Quest vs. Conquest: Terrible Privlege vs. Glorious Purpose

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Quest:  “a long and arduous search for something” or “An expedition undertaken in medieval romance by a knight in order to perform a prescribed feat

While those definitions aren’t “bad” ones, I prefer the concept of a quest that’s advocated by Tim Keller:  A quest is a journey that, in it’s undertaking, you either die or you return from it so changed that you cannot go back to your life as you knew it before.”  Built into the idea of a “quest” is uncertainty.  Inherent within is the possibility of failure; victory is not assured.  Contrast that with the idea of conquest.  In the 21st Century that term tends to be used by men in connection with exploits of a sexual nature.  It’s a term that indicates that “victory” is assured, or has already happened and it’s being told after the fact.  There is no uncertainty here, no opportunity for development of character when one considers conquest.  Conversely, a Quest is all about growth of character.

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Pixels of the The Mushroom Kingdom in Real Life

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In 1985 a little video game company named Nintendo took video games to a new level with Super Mario Bros, a game chronicling the adventures of two plucky Italian plumbers – Mario and Luigi – through the Mushroom Kingdom as they raced to save the princess (Princess Toadstool) from the evil Koopa King (later renamed Bowser).  Utilizing different environments to signal progression through the game – subterranean, light, dark –  the 32 levels long defined the basic of platform gaming (refined by leaps, bounds and raccoon tails via Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World) until the release of Mario 64 – for Nintendo 64 – in 1996.

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The Professor and the Jedi Master…

Posted on by Aaron in Comic Books/Superheroes, Star Trek, Star Wars | 2 Comments

“Sometimes, being Yoda sucks; you can quote me on that” – Me to a friend as I slowly, stiffly, and not without help, walked out of the movie theater last weekend.

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Be a Hero, not a Dwarf

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I’d imagine that many across the United States may be taking time this Fall to re-read The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien because part one of the silver-screen adaptation releases this December.  I’ll be the first to say I’ve already done that with a long standing reading group in Washington, DC – associated with National Community Church – called The Inklings.  Our group is named after the reading group that both Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were involved in that met at a pub in Oxford, England and previously we’ve joked about putting a “2.0” or “Reloaded” after it.  *Insert lame reference to The Matrix Trilogy here*

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Humility and the Death Star: If you don’t build it, it can’t blow up on you.

Posted on by Aaron in Comic Books/Superheroes, Star Wars | 3 Comments

Humility.  If you’re honest with yourself you’ll admit you don’t like this word very much.  You might even admit that you hate that word; not just it’s meaning. but the spelling and sound of it too.  Chances are the feeling of loathing might come from more than just “It’s the word that lost me the school-wide spelling-bee in 4th Grade”  Forget using the word in a sentence; if a sentence were the center of the universe, this word is the farthest thing from it.  It conjures up images foreign to the 21st Century “culture of self-celebrity” we’ve created for ourselves.

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GI Joe and The Gospel: Be the “Anti-Destro”

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When GI-JOE:  Real American Hero premiered in the early 80′s as a television companion to already published comic-books, viewers were introduced to an eclectic cast of characters comprising the ranks of both “The Joes:  America’s Highly Trained Special Mission Force” and “Cobra:  an evil terrorist organization determined to rule the world.”  One of the craftier villainous characters was Destro, a partner to Cobra Commander in his nefarious plots at world domination and destruction who wore a metal mask.  Born James McCullen Destro, of Scottish clan McCullen, Destro was the founder and CEO of Military Armament Research Systems (MARS) Industries, a weapons manufacturer whose technology and profits often fueled Cobra’s evil missions of terror and world-domination, as clan McCullen had long been the suppliers of weapons in various conflicts throughout history (imagine an evil Tony Stark/Iron Man).  As such, Destro uses his wealth, position, and influence for evil and does so willingly.  Nevertheless, he would, and sometimes did, work against Cobra if it is in his interest as ultimately Destro served himself.

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Heroes and a Telephone Pole: You Don’t Know the Power of your Life

Posted on by Aaron in Comic Books/Superheroes, Star Wars | 1 Comment

In the Star Wars three-quel, Return of the Jedi, Darth Vader famously tells Luke Skywalker:  “You don’t know the power of the Dark Side” as a statement of finality and admission to the grim hold Emperor Palpatine had upon Vader’s life.  Fortunately, we know that all changed shortly thereafter.    Think for a moment on the power of those two lives within that fictional universe.  Darth Vader: innocent; chosen; hopeful; hoped in to bring balance to the Force and Justice to the Galaxy as one of the greatest Jedi Knights; powerful; eager; reckless; a Hero of humble beginnings; too self-aware; arrogant; prideful; discontent; susceptible; a deceiver and deceived; fallen; enslaved; instrument of tyranny; destroyer of millions; redeemed.   Luke Skywalker:   innocent; chosen; hopeful; hoped in to bring balance to the Force and Justice to the Galaxy; powerful; eager; reckless; a Hero of humble beginnings; humbled; learned; self-sacrificing; truthful; caring of friends and family; champion over evil; agent of redemption.  Two hyperspace lanes diverged in a star system…and Luke Skywalker took the one less navigated through.  Two lives, with such an effect on an entire galaxy and a far reaching legacy that bled over into (at least) the next generation.

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Learning Patience: When Life Takes Longer

Posted on by Aaron in Comic Books/Superheroes, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

This might be the sort of blog post you expect to see written by someone with an AARP card or maybe a parent with young kids – like my best friend and his wife  – but I’m neither.  I’m about a quarter-century away from the card and a long way off from being a dad; right now my aspiration to be the geeky uncle the future kiddos want to hang out with is quite enough in that department.  Despite being somewhat youthful still, I don’t move at a rushed pace as if I have a super-villain by the lapel, ready to right-cross him with the mighty Fist of Justice, and then win a race against The Flash.  The pace is more akin to the three-legged and worn steadiness of Jedi Master Yoda, exuding great bursts of physical energy only when such is needed.  This pace is most evident to me when I travel, which I recently did.  I do my best to arrive at the airport with more time than I need as I rarely run though the airport in danger of missing a flight, although that happened recently.  Only once have I actually run the length of an airport – with the walker – to ensure I made a flight on time and the subsequent exhaustion and pain made me feel like I had just run in the Special Olympics like when I was much younger; trying to talk to my parents by phone after being rushed onto the plane by the flight crew wasn’t a walk in the park either.

More often than not I slowly meander my way to the gate, one step at a time, minding my surroundings like Bruce Wayne was taught to do in Batman Begins.  Often times I take the time at the gate to rest, because you never know who you’ll meet on the plane, if a conversation will happen, or the energy it might take.  Nowadays I opt for a seat near the rear of the plane, since I generally board first, have to deal with less passenger traffic that way, and always have to wait for the plane to empty to get my walker when the plane lands.  Same goes for when I get off the plane and on to where I am going.

Time is all we have, and we don’t even know how much.  Rushing from one place to the next is rarely beneficial; who knows what – or who – you’ll miss.  Right now I’m in one of the best periods of life, as things have been forced to slow down due to my former boss’s resignation and the shift in focus to finding what is next in life after six-plus years of working in Congress.  Instead of being beholden to the tyranny of the urgent, I can take the time to search, write, question, and try to determine what the next chapter, I daresay the next Quest, will be; I am not rushing it at all.

When you rush, it’s like blinking; when you blink, you miss it.  Don’t Blink.  The slower path is often better – here’s to the slow path – the one whereby you arrive precisely when you are meant to, for the road goes ever on and on; down from the door where it began; now far ahead the road has gone and I must follow if I can…

Which path are you on and what might you be missing?

Luthor Syndrome: The Challenge of Entitlement and Disability’s Dark Side

Posted on by Aaron in Comic Books/Superheroes | 1 Comment

Lex Luthor.  While not the most famous of villains in Science Fiction or Fantasy – that distinction goes to Darth Vader – he’s close, in most minds ranking equal to The Joker and Magneto (and unfortunately higher than my favorites, Ra’s Al Guhl and Darkseid); he’s the Gordon Gekko of DC Comics (unless someone wants to throw Bruce Wayne – not Batman – into that role).  Of these nefarious characters, he is the most relateable; yes, even more so than Magneto.  While some would certainly argue different as to the relateability of the character – probably because of Luthor’s stature and wealth – it’s the seven seasons of Smallville that make the case, thanks to a brilliant turn by Michael Rosenbaum.  It’s the transformation of Lex into the character the world has come to know that gives pause to ask “Would I have made the same decisions he did had I been in his shoes?”  and watch him make the smaller choices along the way that bring him to where he is as the show ends.  Which brings me to “Luthor Syndrome”.

What is it?  It’s the condition that Lex suffers from, a condition that you and I can suffer from too.  Lex Luthor was born into resources, born into wealth and power.  These circumstances helped lead him to believe that he was special, that he had a destiny and the means to achieve it.  He felt as if that end MUST be achieved, so that he could do greater things than his father did (the whole juxtaposition of the father/son relationship between Clark/Lex and Jonathan/Lionel is fantastic and a study in and of itself, especially in an age of such fatherlessness amongst youth).  Because of his roots, Lex felt that his destiny was owed to him – that he was entitled to it – and the choices he makes are justified in light of his embracing his purpose to rule (he finally becomes President by the time the show’s finale ends).  Before I go on, I want to make a quick point:  the idea of destiny isn’t a bad one at all, it’s how we choose to lay hold of and embrace it that can be a dangerous thing; it didn’t start that way for Lex, but he let it overtake him.

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The Reborne: The Lake Ann Camp 2012 Rangers, Alpha Company, Part 3

Posted on by Aaron in Comic Books/Superheroes, Uncategorized, Video Games | 1 Comment

As I type this, Charlie Company of the 2012 Reborne Rangers has arrived at Lake Ann Camp and is learning their first lesson about conflict and teamwork in the face of the impossible on the paintball field as the final week of Reborne Rangers for 2012 begins.  I am still mulling over and telling the tales of week Alpha to friends who find themselves wishing they were there with me; to see what I saw.  Looking back, it’s accurate to say that the last day of Reborn Rangers Alpha 2012 was the most challenging one, as I wasn’t prepared for what awaited me throughout that day.

That morning, after breakfast and hearing from Chris, I tagged along as the Rangers headed out to a new physical challenge:  The Leap.  I thought I knew what The Leap was, I was so very wrong.  I thought The Leap was a event out on the challenge course at Lake Ann Camp that I had facilitated years ago involving slabs of tree trunk functioning as “lily pads” which the Rangers had to safely traverse while abiding by whatever restrictions their wise counselors put upon them.  This is not what The Leap is; The Leap is more, much more.

As I walked through the wooded area to our destination, with light filtering through the trees while leaves swished and crunched beneath my feet, I saw all the Rangers gathered in a large circle ahead of me.  As the circle drew nearer, I looked above me dazed and a bit confused.  Far above my head were cables strung between trees in proximity to what looked like small telephone poles about thirty to forty feet in height; and what was that red thing dangling off the cable, was that a ball?  I stood there somewhat speechless and amazed as the situation was explained to us:  Each Ranger would don a climbing helmet and full-body harness hooked to a rope and proceed to climb one of these telephone-like poles to a platform at the top.  Once atop the wobbly and wooden platform the Ranger would jump off into nothingness and attempt to strike the red ball hanging in mid-air from a cable.

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