Is it too much to ask that something great happen in our lives? I mean monumental. I think that most of us went through that phase in our early teens when we KNEW we were destined for great things. We were handpicked to lead lives of consequence. As I approach midlife and realize that the likelihood is lessening, I still find myself drawn to themes of greatness.
I can remember being a teenager and reading Lord of the Rings and learning the elvish alphabet. My friends and I developed these back stories about our elvish character selves. We felt like we had a secret knowledge that we were really going to be something special someday. Of course it was fantasy, but I wonder if that is something that fades with time or is it that thing that draws us to stories of the same theme, whether it’s a movie or a book or an old wives tale.
I picked up The Hunger Games right before the Thanksgiving holiday and even though the first couple of pages didn’t impress me, I found that I was unable to put the book down and finished the entire trilogy in 4 days. The writing style was very simple and first person, and don’t skewer me here, but very reminiscent of Stephanie Meyer (I actually read all the Twilight books). The theme, however, was one of destiny and greatness. Being in the head of the protagonist made it seem almost mundane, the things Katniss (I hate that name BTW) was able to do, but when the chips were down she always made the “right” choice.
It got me thinking about when I was the same age as Katniss and thought that I was going to do amazing things at some point in my life and it made me wonder if this is a universal thing. Is it part of the human condition that makes us all strive through the bullshit in our lives with that inner knowing that on the other side of all the bad stuff we will do something important? I wonder if this is one of the reasons writers write — to tap into that expectation of greatness.
Heroic themes are my favorites and if you want to see a grown man cry the way to go is not with a sad story, but with a heroic one, at least for me. The word Heroic sums up a lot of themes, and it’s hard to find a word to replace all the meaning encapsulated within it. You can say Brave or Chivalrous or Bold or Courageous or Gallant or Great, but nothing quite compares. I wonder if many of us are still secretly hoping we will get that epic moment to shine. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat in the passenger section of a commercial jet and wondered if today would be the day when the flight attendant would come back and ask if there was a pilot among us to land the aircraft because something had happened to the pilots.
Our society seems to have a pathological drive to follow the rich and famous. Is it because we are still seeking the Heroic in our lives? This seems like a bit of a perversion of the pure Heroic, but it’s something to fill the void left by our own lack of greatness perhaps.
I think there is a thirst for heroes and epic moments. It seems like a black hole that can’t be filled, and the medium doesn’t seem to matter as long as the story has weight. It’s why Harry Potter and The Hunger Games are so popular and why the publishing industry is so desperate to find the next J.K. Rowling, because they know we have that thirst. Even if our lives aren’t going to have that heroic moment we can’t stop hoping for it and seeking heroic things.
All of you writers out there, this is a shout out for more heroic stories! Maybe we can’t fill the void but we can see the need and do our best to try to give people what they want to read. Maybe as writers this is our way to greatness! I can dream…