Thursday, April 17, 2014

Of Heroes and Hollowness

The first time I watched the last Star Wars movie, I cried.  It wasn't out of relief that the series was over or frustration at the terrible special effects or even cornily embarrassing sympathy for the characters' happy endings; it was because Luke ended up alone.  Hans had Leia and Leia had Hans, but Luke had no one.  He'd saved the universe and he didn't have anyone to share a victory kiss with.

That's the way it is with the great heroes of Story, most times.  Luke, Frodo, Cyrano.  Beowulf.  Joan of Arc.  I cry for them, I think, because it hurts me that they have to be.  I'm not alone in the sense that I have a wonderful, loving family and many devoted friends, but romantically, I've always been alone, and although I wouldn't choose otherwise, it does hurt.  Sometimes I've thought it was because God wanted me for Himself, either as a religious or consecrated woman living in the world; sometimes, that the right guy has to be out there somewhere and will come along in due time; sometimes I've felt entirely content to be single forever, and other times have thrown up my hands in frustration with God and His preposterous, ungovernable creation of romantic love.  But it does seem fitting.  The makers of stories have to be able to feel all that their characters feel, after all.  Artists, actors, writers of songs and poems and fables, we have to be hollowed out as it were, our insides chipped away by loss or failure or in my case, mental illness, to make room for all the joy and grief and love and despair we must feel, if our characters are to feel them.  Maybe you have to be hollowed out this way to be a mother or father or priest, too; I wouldn't know.  I only know that, whatever happens in that distant and nebulous place we call the future, it's fitting that I should be alone now.  I can't be a hero, but I must know what it's like to be one.

I was wondering why the heroes have to be alone.  Surely they've earned happiness on a human level, if anyone has.  But then I remembered: Christ was.  He won His Bride the Church when He died, but when He died, He was alone, as alone as alone can be.  He lets me hurt for the heroes and He lets me hurt for Him.  The stories all lead back to Him.  We makers of stories, we hollow ones, how blessed we are to be hollow, how blessed we are to be hurt.  To cry with grief when our Hero dies, and with happiness when He rises triumphant.  To carry all these things in our hearts, as Mary did.

Ride on, my heroes.  Ride in His wake.  Ride through His passion and His glory.  I will follow you, pen in hand.


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