Imagination Connoisseur, Julian Mushkin, thinks fans sometimes get outraged too easily and reminds us of the wisdom of Aristotle (as shown in the character Odysseus from THE ODYSSEY).
Greetings to you Rob, and my fellow citizens of the Post Geek Singularity!
Finally, my first letter after watching on YouTube for quite some time and commenting in the Face Book Feed. And today I wanted to say:
“To be angry is easy.”
First, let me state that I do not intend to go off on some disgruntled fan diatribe against how a favorite genre franchise has strayed away from all that makes it so special. But I do want to weigh in on the subject of the ongoing angst and ire that pervades much of fandom these days.
Frustration with our favorite stories is nothing new. As early as STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION (ST:TNG), I remember hearing cries of “Not my Star Trek!” and certainly with the Star Wars Prequels there was a measure of “What the hell happened there?” and “What was George thinking?”
Social media has served to amplify it to almost a deafening cacophony at times. I see a certain irony in some of this as at least two of our favorite franchises, Star Trek, and Star Wars have, at their heart, a core philosophy that teaches us to try and avoid such destructive emotions as fear and anger. This is clearly the case in Star Wars when Yoda says, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
In Star Trek it is a little more convoluted but the Vulcan Philosophy of IDIC, Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations offers us a path to view things with a rational detachment and acceptance of that which we might first fear or find different.
But the challenge to use our rational mind to guide us, rather than allow the baser emotions like fear, anger, and jealousy, sway us down paths of action we may regret, has been with us for ages. Which circles back to my earlier statement, “To be angry is easy.” This is a line from a favorite movie of mine, THE ODYSSEY, a made-for-TV movie from 1997 staring Armand Assante as Odysseus, Greta Scacchi as Penelope and Isabella Rossellini as Athena. With the TV budget and sometimes clunky effects of the time which would accompany said budget, it still manages to be an entertaining movie.
The core of the story is of course the struggle of the gods-cursed Odysseus to return home to his kingdom of Ithaca and his queen, Penelope. A side theme running within it is the relationship between the Greek goddess of wisdom, Athena, and one of her favorite mortals, Odysseus.
Throughout both THE ILIAD and THE ODYSSEY, we see Odysseus use his intellect to reason out a plan to overcome his challenges whether it is to get inside the walls of Troy or defeat the cyclops Polyphemus – and we see this is why Athena has such affection for him.
When Odysseus finally returns home, he finds that the suitors trying to win Penelope’s hand in marriage have almost eaten them out of house and home, taking extreme advantage of the Guest/Host relationship customs that existed in many Bronze Age cultures.
Hidden behind the façade of a ragged beggar placed on him by Athena, Odysseus makes himself known to his son Telemachus, who he has not seen in 20 years. They plan, with the aid of the retainers that have stayed loyal, to take back his lands. Odysseus knows that Telemachus is itching to lay into the suitors but he warns his son that they must not be precipitous. He recognizes that to give in to the anger burning in him would be to doom their plan to retake the palace.
As they are making their preparations, one of the suitors challenges Telemachus to a boxing match, which the younger man can’t refuse as it would sully his reputation as a man. During the contest the older man clearly has more skill and strength and pummels Telemachus while belittling him verbally. During a rest in the fight one of the other suitors, Eurymachus, played by Eric Roberts with a sly, devilish, glee slips a dagger into the humiliated young man’s hand and tells him that his honor demands that he kill the other suitor who beat him.
The suitors have laid a trap to remove Telemachus from the picture.
Telemachus, his blood hot and yearning to strike out at these men who have insinuated themselves into his home, is on the verge of lashing out and making a grave mistake. Odysseus, still disguised as the beggar, sees this but cannot stop it. It is at this time that he cries out to the air like a crazy man, from behind the throng of men watching the fight, “To be angry is easy!” Hearing this, Telemachus comes to his senses, drops the knife, and leaves the knot of men in the courtyard.
What is so wonderful about this is that the screenwriter has Odysseus paraphrasing an argument that Aristotle gave us in the Third Century B.C. “Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”
Once again, we are extolled to use our intellect before lashing out blindly and irrationally.
Of course, bloody violence must have its day in the end and Odysseus, his son and their retainers take back their palace after killing the suitors. It was the Bronze Age after all and by the customs of the day, the suitors had transgressed.
So, there we have it. The ages-old human struggle between intellect and instinct as we strive to become better humans then we have been in the past. And that is why Rob, I appreciate so much the forum that you and others like John Campea have set up for us to discuss our likes and dislikes rationally and without animosity towards our fellow genre enthusiasts.
We must remember that many of our fellow enthusiasts who may lash out angrily at those with a different opinion may simply fear the loss of something that they love.
That or they’re just opinionated AHoles.
Cheers for now my fellow PGS-ers. More letters will follow, for sure, Rob, because I too grew up in the Pacific Northwest in the glorious 70s and 80s. I too first saw Star Wars at the UA150 and I can’t help but smile whenever you mention it.
– Julian Mushkin.