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Thursday, November 21, 2013

THE SUPERHERO WITHIN US



          A few weeks ago, my awesome wife and I were out on a dinner and movie date, which was especially fantastic because: 1. I was with my awesome wife, and 2. because we went to see the movie “THOR: The Dark World!”
           Maybe it’s just because of my Viking ancestry and genetics, which hold deep within me a hidden urge to do battle against evil foes, but I loved the movie, and it got me to thinking about why I (and probably most of us by looking at the box office totals) love Superhero movies and stories so much.  I mean, who hasn’t ever dreamed about being able to fly, punch through walls, and basically being indestructible while saving the world from the forces of evil?

          Okay, so enough about me being the body stunt-double for Superman in the Man of Steel movie, Back to my story!
          I’m sure that all of us, even if we are pretty nice guys and gals, would have to admit there’s also a part within us, that when we get cut off in traffic, get frustrated or upset at a jerk of a co-worker, or any other annoyance would love to unleash our inner-hulk and just SMASH stuff into oblivion!

          Fortunately for ourselves and society, we are all pretty good at keeping the big green guy hidden in the deep recesses of our soul most of the time.  But just so you can get it out of your system, I will include a link to the video below.

But I think that rather than just smashing stuff, the reason we are drawn to the pull of these heroic characters is found within their moniker, “Super Hero”.  There is something about them that is bigger and better than just an average person going through life, something “Super” and “Heroic.”  These characters all have inner weaknesses and flaws which they are trying to overcome, but hidden within them is something much greater, which is such a force for so much good if they can just tap into it.
          Despite what we might think, the idea of having super powers affects our behavior more than we realize.  I remember reading a report on a study last year (which unfortunately I cannot find the link to now), wherein the participants in the study were instructed to play a virtual computerized game.  In both scenarios, the participants were flying around a large virtual city trying to rescue people by finding and providing them with medication or other items they needed to survive.  In one of the two scenarios, the study participants were flying around performing these tasks in a helicopter.  In the second scenario the participants had the actual ability to fly themselves (like superman) to perform the same tasks.  What was interesting was that in every case, when the participants had the super gift of flight, they were much more attentive and quick to respond to the needs of the virtual scenarios in the game and complete them in a faster time period to save more people.  Whereas when they were flying about in a helicopter at the same speed, there was a slower response time and they were less engaged and attentive to the tasks.  It was as if there was a partial detachment when they were in the helicopter, but when they had the power within themselves to fly, there was a greater sense of personal responsibility attached to helping others.
          So why is it that we have this subconscious affinity to want to be Superheroes or have increased abilities to perform?  I think it is because we can all find some personal relationship to a hero.  Let’s take Spiderman for example.
          He’s just a nerdy student, struggling to fit in and trying to work a regular job to support himself, while at the same time somehow using his little available free time to swing into higher heights,

and despite the incredible odds against him, is able to get the girl of his dreams and save the world in the end.

          We all have our personal struggles in trying to fit in, find the inner confidence we are searching for, find the hidden strength and wisdom to conquer our weaknesses.  But I think it goes even deeper than that.
          There is a wonderful line in the movie “Avengers” which I am sure you are all familiar with, where one of my favorite heroes, Captain America is about to join in a fight with some very powerful “god-like” beings.  Another character is trying to convince him that he is too small for the task and should sit the fight out.  His response is truly inspired as you will remember in the clip below:

          That line which reveals where Captain America gets his true strength, resolve and courage from, “There’s only one God, Ma’am” is where I believe the key to this whole superhero phenomenon comes from.
          Hidden within each of us, trapped behind the mundane routines of working, school, eating, sleeping and the drudgery of life… Is a truly divine and powerful being!  Though the business of life sometimes clouds our realization and understanding of this fact, the “more than human/super” being within us relates to these fictitious heroes and calls out to us that we all have the potential to be more than what we are in everyday life.  There is more of the god-like Thor within us than we realize.
          The truth is that we are all godly offspring and children of a loving Heavenly Father, the one true God which Captain America was talking about.  If we will turn to Him, we can find that hidden super courage, faith, strength and commitment to overcome any challenge in life and become a force for good in the world which is far more wide-reaching that we know.
          How can I make such a claim?  Because I already have the proof and example of this fact in the greatest and most powerful being and hero to ever walk this planet, the Savior Jesus Christ.  Without any monetary or political power, His example of righteousness, commitment to obedience, love, service and sacrifice have literally changed the world and shaped nations!  He showed us what true power really is, what is actually achievable and how many lives can be affected for good throughout time and eternity.
          His call to “Come, follow me” is more than just an invitation to be better people, but also helps us realize that if we are willing to nurture the divine spark within us as sons and daughters of God, that He can lift us and help us become something much more heroic and super than we are!
          So go ahead and enjoy those superhero movies and stories, where the characters battle impossible odds and dig deep to find the strength, courage and resolve to continue on and conquer.  But as you do, don’t forget to see yourself as that same champion on the screen, for if God is on your side, there is more of a superhero within you than you realize!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Masks We Hide Behind



          My oldest and youngest sons have both been very brilliant stage actors throughout their high school years.  In fact, my youngest son is currently a senior in high school and will be performing in “Little Women” this coming weekend.
          Over the years they have played a variety of different rolls in many classic Shakespeare plays, musical such as South Pacific, Thoroughly Modern Millie, My Fair Lady, dramas such as Julius Caesar, murder mysteries, and even one appearance as the lovable lead in Winnie the Pooh (although I won’t reveal any pictures of this one as to not embarrass my son). 

           My oldest son also played a role in a college performance adaptation of The Princess Bride, which was utterly hilarious (he was he hit of the show) & performed a piece in which he portrayed a handicapped child which always moved me to tears and with which he competed at the Nationals in Witchita, Kansas his senior year in high school.
          I have always been fascinated by their performances as they transformed themselves through the magic of make-up, costumes, accents and stage lights into ancient Senators and noblemen, Navy Commanders,
Retired Army Generals,

Chinese Immigrants and so forth.


          My limited acting experience came in Jr. High when I played a dimwitted father in a little known comedy called, “The Rise and Fall of Wilbur’s Empire.”  I got plenty of laughs playing the part of a not-so-smart-and –slow-on-the-uptake dad, although I was probably only good in the role because it came naturally to me!
          I guess thinking about my son’s performances got me wondering about what it is about theater, movies and so forth that interests us and engages our senses so much.  I think part of it is the fact that during the time of the performance or show, we are able to escape into a false reality for a period of time where we don’t have to face the actualities of life.
          Part of the reason may also be that even though many of us may never have acted on stage or in film in our lives, most of us have probably worn “artificial personality masks” of some kind or another in our public lives and interactions.  In essence, we are displaying in public a different kind of personality or traits than we do when we are in private.
          Now I know that we all likely act a little bit different in private than we do in public, and that may not always be a bad thing.  When in the confines of our own home, you may not hesitate to pass gas, scratch an awkward itch or walk around in your underwear – things we hopefully would modify and not display in the public arena.  But that’s not the kind of thing I’m talking about here.
          What I’m thinking about is more of a Phantom of the Opera kind of thing.  Wherein we put on a mask that makes us look dignified, professional, patient, honest and kind...


but then in our private life at home with our family we take off that fake persona and reveal a personality that is more mean, condescending, rude, dishonest, unfaithful or internally hideous.


That leads me to the question about the importance of honesty and integrity.  Integrity is defined by our friends at Merriam-Webster as: 1. The quality of being honest and fair, 2. The state of being complete or whole, 3. Firm adherence to a code of especially moral values: incorruptibility, 4. The quality or state of being complete or undivided: wholeness
          To illustrate this point I will borrow a few images which demonstrate how our beliefs, words and actions align to create integrity at the center of what we do.


          If we are not completely honest with ourselves and allow our actions to differ from our words and beliefs then our lives become less balanced, off-centered, and filled with hollowness or even darkness inside.


          I believe that true happiness and lasting inner peace can only be achieved when all three factors: Actions, Words and Beliefs come into an almost full alignment with each other, and especially when they are based upon the principles of righteousness, love, kindness, service and charity.

          I’m sure that if all of us take a good, long hard look in the mirror and into our hearts, we will all find areas of our lives where the phony masks, drama and fake personality traits could benefit from being stripped away and replaced with who we really are.  Only then can we begin the true transformation which will allow the character on the stage of our lives, to become the actual person we are inside.  And to complete that transformation is a truly brilliant and wonderful performance to behold.