You would think my last post was ‘the Halloween post’ but no. This is it. Because it has vampires and demons and death.
Also because the main picture is a veritable sugar explosion.
You see, going after what you want is crazy hard work. And you doubt yourself and second guess yourself and generally make things more difficult than they need to be.
Because you need a rudder.
And Veles goes into some compelling detail about where he found his rudder during a mostly shitty time in his life.
Heroes make great rudders. But you have to choose the right ones.
Being an amateur mythologist, I delight in extracting seemingly limitless value from mythology, deeming a myth as true if it enriches or improves your life in some way.
And being a chaos magician, I’m only too happy to broaden this useful yardstick out to fictional worlds. Let’s be clear, I’m doing this in a grown up way. You don’t invoke Eric Cartman, you simply finding guidance in worlds that started in somebody’s head.
There are limits to this approach, of course: The only ‘transformatively effective’ fictional characters are based on the same 7 narrative archetypes that have been adopted from mythology, anyway. So the practice has some natural boundaries. And besides, invoking fictions seems to me kinda like using an antique samurai sword to butter your toast. Sure, you can do it, but it feels somehow inappropriate. (Also the waitress may ask you to leave.)
If you are interested in all of this, I really must insist you watch The Power of Myth. It’s more than twenty years old, Joseph Campbell is long dead and it’s a PBS talking heads documentary. For legal reasons I can’t openly recommend you torrent what is an unbelievably difficult-to-find, public-educational series, but ask yourself this: Who are you stealing from in this instance? (Donate to PBS if you feel yuck about it.)
The limitations of superheroes
Buffy. Hilariously, she is more of a hot button issue than any aspect of genuine theology in certain pagan corners of the magical world, so let me start by pinning my colours to the wall.
This is just some of my personal Buffyverse collection. Yes, that is a Buffy The Vampire Slayer themed ouija board. (It may get some use this weekend, actually.) Items not shown include books about Buffy, The Watcher’s Guide, the original movie and the Sunnydale Class of 99 Yearbook.
I show you this for two reasons. To indicate that I am a fan of the slayer, clearly, but also -in reference to my previous torrent comment- as proof that I do actually pay for media.
You see, Buffy is a superhero.
There is only one of her (then 2, then temporarily thousands). She is born to stop apocalypses. She stands apart from mankind like the ancient demigods because of her sacred origin. Just like it is with Superman, she looks like us but she will never be us.
Hence her popularity with high school kids, of course, because feeling entirely alone and misunderstood in all the world pretty much sums up that condition. One of my lecturers at university described the show as “group therapy for teenagers.” (He may have been quoting one of the producers there, actually. Yes, I studied Buffy in university.)
Angel, on the other hand, is just a man with an infection. He was food one night. Wrong place, wrong time. Angel is us. He is someone trying to deal as best he can with what life throws at him. He is giving it his best shot.
Buffy is born into championship. She has no choice. Angel has to earn it. Which is why the show is substantially more mature. It is about making compromises and value judgements. (Will you do evil things for the greater good?) We see Angel navigating the continuous grey area that is living your adult life. He doesn’t even get the girl in the end.
Angel shows us that there is a difference between ‘having superpowers’ -which we could consider the use of magic in our own lives- and ‘being a superhero’ -which we cannot personally speak to.
The last few series of Angel they refer to his mission as “fighting the good fight”, even though it is apparent he is probably not going to win. The final series is left open because Angel’s story -like your own- doesn’t end. Buffy, being the equivalent of a demigod, gets a Ragnarok. But Angel’s last words in his show are “let’s go to work”.
We leave with him getting on with it.
Who do you think might be more useful to you as a rudder?
Your heroic checklist
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you want to be saved or do you want to find the courage to win?
- Do you need to be a superhero or do you just need to make better use of your superpowers?
- Do you actually need superpowers?
And perhaps the most important one:
- What is the one thing would you do if you knew you could not fail?
Because superheroes have an immovable destiny. You have something much better. You have a choice.
Let me use a final mytho-fictional example. At university, I did a paper on Xena. (It seems I have long had a bit of a thing for New Zealand.) And yes, this was in the same class as the Buffy paper. Film degrees are fairly fluffy but they’re not that fluffy.
One of the show’s producers was talking the difference between Hercules and the spin-off character Xena. She said “Hercules is the hero you hope is out there when you need saving. Xena is the hero you hope is inside you.”
So when Monday rolls around and you take your costume off, I have one more question to ask you. Who are you going to come dressed as?
Happy Halloween, my lovely little heroes.