By Cathy Eck
Creating a memorable story requires a transformed protagonist. What does it mean to be transformed? According to most people, to be transformed is really to have finally conformed.
Larry is a problem. He can’t sit still in school. He doesn’t do his homework. His grades are appalling. Larry daydreams all day long. He plays alone on the playground; he’s been labeled antisocial. “What are we going to do with Larry?”
At home, Larry’s addicted to his LEGO blocks; he builds things for hours each day. To everyone around him, Larry looks lazy. They believe that he will never function in the real world; he hates hard work. When he’s allowed to watch television, Larry watches sci-fi movies. No one notices that Larry is building a new kind of spaceship in his mind. He dreams of going to far off places. Larry’s constantly trying to understand rockets and what materials will endure the type of voyage he imagines in his mind. Unbeknownst to anyone else, Larry’s doing equations in his play that make his homework look infantile. On the internet, Larry’s studying metals. Larry watches science fiction shows to get ideas to enhance his dream.
Larry can’t stand his parents and teachers; they don’t get him. They see a lazy, unfocused, and socially-deficient failure. They never invest the time to watch or listen to Larry.
Eventually, they threaten him. Larry must improve his grades or the LEGO blocks go. He must study three hours each night under his parents’ supervision. Larry gave in; he had no choice. The next reporting period, Larry got straight A’s. My God, everyone is so happy. “Larry has transformed,” they say. Oh no, they’re so wrong. Larry hasn’t transformed; Larry has conformed.
Now that his mind is filled with facts, Larry becomes social. Kids like him; he helps them with their homework. Larry fits in. Larry is voted class President and most likely to succeed. He dates the cutest girl in class. Larry decides that his dream was unrealistic. Who really needs a rocket scientist anyway?
Larry Grows Up
Larry gets his Ph.D.; he graduates Summa Cum Laude in mathematics. He’s a great professor. He marries and has a son. Larry is happy. Occasionally he remembers the joy he felt with his LEGO blocks; he wonders if he’ll ever feel that again. Larry buys his son some LEGO blocks. As soon as the child can pick up a block, he’s showing him how to build rockets. Larry reads him space and flying books each night. He lives vicariously through his son.
But Larry’s son, Harry, loves to draw. Larry tries to bridge the gap; maybe they can draw rockets. But Harry wants to draw animals. Larry’s dream dies another death.
As Larry gets older, he gets cranky. His nice social facade cracks. He complains and gets sick all the time. His wife wonders what’s happened. He watches the sci-fi channel all day long. No one understands Larry now because no one ever understood Larry. Is it too late for Larry to have a Hollywood-quality transformation?
No, it’s never too late. Letting go allows us to get back on our own unique and perfect path. And every inch of that path is perfect. It doesn’t matter where we get back on. It just matters that we get back on. We start enjoying life from that moment forward. To do that, we must let the past go.
Larry is still listening to society; they do think it’s too late for him. Does it feel good that Larry couldn’t still design a rocket? Hell no! Does Larry still have a mind? If Larry had already designed a rocket, what would be different about his life today, nothing other than he’d have a different memory of the past. The past is over anyway.
Larry and his wife watch their grandson each day. The grandson found Larry’s old LEGO blocks. But Larry can’t stand the sight of them anymore. They remind him of childhood and the failed attempt to build rockets with Harry.
Larry’s mind is pushing him to the illusion’s exit point, but Larry doesn’t know how to go within. If Larry would witness his emotions instead of spewing them all over his wife and grandson, he could exit the illusion. If he witnessed his emotions (not wallowed in them) his old beliefs would rise to the surface, and he could let those old beliefs go. He’d see that he was right as a child, but he was surrounded by people who hated their own True Selves. It’s sad, but it’s reality for most people. How could they support Larry in his dream when they had long ago tossed away their own dreams?
Let’s imagine that Larry does witness and feel his emotions. He realizes that he conformed; he discriminates and lets go. Eventually, Larry feels true compassion for himself and the people around him who conformed. They’re all dead now; in truth, they never lived because they never transformed.
Larry realizes that he’s been angry at Harry because Harry didn’t conform. He travels the world photographing and painting animals. Larry witnesses that anger now, and it disappears. Larry realizes that he gave his son what he wanted most…the opportunity to be himself. He was a good dad.
Several sci-fi movies have begun and finished as Larry traveled the inner voyage of his life. Then his grandson taps him on the knee. “Grandpa, you okay? Wanna play with me? I’m trying to build a rocket, but I don’t know how? Will you help?”
Larry smiles. “Yep I sure will. We’ll build the best rocket you could ever imagine!” Years later, Larry’s grandson graduates with honors in engineering; he and grandpa design a new prototype rocket. The university where Larry taught funded the project; and today it lifts off as thousands of Larry’s past students cheer on the professor they loved. Larry’s found his joy again. He’s transformed. That’s a wrap.
PS: This is dedicated to my ex-father-in-law who never lived because he never transformed, but he has a grandson named after him who never conformed. His name is not Larry, and I don’t know if he liked rockets!