Each life is a story of it’s own, and I believe that there are three key elements to having a worthwhile story: The Fortress, The Tribe, and The Victorious Feast. Not only did I use these elements as inspiration in writing Disorder of War, but I also incorporate them into my own life as much as is possible. Why you ask?
Popular science fiction and fantasy culture has increasingly turned to zombies, the undead, and apocalyptic cataclysms- both in the form of terrible enemies and natural phenomenon. I think we can all agree that these plots elements are an excellent source of drama, and simply set the stage for a great story.
At the same time, I think that some of the key ingredients to popular shows, books, and comics such as Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire), The Walking Dead, and even games like the Fallout series show that something else is going on: something is missing from contemporary popular culture and daily life.
Humans evolved as social organisms, moving great distances as a matter of course and fighting great battles with each other and with terrifying beasts. Now though, these adventures have been replaced with crushingly safe routines, and what dangers remain are primarily abstract: cancer, pollution, obesity, etc.
I think there is a great desire to return some of these things to daily life. I am not suggesting that people would prefer waking up to being chomped on by a saber tooth tiger or having the their neighborhood barrel-bombed Syrian-style. No, we in the kindly West are lucky to be mostly free (sorry Detroit) of such terrors. There are, though, some by-products of those experiences that we’re missing.
Having the fortress, the tribe, and the victorious feast as a part of life brings not only practical benefits, but also long term emotional strength and overall improvement to quality of life.
The Fortress: The appeal, in both comfort and potential for adventure of a personal bastion is universal. Even non-nerdy children build snow forts, pillow forts, tree forts… the list goes on! It is a place that not only provides security (real or imagined) and relaxation, but also a established a place for stories to play out and memories to be made. In ancient times, necessity dictated that the home also serve in a defensive capacity. In many cases this resulted from and in tragedy, but it also lent the places a character that modern homes lack. Today, doors and windows have locks and in the city perhaps some security bars. These things are unobtrusive and generally seen as an eyesore and a nuisance. Lacking are great walls and great halls alike. The fewer people the better in the modern house, and the more open and immaculately clean the better. This doesn’t work for me, and I think it creates an empty place in a lot of people. If each life is a story, why have a story with a boring setting, a few flat characters, and no crisis?
Even if today we have a crisis, we are often encouraged to go it alone. We are told that if we HAVE to talk to someone, we should pay them and cut them out from the rest of our lives. Where would Frodo be without Sam? Without the Fellowship? What happens when a character goes it alone in scene in a zombie flick? You know they’re next to die! Every person needs a fortress, but they also need a tribe to inhabit the fortress. They need characters to bring life into their lives. They need someone to save, and someone to save them when challenges arrive.
The Victorious Feast:
Generally speaking, the plot of a story follows an arc, with high and low points at strategically crafted stages. We certainly have less control over our lives, but we do run into success and failures no matter what path we chose. Our victories are usually reward in and of themselves, but they grow in their significance and attain a level of sacredness when we share them with others. In ancient times, holidays- either celebrating a battle won or the survival through another winter, served this purpose. They brought communities together and reminded individuals of both their own personal value and the value of their fellows. Soldiers save each other in battle, and neighbors help each other through hard times.
Think about the modern holiday: everyone goes through the motions, buys token gifts for each other in a haze of stress, overeats despite no particular physical strain, and prays for the whole business to be over as soon as possible. Of course everyone’s chosen fantasy is some sort of apocalypse! The contemporary first world lifestyle is against our nature, and I would argue requires more of the big three. I also think it is possible to add these things to our daily lives without turning the world upside down.
Stay tuned for my next post where I’ll talk about my DIY home-fortress. Hopefully it’s turning into a wholesome family stronghold and not a creepy prepper bunker… .