Harry Potter lives in a cupboard under the stairs and his family hates him. That sucks! I don’t want to be Harry Potter.
It’d be cool to be Ironman except for the part where evil super villains are always trying to rip your arms off.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching Walter White turn into a badass drug lord in “Breaking Bad.” Was it just me or did you really want to cook some meth afterwards? Honestly, I probably won’t cook any meth this week. It’s too risky and my schedule’s pretty full.
What’s fascinating to me the more I learn about story structure is: how all the core elements of story are the things we spend our real lives avoiding.
Stories are built on trouble, conflict, and danger. We’d rather watch an infomercial about stepladders than a story with no conflict. We’d never watch a story about somebody taking a safe flight from Boise to Buffalo, but as soon as you sprinkle in some skydiving, explosions, or some hijacking… we’re interested.
It’s funny to think that the path to becoming a hero is free for everyone. There’s no secret recipe. It’s just a scary undertaking. Way too risky for most of us. Who wants to face their deepest fears, have all their loved ones reject them, or wake up hungover in the shrubbery behind the Wal-Mart loading zone to realize they’ve finally hit rock bottom?
But sometimes I do catch myself wishing that I had a shittier childhood. Or that I could have a near death experience.
I heard a podcast this morning with a guy who got smashed in a head-car collision at 70 miles/per hour by a drunk driver. He was clinically pronounced dead for 6 minutes before the medics saved him. He spent three weeks in a coma, and came out of that coma with a profound gratefulness for life. What’s more, he awoke with a steel-hard resolution for how he wanted to help people, how he wanted to improve the world, and how he wanted to contribute, give back, show his appreciation for his blessed gift of life by returning that gift to others.
It’s a beautiful story. And all I can do is be jealous.
Luckily we have stories to teach us those lessons, and to inspire us, without having to actually cook the meth or fight the crime lords ourselves. But is it enough to just read those stories? Is that enough to become a hero myself? Can I really learn those lessons second-hand? …That’s the question.