Thursday, April 22, 2004

Today's blog is brought to us courtesy of Stephen Pressfield's Gates of Fire, which you should all read because it makes real a great truth. The scene is the pass of Thermopylai. The characters are the Spartans Dienekes, Ariston, and Alexandros. I have abridged as unobtrusively as possible, but the following is abridged:

"All my life," Dienekes began, "one question has haunted me. What is the opposite of fear? To call it aphobia, fearlessness, is without meaning. This is just a name, thesis expressed as antithesis. To call the opposite of fear fearlessness is to say nothing. I want to know its true obverse, as day of night and heaven of earth."

"Expressed as a positive," Ariston ventured.

"Exactly!" Dienekes met the young man's eyes in approval.

"Dogs in a pack find courage to take on a lion. Each hound knows his place. He fears the dog ranked above and feeds off the fear of the dog below. Fear conquers fear. This is how we Spartans do it, counterpoising to fear of death a greater fear: that of dishonor. Of exclusion from the pack."

Dienekes smiled darkly. "But is that courage? Is not acting out of fear of dishonor still, in essence, acting out of fear?"

Alexandros asked what he was seeking.

"Something nobler. A higher form of the mystery. Pure. Infallible."

Ariston asked if this higher courage in fact existed.

"It is no phantom," Dienekes declared with conviction. "I have seen it. Do you know who owns it, this pure form of courage, more than any other I have known? My wife." He turned to Alexandros. "And your mother, the lady Paraleia." He smiled again. "There is a clue here. The seat of this higher valor, I suspect, lies in that which is female."

His glance took in the fires of the camp, the nations of the allies clustered in their units, and their officers, whom we could see, like us approaching from all quarters the king's fire, ready to respond to his needs and receive his instructions.

"The opposite of fear," Dienekes said, "is love."

The opposite of fear is love. Warrior's wisdom, the psychologists tell us, which fighting men have known from time immemorial. Put it in a Christian context. "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (2 Tim. 1:7). Now this spirit which God has given us, is it not his own spirit - the spirit which is in us, which is stronger than the spirit which is in the world? The spirit of God - the spirit of love himself - is given to us, not the spirit of fear. The opposite of fear is love.

Take another passage from Gates of Fire. The scene is Athens, the characters Dienekes' squire Xeo, on his way to Thermopylai, and his cousin Diomache, whom once he loved:

"Let neither of us pity the other," my cousin spoke in parting. "We are where we must be, and we will do what we must."

Sometimes I ask myself, about breaking up with Selene, are you not afraid? Afraid of what (or who) she will find in Chicago, and afraid of what (or who) you will not find at Stanford? And while I acknowledge that those are scary things, I am not afraid. It is not the kind of fearlessness that comes from knowing who I am and what I must do - not the kind of fearlessness that comes from seeing God through Alanna and Keladry and Honor and Cimorene, and hearing the bronze-voiced divine command calling me onward. For now, at least, it is a different kind of fearlessness.

The opposite of fear is love. And that's all I have to say about that.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

A few days ago I tried to avail myself of the free DVDs at Green Library and check out Sinbad - Legend of the Seven Seas as my back-to-school movie. Sadly, Green has not seen fit to add Sinbad to its collection. Therefore there was no back-to-school movie, which I think is a shame.

Mostly it's a shame because I am now left with something of a dilemma regarding my birthday movie. Of course at Stanford (at least in the circles I run in) it's dangerous to plan for one's birthday, since there's a reasonable chance that someone else has plans for your birthday. One must strike a balance between planning enough that you'll have a celebration in case your friends don't throw you a surprise party, and not planning so much that their plans will be foiled if they do throw you a surprise party. This year I was planning on having pizza at Pizza My Heart, having some sort of girl dinner (awkward planning issue: I still want to celebrate my birthday with Blue Rose and Shanah, but I also want to celebrate my birthday with a one-on-one date with Selene. Not enough meals in the day), and watch a movie somewhere in the Quad.

Now, I had been planning on making the movie event Fushigi Yugi, but of course I also want to see Sinbad, which I will now have to pay money to do (darn it). Perhaps I shall have to compromise by watching Sinbad after Kiss Me Kate is over, and doing Fushigi Yugi on my birthday.

I think I might do this because on the whole Fushigi Yugi is the more attractive birthday event. For one thing, it stands a good chance of being the second anime series ever to hold my interest for the entire run (following Hellsing, which only sort of counts as the final episodes were less-than, in my opinion). Granted I haven't finished Fushigi Yugi yet, but I think it has promise, and I'm eager to watch more of it because I like it. For another, I have this idea in my head that it stands in relation to Selene the same way that, say, the Song of the Lioness stands to me.

Now, I may be making that up. But even if I am, I still want to see the rest of Fushigi Yugi because I also suspect that it may end up adding to my literary pantheon. My literary goddesses\\role-models so far are entire female, and either feminine or gender-neutral. Alanna, Cimorene, Honor, and Keladry are important and good, but they're all women. It would be nice if they had some male company to speak on masculine issues, and I think - just maybe - that Tamahome and Hotohori could fill that role. The addition of one or two more literary deities\\role-models would be a significant event - and one that I think is worth pursuing besides the enjoyment the pursuit will afford me.