Author Archives: Hannah

About Hannah

Writer, CNA, INFP. But mostly I'm me!

And we’re moving

I began Hannah’s Scribblings version 2.0 because I had a mission. I had something I needed to do.

I had to find myself.

My late teens and early twenties were rough. Not nessecarily because of circumstances, but because of me. I’ve felt like an outsider my entire life, never quite fitting in, always on the periphery. It’s a strange thing: When you feel like all people are your people, then you belong everywhere. Which also means you belong nowhere.

I started this blog to find myself, to get over the hurdles and bumps I felt were blocking me from doing anything more than skating on potential. I think I started this blog to find peace with myself.

And I did. On this blog, I discovered the joy and woe of being a caregiver. I discovered that I am weird, but perfectly normal for my rare personality type. Honestly, I cannot truly put into words the validation I felt in learning about my Myers-Briggs personality type.

And I discovered, in my years with this blog, the church I have been looking for all my life. My soul has found its home in the stones of the Episcopal Church. Having never fit into any church because of both my love of ancient ways and modern freedom, of liberal politics and conservative lifestyle…I found a church to reconcile both sides of my soul.

I published my first book. I discovered that my writing truly does have the power to resonate with people. I learned how Pride only stifles my talents and that humility hurts, but it’s still good for me.

So now that I have found myself, now what? I feel like I have reached a conclusion of sorts; I found the door at the end of the labyrinth. And through that door I found another maze. I guess C.S. Lewis was right when he wrote:

“If you do one good deed your reward usually is to be set to do another and harder and better one.”

If finding myself and my vocation was a good deed, then my next task is to be what I have become. Easy to say, not so easy to do.

So I am saying goodbye to this blog where I have found myself. This journal is full and it is time to start a new one. This journey is over and my feet have already started the next one.

Thank you all for your support and please join me on my new blog at http://www.hannahhedges.com

They say third time’s the charm.

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Categories: ordinary life | 1 Comment

Misunderstood Millennials

Misunderstood Millennials

Two days after the election, I found myself on my mother’s bathroom floor, trying to put words to the anguish churning within me. I had just seen the break-down of the vote, that showed that the majority of Millennials had voted for Clinton, but that Trump had the vote of the majority of the Baby Boomers. Then I had read a social media post from a person over 65 mocking my generation for our protests of the election of a man who believes global warming is a hoax.
I was shattered.
I am a caregiver, and I have sacrificed so much of my youth to care for my elders. I have given so much of my heart and my energy to making sure that the dignity of their sunset years is respected. And I am shattered by the blatant disrespect that so many (but not all) Baby Boomers hold for Millennials.
“One day soon, a lot of these people will have depend on Millennials to be their caregivers,” I said–or sobbed. “They will entrust us with their dignity and their bodies…so why don’t they trust us with the planet? The long-term environmental repercussions of this election will left to the Millennials to deal with. In fifty to a hundred years from now, when the environmental debt comes due…the Baby Boomers won’t walk this earth. But my generation will. We will be the ones who are stuck with a consequence that we voted against…and we are mocked for the horror we feel. We are called stupid kids. How is that right? How can I be okay with this?”

The next day, my mother published a post on her blog. Among her beautiful, raw words I found this:
“I am publicly apologizing to my children and the children of the world for an older generation who seem not care that we are leaving a desperately ill planet full of problems for them to sort out.”

And I am reminded that among those who come before me, there are those who have fought bitterly for the environment all their lives. I am reminded that they have been mocked and belittled for daring to turn their backs on what was easy and “making life harder than it has to be”. They have been made fun of all their lives, far longer than I have been called a stupid kid.

I say no more. I say enough. Preservation of the environment is not the stance of one political party or one generation. Climate change is not an opinion. Responsibility and sustainability are not optional.
To all those who have fought for my future before I was born, I say, “Thank you for your work.” I honor the sacrifices you have made and I promise, your struggles will not be forgotten. I am building off the foundations you helped to lay. Without your struggles, my future would be bleak indeed.
To all those who do not understand my passion and my protests, I say, “Thank you for your respect.” I get how I may seem strange, out of touch and consumed by things you do not understand. The life I live is so different from the style of your youth. I understand. But please do not mistake my passion for my future as a rejection of the memories you hold most precious. I do not believe that we should sweep aside the past, but I cannot live in the idealized dream of an age gone by. When I am your age, I want be able to enjoy the same beautiful planet you do now. I want to be able to go to the ocean without seeing large, floating islands of trash. I want to be able to walk outside without choking on air gone foul with pollution. And I want to be able to go to a zoo and not have to tell my grandchildren: “What you see in front of you is the last of its kind”. I just want the same things you have enjoyed all your lives and I know these things will not happen on their own. The pictures I see, of islands of trash floating in our waters, of the ice-caps melting, of dying polar bears…these pictures break my heart. They motivate me to vote the way I do, to think the way I do, to act the way I do. I want to grow old on a planet as beautiful as the one you have grown old upon. To do so, I believe there must be short-term sacrifices so that there can be a long-term future where my grandchildren can enjoy both a pristine natural world and clean energy.

So that is why I am standing up for what I believe in, why I am involving myself in the politics and direction of this country. And I promise I will still be there in the end for you, even if we do not see eye-to-eye. Even if you cannot understand why I am upset, I will still be there, as your compassionate caregiver. I will always fight for your dignity, even when you cannot. Especially when you cannot.
Trust me then and trust me now. I swear to you that I will always strive to be intelligent instead of ignorant, respectful instead of resentful, compassionate instead of cruel. All I ask is for you to listen to me, to hear me out even if you disagree. I promise to do the same for you.

To all those of my generation, I say, “Don’t give into complacency.” This is our fight now, this fight for the future of this fragile bouncing ball that we call home (God, I love Five For Fighting). We cannot afford to sit idle, to grow complacent, to sit on the side-lines. It’s our future, our planet, our lives.
We are the generation raised on Harry Potter and we have no excuse to forget these words that we absorbed in our childhood:

“Dark times lie ahead of us and there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right.”

If we must be Dumbledore’s Army, then let us remember to seek out the Order of the Phoenix. Let us not forget the wisdom and struggles of those who have come before. I promise: not all of them are going to shame us for being young and full of passion.

And even if some of them do, than let us consider this our chance to prove, once and for all, that we Millennials are not stupid and self-absorbed. Let us be compassionate as well as passionate.

Categories: ordinary life | 1 Comment

The words I must say

When the nation is deeply divided and tensions run high, how can I express honestly what I feel?
I do not want to be yet another voice of division and strife, and yet I cannot swallow what I am feeling. To do so would be untrue to my personality, unfaithful to my principles. I cannot be silent. I cannot pretend to be okay.
I have written this post over and over again, swinging wildly in tone. I cannot hear anything else but these words pounding in my soul. So I will write once more; I will lay my soul bare in the hopes that maybe then I can move forward.
Freedom of speech is a glorious right and I ask the indulgence of everyone who disagrees with my position. Let me speak here, put down why I feel what I feel and as strongly as I do. I have and will continue to listen with respect to those who do not believe the same as me. I can only ask for the same.

I am in mourning. Every day since the election, I awaken feeling sick with dread.

I did not vote for Hillary Clinton because I particularly liked her and I do not pretend that she has never made mistakes. No, I voted for her because her platforms aligned with my values far better than Donald Trump’s.
In particular, I voted for clean energy initiatives, preservation of the environment, and the reduction of our society’s dependence on fossil fuels. I voted for the continued existence of the Affordable Care Act. I do not deny its flaws, but I will not leave unsaid what a great blessing it has been to my family. The Affordable Care Act has granted healthcare insurance to many Americans that were denied before, including those with autism and other developmental disorders. I voted for the equal rights and treatment of all God’s children, no matter where they were born, no matter what color their skin. No matter if they are Muslim, or even just from the Middle-East. Not every Muslim is ISIL. In particular, I voted for compassion on behalf of immigrants and refugees from tyranny. I voted for respect in the treatment of women and the marginalized, especially those who are LGBT. No matter what you believe about the spectrum of human sexuality and gender identity, I believe that we cannot forget that they are people too. I cannot believe that Jesus, who ate with the sinners, smiles upon those who treat anyone with hate.
And I voted against Trump in solidarity and support for all victims of sexual violence and harassment who have said that his mannerisms and attitude give them flash-backs to the worst moments of their lives. I voted against him so that young boys would know for absolute certain that sexual intimidation is not how to be a real man.
In short, I voted for the planet and all the peoples upon it, children of the most high God.

And then I watched as my nation elected the man who does not share my deeply-held values, a man who ran a campaign based on fear. A man who seems more interested in building walls than bridges; a man who seems to care more for the short-term bottom line than in the future of this beautiful, fragile planet.
A man who seems to care more for white male privilege than he does for the Golden Rule.
I am in mourning. I am not okay.

There is a poem I have been quoting to myself ever since the results were called. That’s me, a writer and reader seeking comfort in the written word.
I will quote it now, for all the marginalized and all those who also feel sick with dread for their future. In the words of Edna St. Vincent Millay in her poem Dirge Without Music:
I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains,—but the best is lost.

The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,—
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

I do not approve. And I am not resigned. To all the marginalized, to all who fear for their safety in this current climate of fear, I say this:
You are not forgotten and you are not alone. Not so long as I live and write.

The next major election is in two years. I will vote then as I voted this year, for the preservation of the environment and for the dignity of all people. In the meantime, I dedicate myself to those values. I further vow not to give in to hate and despair—I will not give anyone excuse to dismiss my words and opinions because I lost control of the passion and pain churning within me.
I will follow the example of my president and my presiding Bishop, Barack Obama and Michael Curry. I will make my protests in peace.
I serve Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace and I uphold His Golden Rule and His gospel of mercy and love.
May God bless everyone.

Categories: ordinary life | 1 Comment

Bucky Barnes and the Scraps of Humanity

Spoilers throughout for Captain America: Civil War

 

I read in an interview for Captain America: The Winter Soldier that actor Sebastian Stan had based his performance as the Winter Soldier/Steve Rogers’s best friend in part from his observations of his step-father battle with Alzheimer’s. As someone whose job it is to care for people suffering from a variety of conditions, including Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia…I can tell you, it really shows. This is probably why that character has resonated so strongly with me: I never was a Marvel fan or even a Captain America fan until I saw The Winter Soldier. Then I saw Captain America: Civil War and realized that this movie continued all the threads that had so completely pulled me into its predecessor…including everything that made Bucky Barnes so achingly familiar.

Perhaps the saddest moment for me in this surprisingly sad movie was when the bad guy was triggering Bucky’s programming…all while Bucky was trying desperately to get away from him, before Zemo could finish saying the words that would remove what little scraps of humanity Bucky had regained for himself. The look on his face, that raw desperation and frenzied panic: I’ve seen that look before. I’ve seen it many times. It has been my painful privilege to be witness to the moment when the switch flips between lucidity and confusion and I’ve seen that look of panicked desperation to hold onto themselves on the faces of my residents. And I’ve seen the look of profound guilt and powerlessness when they come back to themselves and count up the damage done.

One resident didn’t recognize me when I came in to check on her and scratched my face and my arms, yelling that she was going to kill me. I left the room and when I went back an hour later to check on her again, she was crying. You see, when her memory of who I was came back, the memory of what she had done to me didn’t leave. She was crying, begging me to forgive her and wanting to know if I still loved her.

I told her of course. I told her that what happened wasn’t her fault, that she hadn’t chosen this disease, that she hadn’t chosen to forget who I was. She hadn’t chosen to cause pain to the people around her. It wasn’t her fault.

“No,” she replied. “I didn’t chose this. But I did this,” she added, resting her hand on the scratch marks her fingers had left on my arm only an hour before. That is almost word-for-word the exact same conversation as in a scene between Bucky and Steve in Captain America: Civil War. 

It hit me like a load of bricks, because like me, Steve had no answer for that. There’s nothing you can say, really. You can’t deny them their pain anymore than you can deny them their humanity. You can’t affirm their agency and deny them the validity of the experience of losing their minds. Alzheimer’s and other traumas shatter people, their lives, their sense of identity. As a caregiver, or really just as someone who cares about them, you don’t want to diminish their sense of personhood even more.

And that was the second saddest part of this movie: watching Bucky in Romania, trying to gather to himself some scraps of his shattered humanity. Buying plums (which, incidentally, help to improve memory) and trying so hard to find again what it means to be a person instead of a weapon that happens to breathe. Particularly potent is the behind-the-scenes reveal by Stan that Bucky’s backpack, the only thing he takes with him when he runs, contains notebooks in which he has recorded every scrap of his life that he can remember, good and bad, things he’s done both of his own free will and at the control of others. Watching all that effort be disregarded by so many, unaknowledged and unappreciated; watching so many of the numerous characters be unable or unwilling to see the other, silent victim in the Winter Soldier’s crimes: Bucky Barnes himself. Watching, knowing that whatever peace he’s managed to find on his own is about to shattered.

If Bucky’s character arc in Captain America: The Winter Soldier was about the difficulty of free will over unquestioning obedience, as I suggested in my previous post on these movies, Captain America: Civil War is about the difficulty of choices and what it means to hold on to your humanity. Free will might start with a single choice, like, say, pulling a man who claims to be your old friend out of a river, but it is a choice that has to be made every single day for the rest of your life. To do the right thing, no matter how much pain it brings you. I don’t think Bucky’s courage in going back to Siberia, a place where his humanity was systematically stripped away, is acknowledged as much as it deserves.

Talk about following your friend into the jaws of death.

My residents may not march into battle, or fight Iron Man to defend their friends, but I see the same courage in their everyday lives. They live everyday in fear and dread of losing more of themselves to the disease…and yet they still struggle to live their lives. They grow attached to me, knowing they might forget me at any moment; they still struggle to be good people, even when they can’t remember the person they were before. They struggle to hold on to their shattered humanity, while so often their struggle and humanity are both ignored. We may not put them in cryostatis, like the Winter Soldier, but we do frequently shove them in a corner, forgotten. We forget to speak to them directly, to treat them like people instead of broken objects.

Broken people are people still and even the ravaged scraps of humanity are worth protecting.

Categories: ordinary life, reviews | 1 Comment

Three Requests

Fourth Season of Battlestar Galactica.
Mortal Instruments: The City of Bones.
Star Trek Into Darkness
John Carter of Mars
Jack The Giant Slayer
The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Man of Steel

 

The above list is one of movies (and TV shows) that were panned by critics and/or belittled in the comments section on the Internet.
It’s also a list of movies that I thoroughly enjoyed. We can now add one more movie to this list: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
This post is something that’s been building up inside me for quite a while–but in reading the comment section of a site I regularly go to it finally bubbled out. Here you go.

Look, if a movie isn’t to your liking, that’s fine. Actually, that’s more than fine: if something’s not your cup of tea you have the right not to pretend to enjoy it. If you want to state the reasons you didn’t like something, that’s fine too. More than fine. Be passionate, be eloquent, be expressive. You have a right to your own opinion. It would be a sad, colorless world if everybody thought the same and liked the same things. But don’t call me a “pretentious idiot” or a “bad fan with bad taste” or any of the other hateful words thrown around the Internet just because I enjoyed the thing you didn’t like. I would make three requests of everyone posting opinions on the Internet, including myself.

1) Be honest when stating your opinions: don’t pre-judge based on someone else’s opinion. Go see the movie or go read the book before you start flinging around opinions. If you didn’t like because you didn’t like it, that’s one thing. If you’re tearing into it because you read a bunch of crap about it online, that’s another. You have the right to think for yourself and, if I may be so bold, the responsibility to exercise this right.

2) Be kind while you are typing your review or comment. Remember that real people will read it. Real people with real emotions that can be damaged with real consequences. While it is true that some people take things too personally and are extremely sensitive, that doesn’t excuse unkindness. Bullying isn’t okay just because you can’t see the other person’s face when you call their opinion or their work the “stupidest shit ever”.
3) Be respectful of people with a different opinion. Remember that any story is a two-way relationship between author and audience. No one is going to experience a movie in the exact same way as the person sitting next to them because we all bring a unique perspective to it. Each story means something different to each person who hears/reads/hears it. The question is: what did it mean to you?

So what is my unique perspective? Why did I enjoy both Man of Steel and Dawn of Justice?
I like this Superman because he’s quiet, understated. He reminds me of Helo from Battlestar Galactica: the incorruptible good man surrounded by chaos who is constantly misunderstood and consistently relied upon. This type (or should I say, archetype) of character is special to me. This Superman is reserved crusader and I, as an INFP, really connect with that. This Superman is humble and I am inspired by that. I struggle with pride: I like everyone to know what I’ve done. I wish I could be more like this Superman, who is humble and doesn’t require or desire the fanfare.

I loved the strong emphasis on the influence of mothers. So many stories skip over this, but Batman v Superman lingered here. Superman’s love for his mother is his strongest connection to humanity and that influence was clearly shown. Shown and celebrated. Maybe it’s me, because I have a very strong relationship with my mother…but this element really resonated with me.

This Batman made me stop and think. I see in him a lot of what I see in America right now: weary, losing hope, getting old and becoming accustomed to cruelty. Easily manipulated by fear. No longer believing that goodness and good men exist. His characterization warns me not to let my fears take control because they can be manipulated. If I no longer believe that good people exist, I won’t be able to recognize them even if they are standing in front of me. I won’t believe that I can be a good person…I won’t even try. Why should I? As Alfred so perfectly says, “It’s the feeling of helplessness that turns good men cruel.”
But, in this movie, Superman inspires Batman to hope again. To try again. Go ahead and laugh, but that inspires me. That’s why I liked this movie.

I’m not claiming Batman v Superman was a perfect movie. It wasn’t. There was a bit too much crammed in, it was disjointed…but I liked it. I consider it a good movie and I’m gonna see it again. Most importantly, my brother loved it. That’s the big guns in my argument here: please be kind and consider this before you call something a “worthless piece of garbage”.
It might be something precious to another person. Don’t call them stupid for having different taste and different needs.
In the interest of practicing what I preach…if you enjoyed the Star Wars prequels…that’s great. I prefer the Originals and Sequels but I’ll admit there’s merit in the prequels. Personally, I think they’re a bit half-baked, but hey, that’s what people are saying about Batman v Superman. I guess every movie has flaws and we love them in spite of it. We all just pick different flaws to ignore.

However, if you liked The Last Airbender movie, I’m gonna beg you to explain that to me.

 

 

Categories: INFP, reviews | Leave a comment

The one I’ve been dreading

This is the blog post that I have been dreading.
I’ve put it off for a long time, afraid to transpose thoughts into words…afraid of the finality of the written word. But it’s time and past, and so I will think it, and say it and write it.
My grandmother died last month.
One would think that, as a CNA, I would have a great deal of experience in dealing with death. One would think correctly: if there’s one thing I’ve learned in five years as a CNA, it’s how to grieve.
But all that experience feels like practice somehow, and I don’t mean to imply that I didn’t love those people dearly, that their passing didn’t and doesn’t hurt. It does, very much so.
This one hurts worse. This one lingers.

There’s a plaque that hangs in my room, bought years ago at a local Dollar General. It was cheap (only $12) and it rather shows. That thing’s been through hell in the varied forms of my turbulent teenage years and an EF-4 tornado…I’m not sure which survival impresses me more. I’m not even sure why I bought it. I hardly ever think about it, or even look at it…that is, until Grandma passed away.
Like I said, it’s a simple, cheap affair–perhaps even a little tacky: a small, square slab of fake stone decorated only with a spray of painted flowers and a quote by John Keats. The quote reads: “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.”

And that, folks, is my Grandma in a nutshell. I can think of no other, singular phrase that accurately sums up what she meant to me and all my best memories of her.
Grandma was a great lover of beauty, especially jewelry, home decor and food. She had the most exquisite taste and true talent when it came to combining shapes with colors. She had several pieces of what I call “iconic jewelry”, pieces she would always wear. One of these pieces, a gold ring set with two sapphires and a diamond, has had a profound influence on my taste: the first serious “for real” item of jewelry that I ever purchased was a gold ring with two sapphires and a diamond, set in the same order as Grandma’s ring, only with a more delicate band.
Apparently, the influence of that ring might not have been entirely accidental…as I found out on the day of the visitation. I noticed right off that something was missing: they had Grandma’s body decked with all her iconic pieces–except for the sapphire and diamond ring. I was quite distressed by this and even more distressed when I discovered the reason. Aunt Paula approached me and pulled it off her finger and gave it to me, along with a story. Apparently, Grandma had purchased that ring when I was born, telling Aunt Paula: “This is going to be Hannah’s one day.”
Well, that day turned out to be Friday, January 22, 2016…and Grandma, as much as I’ve always loved that ring, I do believe I would have preferred to wait several more years before claiming that inheritance.

Grandma, you will be sorely missed. Of all my family, you were one of the most accepting, both of Michael’s Aspergers and of my own prickly, contradictory nature. I knew how proud you were that I was going back to college, but I can’t thank you enough for never pushing me on the subject. Your grace with and fierce defense of Michael will alway be remembered with love and affection.
I love you and miss you so much.

Well, this wasn’t quite as bad as I thought it would be. A bit more cleansing that plain painful. Oh, who am I kidding. I’m freaking, sobbing mess right now and I need to go blow my nose now.

Categories: ordinary life | 3 Comments

This isn’t about Star Wars, I swear!

…except that it starts with Star Wars. Sorry, not sorry.
So, I went to see The Force Awakens again, this time with a good friend. Even after seeing it five times, I was still glued to the screen…that is, I was until something jarred me from the movie and I looked over my shoulder. This was during the final lightsaber battle and I wasn’t very pleased about being distracted. I’m still not sure what is was (someone might have kicked my seat, or it could have been a noise) but I’m glad it happened. Whatever the cause, my attention was quickly arrested by the sight of a young boy, no more than six, sitting on his father’s lap. He was…the only word I can find is awestruck, in the oldest possible sense. His jaw slack, his eyes wide and almost unblinking, he just sat there drinking it all in.
I didn’t turn back to the screen. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the boy anymore than he could tear his eyes from the battle. Instead, I watched the lights wash across his face: red and blue dancing in perfect sync to the music. Flickering as red chased blue; flashing as blue struck back. Back and forth, mixing, separating, clashing again. Always two colors, each trying to shove the other off his face.
Until the end, when red sputtered out and blue alone remained, it’s triumphant light illuminating his awed face. The boy drew a deep breath–I think he’d forgotten to breathe during the battle.
Then he turned to his dad and whispered frantically: “Her friend’s gonna be okay, right?”
I turned back to the movie, but part of me lingered in that moment, still watching colored lights tell a story of good and evil on a child’s face.

On the drive home, I had the hardest time figuring out why this had affected me so strongly. It wasn’t just the fight, although I love to see an action scene tell a story of emotion. It wasn’t just seeing the pure awe of a child, although I love to see uncynical appreciation for a good story.

As it always happens, the pieces connected themselves into a whole right as I was about to fall asleep.
A few months ago, one of the priests in my church had taken a young boy around to all the stained glass windows, using them to tell the story of our faith. “Saints are the ones who let the light in,” she said. “That’s why we love stained glass so much.”
Watching that boy in the theater had been an inversion of watching the boy in the church. At church, the boy had moved from image to image, staring up earnestly as colored light poured them. In the theater, the boy had sat still, staring up in awe as colors reflected off the screen, as image after image moved before him.

Two expression, one theme. Two boys, the same awe.
Throughout history and across cultures, we’ve used colors and light to express abstract ideas. I’ve always loved stained glass windows and I’ve always loved movies. Before now, it had just never occurred to me to link the two; that a movie, at its very best, can be a rapid succession of stained glass windows.

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Arthurian Symbolism in The Force Awakens

I love mythology. I love mythology retellings. I even find the Prequel Trilogy to be more palatable if I follow it by reading The Star Wars Heresies.
In fact, this is why I love Star Wars so much–it’s steeped in mythology and symbolism and I love it. I love pulling out the threads of older stories.
I’ll be honest…I wasn’t quite expecting The Force Awakens to continue that tradition…let alone continue it with the symbolism of one of my favorite mythologies. Maybe that’s why I’m loving it more and more each time I see it–a count which stands at three–right now, I’d have to rank it as #2 of my personal favorite of Star Wars, right after Empire. The Force Awakens combines two of my favorite mythologies: Star Wars and Arthurian legends.

Spoilers ahead. If you have not seen the movie, get thee to a theater before thou readest!

 

 

 

The search for Luke and the absolute reverence with which he is referred to put me in mind of an Arthurian staple: the Quest for the Holy Grail.
I’d say the map to Luke’s location is the Holy Grail appearing in Camelot at the Pentecost feast: the search for it kicks off the plot and it is fought over by the worthy and unworthy alike.
The Force is the Waste Lands, laid desolate by a young knight who slaughters a guest, unlawfully uses Spear of Destiny–betraying and wounding the Fisher King in the process. Balyn kills the king’s guest and uses the Spear to wound the Fisher King; Ben Solo slaughters his uncle’s apprentices, betrays Luke and tries to claim the lightsaber by brutal means at Starkiller base.
Luke himself also functions as the Holy Grail, in that he is the object of the Quest. Everybody has different objectives for finding him: Kylo Ren wants to kill him, Snoke just wants him to stay hidden, Leia wants his strength for her war. Rey, in the end, wants his training. You could also make an argument that Luke functions as the Fisher King as well. He is, after all, found on an island overlooking the ocean and he’s taken an emotional wound in the side by Ben’s betrayal.
I’d probably say that Luke’s old lightsaber is the Spear of Destiny…which is the spear used to maim the Fisher King and is sometimes connected with the spear that pierced Christ’s side. That’d certainly fit this lightsaber’s history as Anakin used it to commit his first atrocities as Vader. It’s used to commit an act of great evil but is thereafter used to further the triumph of the one it wounded.

In the Arthur legends, the Waste Lands and the Fisher King can only be healed when a knight (Galahad) proves himself worthy to hold the Spear and and drink from the Grail, undoing the damage that Balyn did. So: the Force can only be balanced when a Force sensitive person proves worthy to follow the map, carry the lightsaber and receive Luke’s training.

I would say that Rey is Galahad the Grail Knight, albeit a rather reluctant version. Either way, she’s young, of mysterious and isolated origins, seemingly untrained but unbelievably talented, and draws out a
sword of tainted legacy. Yes, I know I’m mixing up the metaphor here by double-casting the lightsaber as both Balyn’s sword and the Spear, as well as Luke as both Fisher King and Grail. In my defense, I’m not the only one who mixes up Arthurian symbols, however: almost everyone gets Excalibur and the Sword in the Stone confused. And speaking of…

 

The Grail Quest is not the only Arthurian interpretation of The Force Awakens. A slightly better known one is also applicable. You could structure it with Rey as the young Arthur and the lightsaber is both the Sword in the Stone and Excalibur…although presented in reverse fashion. That is, Rey is first offered the saber by a mysterious and ancient female handing it to her out of the depths–water in the legends, but I suppose the basement of a castle works too. (The Falcon does dramatically fly over the water before landing at the castle, which draws on the imagery of the Excalibur legend, the boat that takes Arthur to retrieve the sword.)
Then Rey draws it out of the snow like Arthur drew his sword out of the stone. Both actions are presented as an impossible feat…Rey because of her lack of training and Arthur for more obvious reasons. Both acts prove the character’s worthiness: Arthur to rule, Rey to take up Luke’s legacy.

As a bonus point for Rey-as-an-Arthur-figure…just look at her name. Yes, it evokes Luke’s own name as they both represent light: Luke is taken from the Greek word for light and Rey puts one in mind of a ray of light. It also invokes the once and future king: as Rey is Spanish for King. King of light, as it were. Well, female king of light.

 

Another Arthur bent to the story is the one told in the backstory and at the ending.
Kylo Ren aka Ben Solo stands fairly well in the place of Mordred, with Luke as King Arthur. Now, this doesn’t exactly match up as Mordred is usually presented as Arthur’s nephew (check)…and as his son. (Thankfully, they didn’t go there. People still haven’t quite recovered from the kiss between unknown siblings in Empire.)
Anyway, Mordred brings down Camelot by unexpected betrayal, aspiring to usurp Arthur’s place as King. Arthur, taking a wound at the battle in which he kills Mordred (I did say this wouldn’t line up exactly), retreats to the magic-steeped island of Avalon. He goes to recover from his mortal wound, but before he leaves, he tells his followers that he will return in the hour of Britain’s greatest need.
In this, Avalon is the island Rey finds Luke on, Luke is the Once and Future King and Rey, I would say, is all of us, telling him “Time to wake up, buddy. Hour’s here.”

Nothing quite matches up in a one-to-one correlation…but then, that’s a sign of good retelling. Yes, it uses the symbolism of an older tale but it also can stand as a complete and compelling story in its own right. Influenced but not a carbon copy. That’d just be boring.
I am, thanks to Mom, fairly more Arthur-obsessed than the average person. It’s very possible that I’m reading too much into the movie (I’m quite good at overthinking things). But, as Joseph Campbell says, there’s only one myth in the world, retold in a thousand different ways. His works have influenced Star Wars from the very beginning, so I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to think that Abrams and Kasdan looked to mythology for inspiration. If so, they’ve done an excellent job of retelling Arthur in a galaxy far, far away.

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The Force Awakens: Spoilers Ahead

Spoilers ahead! Turn back if you haven’t seen the movie!

It has taken almost 24 hours for The Force Awakens to sink in. Having absorbed and processed it, I can now say that I don’t think we would have gotten this movie had the prequels not been so…half-baked, so not quite right.
And that is not a condemnation. I felt betrayed by the prequels and I know other people did as well. No matter what, that feeling of betrayal sticks to Star Wars now, like a ghost. The makers of The Force Awakens chose to use those built-in emotions rather than ignoring or denying them: by doing so, I believe they crafted a heartbreakingly beautiful story. It’s painful, but oh, is it beautiful.

It’s like Kylo…Ben…is the prequel trilogy: obsessed with the wrong Skywalker. He’s convinced, as George Lucas was, that Anakin was the hero of the story and that belief has led him into the most vile of betrayals.
Before the bridge scene, I watched Han and thought, “He’s trying too hard.” At the time, I thought I was referring to JJ Abrams. Now I realize it was Han–and no wonder. When your hopes and dreams have been crushed so cruelly, of course you’d try too hard. He’s trying to go back into his old life–to be once again the Han Solo from Episode 4. But he’s grown too much since then, grown in joy and grief, to disappear into the selfish rascal. Truly, that scene on the bridge has to be one of the most painful things I have ever watched…but also one of the best bits of storytelling that I’ve ever seen.
I’ve never seen Kylo Ren be anything other than Kylo Ren, monster and murderer…and yet…on that bridge, I saw Ben Solo. I saw him in the spaces between the words; I saw him, reflected in the pain and love on Han’s face. I saw him and oh, how I wanted him to return…this person I’ve never met. I saw the good man’s son.
And then the light fades, the last rays of that sun extinguished and I saw the good man’s son commit evil…saw him become evil…and yet…
And yet, in the most vile of betrayals, I saw the purest love. In the blackest darkness, I saw the brightest light. A sad smile, a gentle touch. You can’t erase good, even if you kill it. Han dies forgiving his son, not blaming his wife or his friend for what has gone wrong. He forgives. His body might fall, but his spirit rises above. Good and love and loyalty…they are eternal, a Phoenix flame that is reborn again and again.
The same eyes in different people, as it were.

It is the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen…The Force Awakens is truly a story told almost completely in the subtext. The spoken words are but the echoes of the true drama; the frenzied action but the quiet murmur of the true struggle. I actually kept losing track of the physical action, I was caught up in the storm of emotions. Besides the bridge scene, three other moments stand out to me as the best distillation of the story.

A man with the birthright summons a lightsaber, but it won’t come to him. It sits quietly in the snow, in condemnation and mourning. You have been judged and found wanting. Good was your birthright and you turned away from it. You are not worthy to carry the weapon of Luke Skywalker. That legacy will pass to another.

BB-8 bumps a still R2-D2 and at first you think it’s a friendly hello. Then, he keeps insistently nudging him and you realize it’s something so much more bittersweet. It’s not “Hello”, it’s “Please wake up. Please wake up, my hero.”

Rey holds out the lightsaber to Luke as a musical score builds to an understated climax. That last moment is a question–a question and a challenge. A double-edged question at that. “Are you who I believe you to be? Will you be my teacher? Am I worthy of your legacy?”
In a meta-contextual way, it’s a challenge to Star Wars itself…by Star Wars.

Who is Luke Skywalker? What is Star Wars? Who are any of us?
Begin again. Chose again. Believe again.

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The Force Awakens: my spoiler-free thoughts

Michael, Dad and I went to see The Force Awakens on Saturday. Mom couldn’t go because flashing lights bother her eyes.

This is going to be at least a two-part reaction. Up first: my spoiler-free reaction.

~~~~~~

I’ll be honest: for one hideous second, I was afraid I hated the movie.

That moment passed. More moments passed and the movie ended. I just sat there, silent and still and completely overwhelmed. For one very long moment, I couldn’t remember how to string words together; I literally could not speak.

Then I turned to Dad and said: “I feel like I need to think for a week.”

Then I felt an overpowering urge to hug my family and tell them that I loved them.

Then I cried all the way home.

Then, when we got home it was like a comedy sketch, all three of us falling over each other, trying to get to Mom. I’ll never forget the look on her face–that look of absolute, dumbfounded bewilderment as the three of us, sobbing and staggering, rushed to hold her.

“Was it that bad?” she asked.

“No,” said Michael, “it was that beautiful.”

“I wanted you to be there so badly,” Dad told her.

“It was Star Wars,” I sniffled. “It broke my heart, but oh, was it beautiful and so Star Wars.”

We piled into the house, still crying, still reaching for each other. Jasper, Mom’s puppy, threw himself down and just panted. He’s such an empathic little dog that the poor guy was getting completely overwhelmed by the rampant emotions swirling around him.

~~~~~

30 hours later, I’m still drained. I felt like I’ve had a year’s worth of emotions crammed into me and I’m still processing. I wasn’t expecting to be this moved by it. I was expecting either exhilaration and excitement…or disdain and disappointment. I wasn’t expecting this reaction.

The Force Awakens was Star Wars, and oh, it was the most heartbreakingly beautiful thing I have seen in a long time. This is the movie I have been waiting for so long and oh, was it ever worth the wait. Go see it.

Like now.

I need to see it again.

This is Star Wars the way it should be.

 

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Fictional Happiness?

It should come as a surprise to no one that I’m very excited for The Force Awakens.
I can’t help it, it just makes me happy. Nor do I feel particularly apologetic for this excitement. It’s been a rough year and joy is always welcome in my life.
So yes, I’m the girl humming the Imperial March. I’m the girl who is the proud owner of a BB-8 shirt and three tickets to Star Wars. I’m the girl who jumps up and down in sheer joy when I see something Star Wars on the tv or the grocery store shelf. I’m the girl who is in love with BB-8 (just look at him…isn’t he the cutest thing ever?)
I’m also the girl with the biggest grin on my face. I am not about to apologize for my happiness or its fictional source. Yes, I know it’s “just a movie”. It still makes me happy–isn’t that real enough?
Some call it “escapism”…fleeing our stress-filled lives into a fantasy world. I’ve never seen it like that; I’m not escaping anything in the Galaxy Far, Far Away. I carry myself into the story…this means I carry with me the real world and all its problems. Stories–mine or others–have always moved me, have always been important to me. They are how I make sense of myself. I don’t have any perfect words to describe what it’s like to be me in the thrall of a story. There are no string of words sufficient to completely explain; I have to make do with imperfect words string inadequately together.

I’m never alone…and maybe that’s why I like time to myself. Stories aren’t beyond the waking world, they are behind my eyes. Closing my eyes is opening them onto that other world and whatever story is telling itself there. To be a part of a good story is an honor. Star Wars…well, the Original Trilogy…that’s a cornerstone, a touchstone. It’s one of the stories that has always been there for me; an experience repeated so often that it became, not rote, but ritual. No matter what was going on my life, I could always find myself in Star Wars.

So yes, I’m super excited for Star Wars and regardless of what the critics think of it, I am grateful for this period of delightful anticipation. Eager as I am to see the movie, I’m almost sorry it’s over.
To Disney and Lucasfilms, thank you. You’ve made me laugh and smile through a rough patch of this journey called life and for that, I thank you. It’s like balm for my soul to see my cherished friend from childhood given the love and respect it deserves.
So come on Saturday! I’m ready to discover new truths about myself, truths heralded in a John Williams score and illuminated by lightsabers.
I’m ready to be delighted by an old friend. Star Wars might be fiction, the joy it has brought into my life is real. And it’s being shared.

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Courtyard

I’ve always loved courtyards.

Like so many things in my life, this can be blamed on early and prolonged exposure to C.S. Lewis…more specifically, to his Chronicles of Narnia series. From an early age, I fell in love the idea of courtyard. I loved the way it sounded when Mom read the word aloud. “Courtyard”. 

I always thought it sounded like a promise. 

My love affair with courtyards was only strengthened by a series of picture books about the Eygptians, Greeks and Romans. All three presented me with images of a variety of courtyards. I decided that courtyards were special places.

I’m not a child any longer. Right now, I’m an adult, sitting at Ivy Tech. I’m waiting for my 6:00 pm class on Public speaking. There are many places to wait in Ivy Tech. Both buildings are chock-full of little lounges, besides the official Internet cafe and library, of course. I’m not a child any more, but I’ve rejected those options today. Instead I chose to sit on a bench outside. In front of me, there is a courtyard with a fountain centerpiece; behind me is a second courtyard, this one with a clock as its focal point. My bench is located in an open-air walkway that divides the two courtyards. 

It’s peaceful here, quiet, wrapped in an almost contemplative stillness that is enhanced rather than broken by the continuous splash of the fountain and distant traffic. People either sit like me, quietly enjoying the beautiful day, or they are scurrying to class. 

I’m an adult now, but despite all the changes in and around me, I still love courtyards. I still think the word sounds like a promise.

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