Thoughts from my study of Horror, Media, and Narrrative

Archive for October 6, 2010

In the Darkness, I Find Light

Shoes clicking, she walked through the streets with thoughts in her head and a gun in her hand; she was the queen of New Cap City—in time, would become its god—and didn’t even know it. But that is her future. Right now, she is just a girl who has finally awakened.

Inspired by the analysis of Jacob [and apologies for parroting your ideas–this is my take on your take], I began to think about how the story of Caprica’s “There Is Another Sky” is a familiar one, if you’ve been exposed to any amount of entertainment growing up; it is the story of Alice, of Dorothy, of Neo, and of many others who have left on a quest and come back a hero. Throughout the episode, various characters (e.g., Sam, Tamara, and arguably Zoe) expressed a desire to return home or were admonished to “wake up” and each has, in turn, been ushered along by guides who have demonstrated that the power to change, to belong, to be, or become, has existed in them (and us!) all along. These nascent heroes, like their fictional forbearers, have all ventured into the darkness and found their way back to the world of the living; each of these heroes has woken up and tapped into the power that this revelation brings.

And ultimately, this is the message of the poem by Emily Dickinson, from which this episode draws its title.

There is another sky,
Ever serene and fair.
And there is another sunshine,
Though it be darkness there.
Never mind faded forests, Austin,
Never mind faded fields—
Here is a little forest,
Whose leaf is ever green;
Here is a brighter garden,
Where not a frost has been;
In its unfading flowers,
I hear the bright bee hum:
Prithee, my brother,
Into my garden come!

The story of the hero is the struggle to preserve light in the darkness; the story of the hero is braving the depths and finding our way home.

The story of the hero becomes our story as we deal with grief and death:  when our loved ones die, we travel with them to the land of the dead; for a time being, a part of us dies as well. Caught in a stasis—a kind of unholy limbo—we hear a call to return to the world of the living but also suffer whispers from the underworld. When faced with death, we close ourselves off, afraid to embark upon the path that leads toward resolution because we fear that we will become lost:  we fear that we will not be able to make our way back to the land of the living and we fear that we will lose ourselves in the darkness. So we use funerals, like the one shown at the end of the episode, to act as rituals that transcend the everyday, providing a space for us to let go of the dead and to return to the surface; funerals remind us that we belong to a community of the living who will draw us back. This is also what Dickinson’s poem alludes to:  there is darkness, but there is also light.

The story of the hero becomes our story as we sit in front of computer screens alone and afraid, living out heroic adventures online but terrified to make the transition into real life. We say that the game allows us to be something; we are so desperate to be something—anything—other than what we are that we forget our worth. We forget that we could be so much more if we only let ourselves be.

We forget that we could be so much more if we only let ourselves be.

As someone who works with teenagers on a regular basis, I am privileged to witness some remarkable feats by young people (more impressive, perhaps, than some of the things that I will ever accomplish) but am also privy to some of the great struggles that individuals go through. In some ways, I think that being a teenager—like Tamara and Zoe—is scary because it is the time when you begin to figure out who you are (and who you want to be) and we don’t always like what we see. So, instead of taking a risk, we simmer in quiet desperation, forever anxious about what might be and forever shameful of our sin. I don’t mean to belittle this—I feel it more deeply than you might ever know—but I choose to embrace the darkness and to call forth the light (you might call it God).

I believe that God exists everywhere and in everything; I believe that we are all interconnected, all part of the life stream (to borrow a phrase from Leoben, who will rock the world of Caprica 50 years hence), and all part of God. I believe that God resides in all parts of our beings, which means that he also exists in those parts of us that we repress and find horrid. In fact, I believe that God’s light shines the brightest in these spaces, for it is where He is needed the most. I believe that God does not love us any less because we have darkness, but also that love is not the same thing as approval. I believe that the solution is not to build more walls, further closing ourselves off from the darkness, but to bring these parts of ourselves to light and to learn to resolve them. We need to realize that one of the greatest gifts God ever gave us was Grace, but that this is a gift that we get to bestow upon ourselves. God never deserts us, but also doesn’t do all of the heavy lifting—we, like our heroes, have to discover that we had the strength all along.

The discovery of God in the blackest places is similar to the voyage that I encourage all of you to take; I challenge my students to confront the darkest parts of themselves and to be secure in the knowledge that they’ll find their way back to the surface. I feel that if students are not able to identify the worst parts of themselves, they’ll never be able to reconcile them and that this leads to a whole host of issues later on. Being comfortable with yourselves—all of you—is, in a way, analogous to finally waking up or finding your way back home.

Come home.