Wednesday, June 15, 2011

On stasis, endurance and the triumph of the deliverer

More and more I realize I'm absolutely hooked on writing stories about people in stasis. Okay, how to start? Let's just say that I love heroes...mythic  heroes who deliver oppressed peoples. Christ-figure heroes. (Is there such a thing as a hero who is not a Christ figure?) As for the oppressed people: usually it's best when they've long been under the rule of the evil tyrants. But a short time is also acceptable, I guess. The good thing about a hero who comes after a long period of suffering is that the people are usually at their hope's end by then...and they have stopped believing in any kind of deliverance.

This is where the issues of stasis and endurance comes in. Stasis is a terrible thing. It kills the soul, it kills hope. The stasis can be a situation where characters are incapable of geographical movement -- like a princess stuck in a tower (or poor Prince Psal in the Constant Tower, a boy unable to go on a journey....or Loic in Wind Follower, unable to leave Blade Castle.) Or the stasis could be someone incapable of physical movement, like someone who is paralyzed. Or it could be someone stuck in an emotional illness. Or someone stuck in a bad marriage (like Nunu in my Changeling story in the Griots anthology.) Or someone stuck in poverty (like Denise in my story My Life as an Onion.)

The trouble is that the hero and/or victims are incapable of changing the unchangeable  stasis all by his/her lonesome. Some outside force is needed. I know this goes against the grain of self-reliant Americans -- and even Christians who believe we need Someone Higher to save us from ourselves will believe in self-reliance and pulling one's self up by one's bootstraps. Now, because so many folks do not believe in "being stuck," I really have to convince my readers that the character is really truly unable to free himself.

This leads to showing the character's continued fighting and continued endurance. I can't just have the character wimp out. There has to be some semblance of fighting.... and continued hope is sometimes the only fight left in some characters. There's a lot of searching for a way out, a lot of mental ruminations, a lot of weeping and whining, and false attempts...but the major thing is a fighting hope for a way out.

Most of my male characters are Christian-figures. They aren't perfect so I can't call them christ-figures. But they do have a woundedness and a spirituality that makes them both heroes and victims. In my stories, they don't really wait for God or a deliverer because they don't quite understand or believe in such a god. But there's a spiritual hope anyway. This spiritual hope is often just a tiny thread of belief and an inkling of spiritual truth...but they hold onto it for dear life. These characters are often deliverers but they are unlike Jesus who knew all truth.

Then comes the showdown when the deliverer shows his stuff. Or, more often than not, his 'God's' stuff...because the deliverer often represents God, the ultimate door opener, the ultimate freer, the one who says to the gates, "Be ye lifted up ye everlasting gates!" and frees the oppressed sheep who have been floundering without a shepherd.

The Bible has three great showdowns.
Moses has his (literal) throwdown against Jannes and Jambres, Pharoah's magicians. And when Moses throws down his rod-snake ...then the magicians throw down their rod-snakes...and Moses' snakes eat up the  magician's rod-snakes, well...we know the battle is on!

Then there is the showdown between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. This happens over a sacrifice. And when we hear Elijah's taunts and see the desperation of the prophets of Baal, something in our soul that loves to see the hero triumph just leaps with joy.

Then there is Jesus' showdown. He didn't allow Satan to tempt him successfully. He witnessed a good witness before Pilate (imagine saying "Yes, I am the Son of God" in front of someone who thinks you're nuts and is about to sacrifice you.) He didn't come down from the cross in spite of all the human temptation to show the taunters he could. We see the veil of the temple being rent in twain...and we know the captives are free now to talk to God....but we don't see the effects of the hero's triumph close up. We only know that Jesus took captivity captive, he spoiled principalities, he gave gifts to men. And we only know that all that was taken from man in the garden...has been returned to man through Christ's sinless life, sacrificial death, and resurrection.

Moses and Elijah spoke to Jesus on the mount of Transfiguration about "the exodus he was to achieve" in Jerusalem. This is intense. True, we know Christ is our Passover for us..but wow, when these two heroes of faith who had spiritual showdowns against demonic priests are talking to Jesus...well, it just makes one shudder with joy.

Now wait!!! But what does God deliver us from? God "executed judgments against all the Gods of Egypt" and  Jesus "spoiled principalities" but what are we formerly-oppressed people now? Who are we? A royal priesthood, a holy nation. What can we do? We can do all things through Christ in us, the hope of glory.

‘For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. Exodus 12:12

Okay, so I read the Plagues of Egypt and did some research on the gods whom God executed/sentenced/judged . Jesus executed judgment against them on the cross as well.

"But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Therefore he says, “When he ascended on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.” Now this, “He ascended” — what does it imply but that he also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things" (Eph 4:7-10 quoting Psa 68:18).

And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it. Colossians 2:15

First Plague: Water Changed to Blood.... against gods: Khnum, the Provider/Creator; Tauret, the goddess of the Nile, and Hapi, the God of the Nile

Second Plague: Frogs. Heqt, goddess of childbearing

Third Plague: Geb, the god of the dust. (The Egyptian priests shaved themselves to be free from lice when they went to speak to their gods in their temples.)

Fourth Plague: Swarms (The Bible doesn't say swarms of what.) If it's a swarm of beetle, then the plague is a judgment against Amon-Ra

Fifth Plague: Livestock  gods: Apis (god of prophecy), Hathor-Isis the goddess of love, and Best, the son of the goddess of love....all the lifestock gods

Sixth Plague: Boils (Anthrax?) god insulted: Imhotep, the god of medicine

Seventh Plague: Hail    gods insulted: Nut, the sky god. All the nature gods: Osiris, Hathor, Set, Isis, and Nephthys. Shu, the wind god. Horus, the hawk-headed sky god of Upper Egypt.

Eighth Plague: Locusts. Gods insulted: Nepri, the god of grain. Ermutet, the goddess of childbirth and crops. Thermuthis, the goddess of fertility and the harvest. Seth, god of crops.

Ninth Plague: Darkness. Gods insulted: Horus, Amon, Ra. Ptah, the chief god of Memphis who created the moon, the sun and the earth. Atum, the sun god and creator who was worshiped at Heliopolis.  Tem, the god of the sunset.  Shu, the god of sunlight and air.

Tenth Plague: The death of the firstborn. gods insulted... SATAN and his minions himself in the guise of Pharoah: The son of Amun-Ra

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