You are, quite possibly, a redshirt. As are we all.
We all know about the Hero’s journey, I’ve blogged about it before and I’ve made a yoga flow about it. It sets the template for so many of our popular art forms. More or less: the hero pines for something, gets it, it’s good but not so great, and then they get what they really needed all along. I love so many stories based on this idea and there’s a lot to learn from it.
And yet. And YET.
I can’t help but wonder if this does us a disservice. Our real lives are so much messier and so unlikely to follow this format. The fact is we all have dreams or yearnings that just won’t manifest like we hope. What happens when you just can’t get your dream – you can’t be an astronaut, you can’t have a functional family, you can’t tap dance because of arthritis? On top of normal life, we have a pandemic, when dreams of all kinds fizzle out.
What if you are essentially a redshirt in Star Trek, full of hope in Starfleet but bound to contract a meaningless alien (or bat…?) virus?
Do you give up? No, that leads to depression, and the broken world needs us motivated.
Do you thrash and get angry? Maybe, but not for long, because the last thing we need more negativity.
Do you fill yourself with shame because you are privileged enough to even know what it is to want more than the basics? Probably not going to help unless you turn it into action, and let’s face it you’ll still have dreams. And who doesn’t, in any circumstance?
Fiction tackles this too. In “Into the Woods” the characters get what they dream but it falls flat and falls apart. Rebecca in “Crazy Ex Girlfriend” wonders what it means when you must go on despite things not making sense in “The End of the Movie.”
The cruel thing is, we likely won’t have the dreams, but we can’t give up them either. We must hold the dreams in our minds while simultaneously being kind of ok with them not transpiring how we want. It’s a sort of strong elasticity. Like all balancing acts, it seems to require the coordination of many (mental) muscles at once.
To do this near-Herculean task seems impossible. But I suppose we do have an emotional toolbox and that’s art, religion, culture, etc., and even those hero’s journey stories. They aren’t road maps for how things will go, but resources that show you how you can cope – with cruelty and frustration, tedium and terror. Even Luke Skywalker eventually went insane and threw his lightsaber off a cliff, needing Rey and blue Yoda to push him back into sense.
It’s in our art that we learn our ideals, and if we point our mental compass toward those ideals, then maybe that balancing is a bit easier – like the drishti in yoga.
As any yogi knows, balancing in tree pose is so much easier with a drishti – even a tiny speck of dirt. How strong can with be when our drishtis are empathy, love, beauty, and hope?