The Beauty of Uncommon Words

I think that the crass language we hear so often today is simply a matter of an underdeveloped vocabulary. Choosing four-letter expletives as recourse to express our frustration with something is too easy, and too abrasive. There are many, less common words that adequately communicate our frustration, while keeping a comic element to alleviate the situation and help us to laugh at ourselves. 

Think of “nincompoop.” Or “dunderpate.” Try tossing those out the next time you’re completely maddened by the actions of the car in front of you during your morning commute. 

There. Now didn’t that feel better? 

The Nature of a Hero: Epilogue?

So, I’ve talked a lot in recent posts about these categories that I’ve come up with about the nature of a hero; that is, what defines a hero in popular mythology, fiction, comic books, science fiction, or whatever genre in which they appear. I’ve been working through this to help organize my thoughts for the novel on which I’m (slowly) working, because I want to explore this theory of heroism with the characters. Also, I think that this has a direct impact on our daily lives in more ways than we realize.

I was thinking about the general categories that I’ve formulated a couple of weeks ago, and I thought that there is another important aspect of the hero in fiction that I should mention, although this one doesn’t involve the hero so much as the other people impacted by the hero.

A hero does a sort of performance, like an actor. They arrive from nowhere, take on an evil that we cannot hope to overcome on our own, defeats that evil, and flies away wanting no thanks or reward other than to know that they’ve done good. As with an actor giving a performance, though, there is another component to this: the audience. When a hero fights and defeats a villain, there are other people involved in the situation, and that is those whom the hero is saving. This may be as simple as the damsel tied to the train track in cheesy old black and white films, or Lois Lane’s helicopter falling from a tall building to be caught by Superman, or the scientist and her friends standing behind the powerful figure of Thor as he defeats an extradimensional death machine. The hero is acting to preserve life, so there is a friend, a loved one, or a stranger…or a group thereof…in the shadow of the hero, applauding when the job is finished because it is their lives that have been saved.

Those other people…the rest of us, if you will…are forever impacted by the actions of the hero. An important part to any hero story is how we respond. This is a sort of epilogue to the story, because we have some basic choices as the everyman character in these stories as to how we respond to the hero’s actions, because not responding, or pretending that our lives haven’t been effected, isn’t an option, at least not one that will really hold up.

We can choose to live in gratitude, and choose to become a hero ourselves, as much as we can in our own lives. Or, we can choose to dismiss the event, pretending that it has not altered us in any substantial way, and go on with our lives until we’ve convinced ourselves to forget. We can even go the opposite way, and become angry, choosing the path of the villain or the antihero.

The amazing part of this…the thing that makes comic books and other superhero stories so profound…is that these types of events occur in all of our lives at some point, and they do impact us forever. Obviously,  Spiderman doesn’t swoop down to catch the purse snatcher in “real life,” but first responders do. Fellow citizens jump onto subway tracks to save the seizing child. People put themselves in harm’s way every day to save someone that they don’t know, and the person that is saved will never be the same after that moment. There are philosophical implications to this, there are sociological implications to this, and there are enormous faith implications to this. What’s so amazing, though, and what makes these stories resonate so deeply with the human condition, is that they have occurred, or will occur, in all of our lives at some level and in some way, leaving us unable to see the world in the same way as we did up until that point.

Then, we have to decide what to do with that, because we have been forever changed by a hero.

Photo Attribution: shauser under Creative Commons

Outside the Boxes

Sometimes compartmentalization works.

I’m sure you’ve either read or heard about the theory…I’d call it more than a theory…that most men are able to close off portions of their mental processes into various boxes or  compartments, which is how we’re able to stop thinking about work when at home and vice versa. Women are more holistically wired on the average, and everything is there all the time. That’s arguably a better arrangement, but leads to some difficulties in communication between the ladies and the gents at the end of the day. 
Karen, recognizing this, was encouraging me this morning to create a new box in my head for important functions. She understands my psychology at this point. I’m working on it. It’s one of those moments when I think compartmentalizing is a good thing. 
On a different note, though, I don’t think compartmentalization works in education. I haven’t talked about it here for a while, but I’m huge fan of interdisciplinary models of education, and I’m thrilled to see more universities launching programs in interdisciplinary studies as a push-back against the hyper-credentialed model of the professional world in which we currently exist, and by which we are currently limited. 
When I think of how the pressure for the current model of compartmentalized disciplines that don’t talk to each other came about, I wonder if Cain’s concept of the “extrovert ideal” had something to do with it? She talks about how extroverts tend to be overly competitive, as well as brashly persuasive, and thus tend to end up in leadership roles more frequently. I think that introverts tend to be more introspective and less the fence-builders to prevent collaboration. I wonder, in fact (and I say this a bit selfishly as an introvert) if an introvert came up with this concept of interdisciplinarity. 
Perhaps the reason we don’t talk between disciplines nearly as much as we should, is the same reason why we aren’t willing to talk amongst ourselves in polite discourse. 
I love it when these ideas come together. It’s so…interdisciplinary…
Photo Attribution: lovlihood under Creative Commons