Saturday, January 12, 2008

Epic Living?

Yesterday, Sir Edmund Hillary, the first person to climb to the summit of Mt. Everest, died at the age of 88. I heard a couple vignettes about him on NPR. During one they played a recording of him in Washington some years later in which he said: "If you set out on an adventure, and you are absolutely convinced you're going to be successful, why bother starting."

I thought he was going to say something along the lines of if you are convinced you will succeed then you have a better chance of doing so, or something along those lines. But what he actually said was much more profound than that. Man can show greater depths of character when he starts something, against all odds, knowing that there is little chance of success, and in Hillary's case every possibility of death, and yet he still started. He still takes that first step. This is living beyond the Disney "If you dream it you can do it" mentality of the modern world.

There is a scene in the Peter Jackson's movie, The Return of the King, that brings tears to my eyes each time I see it. The book does the same, but the way Mr. Jackson captured it was wonderful. The armies of Rohan have ridden to the aid of Gondor. They crest a hill, and look down upon the plains before Minis Tirith and see the vast hordes of Mordor assaulting the city. Rohan's army looks minuscule beside the might of Sauron. At this point, the logical thing would be to turn back. Set up defences in their own country in what way they could. But they do not. They charge down, into the very arms of the enemy. You are certain that they will all die. They are certain they will die, but the do it anyway.

Or in more contemporary, historical terms look at the movie Saving Private Ryan. Again, an army out manned, out gunned storms the beach at Normandy. Every man in the first wave knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were going to die. But they did it anyway. They did it for a greater good. Something larger than themselves. Something, epic.

So how does that translate into today's world. Of course there are still men and women on the front lines. Still in harms way, but still doing their jobs for some grander purpose, but as a whole. As Americans at large, how can we live in "epic" fashion? Can it be a simple as doing something we fully expect to fail at? Getting outside our comfortable little lives and trying to do something that in all likelihood will end in disaster. I began writing my novel fully expecting to fail. I've never finished something of this magnitude before. Something that requires continual work over a period of years. In fact I still expect to fail, and I am nearly complete.

Now realize that I don't in anyway equate this with charging off a boat onto a sandy beach with bullets filling the air, but I do think that it might just touch on what it means to be larger than oneself. How can I love my wife when I don't feel like loving her? How can I love my kids when they are driving me crazy? How can I get up and do my job when I'd rather sleep? By making a conscious effort to do the things I don't want to do, or even more, I know I'll fail at, I think a little piece of the epic creeps into my life, and the lives of those around me. I know I will never love my wife perfectly. There will always be some selfish motivation when interacting with her. But still I try. Still I wake up every morning hoping today I'll love her a little more than yesterday. But unlike Hollywood romance, we are flawed creatures. I know I'll fail, but read again what Sir Edmund Hillary had to say: "If you set out on an adventure, and you are absolutely convinced you're going to be successful, why bother starting." Why bother starting anything that you know you will succeed at. What a waste of time. Push for something more. Push beyond your limits. Somewhere is something greater, something, epic.

1 comment:

Josephine Damian said...


I saw your comment on Konrath's blog and decided to drop by.

You're doing a lot of things right, nice looking blog, and linking visitors, but I say if you visit/comment more on other people's blogs, you'll get more traffic here.

Especially comment on the agent blogs because those are the most popular.

I know there are several fantasy blogs - maybe even some fantasy book review blogs....

Posting on the Absolute Write website will bring a lot of traffic your way. Have you considered a myspace page to drive traffic here?

Best of luck with your new book!