Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Him and His Ugly Will

One of the main themes in my novel, The Constant Tower, is the way wills battle each other, how powerful people impose their wills on those less powerful, and how weak people have nothing but their wills.

Folks talk about the human will a lot. The will to survive, the self-will we must break, the strength of will. And really many novels are about the will of the protag (what the protagonist wills) versus the wills of others. We see the good protag and we hope that his goals and all he wills will come true. And we hope all the baddie's will will not come true or that the baddie will relent in his wilfulness.

The Constant Tower, among other things, is about will, willing, holding to one's will. Oh, there are other thematic elements but the most important for me was how a father and husband has a will and how children and wives have their wills stomped on. To be unable to have one's own will is to be pulled along by the tide of another's will, or to be pulled in another's wake, or to be suddenly smashed and tossed by a large wave.

My main protagonist in TheConstant Tower is a king -- a man of will, of course because the default of all kings is their power. He is also a husband and a father. He has the good of his family/clan at heart. This is the worst kind of wilfulness -- the wilfulness of a benevoloent tyrant.

Because most stories take the will of the protags or antagonists for granted, we don't often ponder the idea of the will.

Someone with a great will is willful because he believes his way is the right way. He has gathered information that proves his way is the right way. Also, his ego might be involved. He simply cannot let others see him relent. To relent is to admit failure to both himself and to others. Admitting failure to himself implies he has made the wrong move and he is perhaps deeply deeply deeply wrong in all his convictions. Admitting failure to others implies others are more knowledgeable about life, others, the world than he is. So much is involved in holding to one's wilfulness that giving up on what wills is tantamount to death.

In Japanese dramas and films, there are often moments when someone has to apologize --bend and kneel-- before his enemy. This bending of the knee is so tantamount to the breaking of the will that the kneeler is crushed beyond words. Tears, clenched fists, brokenness, shame, loss of face, vengeance, suicide -- all are possible addenda to such scenes. This often happens in Korean dramas but not to such a horrifying degree. When someone in a J-drama demands someone apologize, well we viewers know all hell is gonna break loose or all hope is lost because the apology is a way of saying that wilfulness has been broken.

I'm always amazed at how demanding some folks get in these dramas: The good guy or the bad guy DEMANDS that his enemy kneel and apologize. The demand is relentless. Apologize (KNEEL, GROVEL) or I will not forgive. Apologize or I will not help your company. Apologize and bend your will visibly to mine....or I will not forget this slight. It's your will or my own.

I totally understand not giving in to an enemy. And I totally understand wanting one's enemy to say, "I'm sorry." But I just don't get why the visual representation that implies the breaking of the enemy's will is so dang important. To me it's like the line in the story that goes: "I may be kneeling but inside my heart I am standing up." For me, being made to appear as if my will is broken (by the act of kneeling) is still not really my will being actually broken.

Okay, so this leads to kneeling in prayer.

We Christians kneel all the time in prayer.  We ask God to forgive us for our sins. We tell God He is the true and only power in life. We say we are nothing. We say we are giving up our will. Yet, really...are we? Aren't we still truly wilful people? Religious people who do all kinds of genuflecting and bowing and kow-towing to God can be incredibly attached to their ugly ugly relentless will. 

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