories.

You are cast in their story, the one in which they are good and loved and wonderful even while they cause destruction everywhere. Your lack of faith in the tyrant's heroism might be seen as betrayal or disloyalty. But your choice to live your own story is one that infuriates the tyrant most.

And I think that may be the biggest fault of this fallen, misguided hero... the violence he or she commits in attempting to force one story on all.

As part of our own story and in our own journey, let us be careful in casting people too much in roles they may not want to live out.

Have you been dealing with tyrants, too?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Accident

A week ago Thursday, I was in a car accident.

Driving home from Seattle, I was taking the exit off I-5 onto Highway 540. If you're familiar with the area, you know that to make that exciting move I had to enter a one-lane tunnel that was engineered to be a downward-sloping blind curve.

It was in the tunnel I saw it -- a crumpled car, crushed against the cement wall. I braked and swerved and managed to avoid the vehicle.

"Thank God," I breathed... just as I was hit from behind by another driver.

The back of the driver's seat thumped my head forward as the sound of shattering lights and crunching metal echoed in the tunnel. I sat stunned for a moment. The driver pulled alongside me.

"Are you okay? Can you move?" he yelled.

I nodded. "I think so!" Realizing that staying still was only going to result in a dangerous pile-up, I motioned that I was going to try driving out of the tunnel. As I did, it hit me:

The tunnel leads to a bridge. The bridge has nowhere to pull over. This guy could easily drive off into the night, and I had no name, insurance policy number, not even his car's tags. There was nothing I could do to keep him from speeding off into the night.

Instead, he drove slowly behind me across the span of the bridge and to the first exit. We exchanged information, and he asked if I knew how to get home. I confessed I didn't know where the next entrance to the highway was, so he looked up directions for me before I drove off.

And then I got pulled over for a broken (let's face it -- smashed to bits) tail light.

I explained to the police officer that it had only been broken for about 15 minutes, and I was on my way home. He was very kind, but still had to run my license. While he was in his car, a truck pulled over in front of me and out stepped my unlikely friend. He walked back to the officer and explained he'd rear ended me.

On his way back to the car, he said he didn't want me to get a ticket on top of getting my car bashed. I thanked him and said I hoped the rest of his night went better, and in an attempt at cheerfulness he said, "It can't really get much worse."

But it could've been. I thought back over all the nights that had been worse than a car accident with no serious injuries. I thought of the inches and fractions of seconds that could've made that night one where someone didn't make it home.

I also thought of all the opportunities that young man had to escape. He had the opportunity to run from his responsibility. He could've chosen to do the wrong thing and thank his stars I didn't have any recourse. Instead, he chose to do the right and good thing, even when it cost him something.

It might not seem like a big deal, but in the past year I've had a lot of people choose easy instead of the hard thing that was right. How the consequences of their choices affected people like me wasn't as important as saving their own skin or priorities or story.

To me, it seemed a given that would happen again.

I am so thankful. Not for the accident itself, of course, but for the reminder that there are good people who see beyond themselves. I thought maybe they'd all disappeared.

I'm glad some are still around.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Christina v. the Universe

Last week, I tried to blog. But then I got tired/busy/insane and didn't. So here's the quick update:
  • I had a birthday and I spent part of it at the DMV having infants a full decade younger than me make me feel old and tired. My effort on makeup and hair were pointless by the time I stepped in front of a camera... I looked like an irritated, shiny horse.
  • I spent a beautiful sunny day at Pike Place Market with my sister, and then later in the evening we met up with friends. After a few drinks, I demanded chocolate mousse. We tramped around downtown Seattle until we realized there wasn't any... ever again.
  • I sent my wayward vehicle to the doctor and cheated on it with a rental. It was lovely. I am now a fan of affairs, or at least car affairs. And my car is now okay and I had to take it back into my life (boo).
  • My friend Amber revealed to me that this website (yes, this one!) is blocked by morality filters, flagging it as "adult in nature." I am flattered.
  • "What idiocy can I vanquish today?" I yelled to the universe one morning. The universe yelled back, "None! Because I will overwhelm you with idiots!" Universe: 1, Christina: 0.
  • The best hockey game ever. That is all.
There were other things that would shock and horrify you, causing you to exclaim our rallying cry of "too pretty for this!" but the prettiness inside me is wilty right now. I want to take a vacation, but I want it to be to another time in my life, not necessarily another place. Trust me, though, when I say that I'm living through further fodder for this site.

If I can just survive it.