We all know the definitions and the way stories portray them. Often there is a villain who spurs the hero into action, saving the victim from an evil fate. The hero becomes the embodiment of the light, the villain of darkness, while the victim hangs somewhere in between, like fulcrum, deciding how the scales will be tipped. Who, then, has the true power?
I have been thinking a lot these days about how and why we choose to be either the victim or the hero in our individual stories and how this reflects upon our collective story of human existence. I have also been thinking about how we define and cast the role of villain in our stories. For some, a villain who fulfills the classic definition of villain-hood is actually lauded as a hero. This casted role depends upon our subjective nature, including how we cast ourselves in our play that is life.
And, must the hero be always wounded first? Would there be a hero without first enduring the wounds? I’m not sure it is possible. We must feel the pain to know it. And would there be a victim without the hero, and a villain without the victim? And, can they all be, in essence, one and the same?
When I think of my own story, I see all the times I tried to become the hero of my own story only to fall back into the role of victimhood. I realize how much my cells have programed the codes of my ancestors. I see how often I have cast people into roles and how these roles have defined them for me. The victim for me was a hero for another. The villain, the victim, and so the cycles goes in an endless round.
So who am I? Last night I found myself inside two vivid dreams. Although they were different scenes, with different players, I found myself embodying a similar role. In one dream, I found myself trapped on an electrified strip of metal while trains raced beside me. One going in each direction, while I scrambled in the middle for a hold. Trying not to get zapped.
In the other dream, I was outside, gazing up into endless blue as I followed the skyline of the buildings beside me. I lay on my back in the middle of a highway, unfazed until I realized where I was. Unfazed until I allowed the program of fear to grip my heart into the belief that I might become a victim if I made a wrong move.
Are we all, in fact playing a game of chess in our lives? Or do we just think we are? One wrong move and we will be obliterated. By what? Fear of the unknown paralyzes our actions as does fear of repeating something from our past. It is hard to reprogram the cells. It is even harder to step into the belief that we can.
Fear is an uncomfortable bedfellow, and yet if we are willing to examine it, to hold it in front of us and look it in the face, it becomes comedic. Its hideous face squishes easy into new forms if we poke and prod it. It’s malleable, because it isn’t really real. It’s simply a shadow of the true self.
Yet how we hold it aloft, knighting it with the mark of hero! So often, we do this, it is impossible to keep track. We need only look at how we hold aloft our leaders. Few are true heroes. Many are villains, and most, if not all, are victims of their own stories, and our collective one. The true hero may be there, but it is deeply cloaked under fear.
Sadly, we are living in a time when true heroism is often overlooked, or even worse, slayed by the villain we like to think is a hero because if we don’t, we worry we too will be slayed. It seems insane, when you examine the play in all its facades, and yet here we are, collectively. Even the darkness resides in those we may think are filled only with light. Should we then be ignoring this complicated, yet simple truth that each role resides in each of us? Should we not acknowledge this truth and work towards compassion for the self and the “other” as we examine how we play each role and how the roles become us?
I think we have no choice but to do so, or the cycle will repeat endlessly in different forms. Otherwise, the victim will never be released from its shackles, forever forced to decide how to tip the scales. The cycle continuing until the victim realizes it is up to her, or him, to remove the chains and realized the hold was self-imposed all along.
At some point we must come to the realization that we are each the villain, the victim, and the hero of our own story. Perhaps we cannot have one without the others, but we can choose which one we will embrace. We can choose what story to write into our cells. And, that story can have a different narrative than the one we wrote yesterday. It’s our story to write. It’s our story to live. It’s our story of life.