Thursday, November 8, 2012

William, War Owls, and The Good Fight.

A few months ago I was at a dinner party talking with friends. Maria, a neighbor, was explaining that she didn't want a Psycho inspired shower curtain in her bathroom. It featured an outline of a man about to stab the person inside with a knife. When I agreed with her, that I wouldn't want that particularly violent decoration up in my house, another person at the table slammed down her fork and laughed, calling me out. "Jenna, your favorite movie is Braveheart?! And you don't want a violent image in your home!" I had no reply to that. I mean, shucks, she was right. Braveheart is an extremely graphic movie, with a whole lot of violence starting with a shed full of dead kids 10 minutes into the reel...

But still, her joke caught me off guard because I never ever actually thought of Braveheart as a violent movie, and I mean that with genuine sincerity. To me it was three hours of romance, and courage, and underdogs fighting against tyranny. It was about one person changing history, a real man, who despite his awful death never gave in to his oppression, even as he was being murdered because of his beliefs...

Yes, it's an epic legend in which violence happens, but I never watched that violence with any shock or discomfort because it was part of the bigger story.

I mean, I raise pigs for food and most of the time with them is delightful. There's scratching ears, hope for delicious meals, and then a period of blood and violence followed by a happy year of shared dinners. I know comparing a pig's life to that of William Wallace is pretty crass, but the point remains the same. Violence is sometimes necessary in a story. It doesn't mean it's the point of it.

Braveheart will always be a story of loss love, hope, and the ability to continue the fight through small odds. The self-sacrifice, the Christ metaphors, all of that isn't part of its appeal to me. That movie is all about hope and unwavering faith. But this is coming from a gal who's mother told her from the time she was ten that she should join the Army...

My mom was right. I am a fighter, not a lover. I was always drawn to martial disciplines and activities. I spent my adolescence in a karate gi, competing through high school and then competing again in Tennessee as an adult. I love horses, hunting, archery, running, and took classes in Japanese swordsmanship for fun. It's who I am.

So you can see I have some bias here. I'm drawn to these stories, and tried to live them in my own humble mythology. In my own head I am, at this moment, fighting for a life of personal creative freedom and better health. And I like, hell I LOVE, stories and legends that make me feel like this healing and change is possible through the motivation of the individual. I recently watched an animated movie called Legends of the Guardians, and loved it. I was told to watch it by a friend, not because of the story, but because of the special effects and artwork. It delivered this in spades (I don't think I've ever seen a more beautiful film) but once again I found myself rooting for the underdog. I fell into the story. There's not a big difference between the real person that was William Wallace and fictional war owls. Not in the context I'm writing about, anyway.

And yet, when I posted about it on Facebook a woman I know with children said she thought it glorified war and didn't like it. This, just like the violence comment about Braveheart, surprised me. Both of these stories include war, death, and intense violence but they aren't about them. The war is a character too, an avatar for change. Sometimes violence is the conduit for change and sometimes it isn't, but deploring such an inspiring message because it includes violence seems, childish. It seems like someone avoiding discomfort despite the bigger story. I hate this. It is the one thing I do not have any patience for. The most popular books in the world ends with the hero getting tortured and killed, that certainly wasn't what he spent thirty years teaching people to focus on....

So, I'm a gluten for punishment who likes shooting pointy things. Yeah. I still I don't want to join the army. Nor would I do well there. I barely made it being told what to do in the corporate world, much less in a society where obedience to orders means life and death.... But again, that's not the point I am trying to make.

I think in this world you're a fighter or you're not. You either decide to take control of your destiny or you hand it over to someone who will. And trust me, there's always someone happy to control you.

That is the real story of humanity. There are fighters and followers: and only you can decide which you're going be. I get emails and comments every day from people who say they want a life like mine. I want to shake the computer and say "Then Go GET IT!!!" I'm not rich, or born into a farming family. I didn't even know what a harrow was until two years ago. I'm on this farm, not because of luck, but because for years it was my single-minded goal I worked towards every friggin' day. And when I realized I couldn't have my farm the way I pictured it, owning a deed and working at home, I chose to live that life in my heart anyway. That's the secret. That's the trick. I stopped being a graphic designer, not in June of 2012, but the day I signed my first book contract in July of 2007. And even though I new it would be a long, rough, road to get to this point I never felt it wasn't possible. I made the decision to just do the work, make the changes, give up the things I needed to give up, and remove people from my life who told me it was impossible.

If you have a dream, you need to fight for it. You need to decide following it is worth the fall out. If you can't stir that effort of will you will, I promise, find yourself living under someone who can do it for you. Too many people out there are letting life happen to them and acting like that's their lot. I've seen these people who let life happen to them. I know some. They turn into monsters. They are dying from a totally curable disease but they let it fester through apathy. It kills faster than dehydration.

You can have a farm. You can fall in love. You can get that job on the 34th floor with the corner office. You can RUN for office. You can become a parent. I don't care what your dream is, it just requires your total dedication to it. That's all. And that means a lot of painful sacrifice, and discomfort, and losing people and all the other crap. But what you gain is a meaningful life, actual wealth. And how lucky are we to live in a time and country where any man or woman who wants it can make it happen. And neither age or income or sex or whatever excuse you want to offer is irrelevant. Because even if your dream has limitations, it still can thrive to the best of your ability. You think you're too old or poor to be a farmer? Whoever told you that, including yourself, was wrong. Buy, borrow, or steal a pack of seeds. Read everything you can (if you're blind or in a wheelchair, the have someone read it to you) and figure out what those seeds need to succeed. Grow it in your sunny window. Harvest it. Sell those tomatoes to some other person who wants them. I promise you, once they know your dream and story support will rally around you. It has to. And in the moment of money exchanging hands to feed another person from food you raised you became a farmer. You did it. Shit, when did a perfect life become the definition of a meaningful one?

Your limitations are in your head. Your possibilities are endless. If you want something, if you can't sleep dreaming about something, if you need something...then for the love of the gods, FIGHT for it. Even if you fail, or get hit by a bus, you spent your blessed time here living for something real. And in the end, that's even more important than the having of it. And when you let that become your reality, you change. Everything changes. And suddenly that life that was happening to you, is happening because of you.

Raise your bows and shine, not burn.


Blogger Eileen Hileman said...

Its the journey as much as the destination. Barnheart was aptly named. Whatever we set our heart upon,we can achieve. You are living proof Jenna. We are learning to elimnate the naysayers as we prepare to move from one coast to the other. Those who say "you are too old" - no we're not or "what will you do when it snows?" We'll dance in front of the fire. As long as one believes anything is possible it is - you just have to have the grit/fight determination to get there and if you want it bad enough - you will. Good post Jenna.
P.S. The snow will come and when it does take pictures and make memories.

November 8, 2012 at 9:18 AM  
Blogger blind irish pirate said...

I agree, and I disagree. More so agree. There is a severe difference between the kind of violence depicted in Psycho and others of its kind, and the violence seen in liberation. I think that both kinds of violence should be ones that we grieve about, not only because violence is something horrible, but that we ever have to resort to it in the first place. I would be shocked if someone called me out on my favorite movies (similar to yours) but not enjoying a good slasher. Well, it's pretty simple - seems like most slasher films involve violence against women, minorities, stereotypes and are simply fulfilling a blood lust that consumes modern America. Whereas, sometimes, violence DOES beget violence, and that's a real, live thing that has been and is happening in the Middle East with the revolts and riots. We shouldn't glorify it and laud it as appropriate; we should grieve the reasons for it and the outcome is has... but, like you said, there is hope in lore and legends, in learning from history. Because tyrrany, whether corporate or governemntal or religious, is something that should be overcome.

November 8, 2012 at 9:19 AM  
Blogger eidolons said...

As someone working toward their dream, I loved reading this. Thank you. It's easy to get caught up in the negativity - in the "I can't because.."

This post is the kick in the arse I need once in a while.

November 8, 2012 at 9:20 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

BIP, I totally understand I can not watch a single SAW movie, but I have seen braveheart more times than I can count.

I never think violence should be glorified, meaning the killing. But war, in some cases, should. Not because of the death but because of what the fight is for. It's a very gray area, but we seem to agree more than disagree as you stated.

love your comments folks

November 8, 2012 at 9:28 AM  
Blogger seagrrlz said...

Love todays post. sometimes it's good to "hear" from someone else what one thinks on the inside,lol.

P.S. : I HATE the modern horror movies. Violence for violences sake doesn't interest me.

November 8, 2012 at 9:52 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

A great movie that fought against modern slasher/horror was Joss Whedon's Cabin in the Woods. I loved every second of that ride! Again, there is violence but the whole point was to show that modern slasher horror is vapid, pointless, form of entertainment

November 8, 2012 at 9:56 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Plus, Josh from the West Wing is in it.

November 8, 2012 at 9:56 AM  
Blogger Cathy said...

Well said!

November 8, 2012 at 9:58 AM  
Blogger Patsy said...

Reminds me a bit of the Chronicles Of Narnia. There is violence but a wonderful story behind it.

November 8, 2012 at 10:07 AM  
Blogger Kate Mary Betty said...

True that Jenna! You go girl!

November 8, 2012 at 10:25 AM  
Blogger janamama said...

Wonderful post!
Growing up, my mum always made the distinction between media that was violent for titillation's sake and that which was socially redeeming or had a bigger message. We were encouraged to consume the latter (she also has the Celtic tendency to revel in the gory miseries and we heard plenty of My Gordie Will Be Hanged With A Golden Chain folk songs). Her point, I always believed was that life IS the bigger picture and that sorrow, violence, injustice, misfortune and death are just part of the deal.
Just part of the deal, that's what I've been teaching my children. That idea gave me the freedom to move beyond sadness and continue to fight to build a life of my creation everyday.
Jenna, my warrior spirit sees your warrior spirit and honors it. Namaste if you will.

November 8, 2012 at 10:27 AM  
Blogger Debi said...

This post is just what I needed to read today...thank you! We're on the verge of making some really big changes, and sometimes I get so scared that I freeze up and can't seem to get anything done. This was just the reminder that I needed to put my head back down, and just keep plugging away until we get to where we want to be.

Braveheart and The Guardians of Ga’Hoole both rock, but you won't see me sitting through a slasher movie ever. Violence for the sake of entertainment just isn't appealing to me.

November 8, 2012 at 10:34 AM  
Blogger just look said...

I think Martin Luther King provides an alternative view of your thinking about the "value" of violence. It says it better than I in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize:
"After contemplation, I conclude that this award which I receive on behalf of that movement is a profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time - the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression. Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts. Negroes of the United States, following the people of India, have demonstrated that nonviolence is not sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation. Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love."
I suspect that those of us who have had personal experiences as survivors of violence may also maintain some homage to the notion that we shine brighter because we were burned. (survivors are the antithesis of victims, eh?) As a teacher, my mantra to children is always "use your words" to resolve conflict. This for me, is how we write the next chapter of reaching peace, both personal and global.

Having some of William Wallace's DNA in my veins (my ancestors are from those and other European warrior tribes), makes me even more sensitive to the need to work for peacefulness, and as easy as it might be for me to laud the warrior efforts otherwise, my better sense of things says that Mel Gibson's Braveheart held no candle to the light of those who work for justice through nonviolent means.

Link to King's entire speech is here:

November 8, 2012 at 10:55 AM  
Blogger Trish said...

Odd, I just posted a comment on a previous post of yours of how I felt my dream was getting further and further away because of my age. I agree with what you're saying but fear gets in the way for me. I have had a lot of bad things happen in my life so I tend to not trust life sometimes. My daughter passed away unexpectedly 15 months ago. She was 20 and my only child. This took the fight out of me but I wish it didn't. I wish I had that fight you talk about to achieve my lifelong dream of having a farm.

November 8, 2012 at 11:54 AM  
Blogger sequoia rose said...

I appreciate your push for people to 'fight' for what they want, but there are other parts of this blog entry that rubbed me the wrong way, and I feel the need, not to argue, but to fill in the other side of this story.

I don't think this is what you meant, but I want to clarify that "pacifist" does not mean passive and squeamish. As a Christian, I believe that Christ calls us to love one another as we love ourselves, and also that we should be peacemakers. That is part of the larger message you hinted at in mentioning His tortuous death (which does not end there, but with his resurrection, and therefore the conquering of death).

We do not kill those we love, and since we should love everyone, that leaves no one to act violently against. But neither do we look the other way when violence happens and wish it doesn't exist. We 'fight,' so to speak, for peace. I believe that lovers are fighters in their own way; just look's reference to Martin Luther King, Jr. is a great example of this.

November 8, 2012 at 11:58 AM  
Blogger Mary Schroeder said...

Inspirational Jenna - thank you.

As for the "fight" The mantra that is used in the Abyss movie always goes through my head when I am about to give up: "You've never backed away from a fight before! Now fight! Fight! FIGHT!"

November 8, 2012 at 12:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I think in this world you're a fighter or you're not. You either decide to take control of your destiny or you hand it over to someone who will. And trust me, there's always someone happy to control you". WOW...this is JUST the post I needed today. THANK YOU! For years I have been torn between the security of my daily job or taking the big leap into self-employment. I'm sick of those that are "happy to control me". That leap should happen for me in less than one year! I have you to thank for some of the determination needed to make it happen!

November 8, 2012 at 2:28 PM  
Blogger Robyn said...

Jenna, you are so cool.

November 8, 2012 at 6:29 PM  
Blogger RamblinHome said...

Wow! What an inspiring post!

November 8, 2012 at 7:41 PM  
Blogger shepherdkelly said...

I love when you give out "kick in the asses" And their free! my favorite price!

November 8, 2012 at 8:18 PM  
Blogger shepherdkelly said...

I love when you give out "kick in the asses" And their free! my favorite price!

November 8, 2012 at 8:19 PM  
Blogger Kendra said...

Thank you. My only wish for you is that you continue to inspire the world around you.

November 8, 2012 at 8:39 PM  
Blogger KiwiGirl said...

Braveheart, meh - Mel Gibson shouting history from the rooftops is not pretty. Some stories have violence involved as part of their setting, which is fine (Band of Brothers & True Grit spring to mind). Pointless emphasising of it gets a bit much though - GoT is great but subtlety isnt their strong suit when it comes to violent action.

Give me Gladiator any day of the week over Braveheart - better acting, better story telling and Ridley Scott on top of his game. Pass on the Psycho shower curtain too, I'd rather have the periodic table one (a la Big Bang Theory).

November 8, 2012 at 8:48 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

You tell 'em, Jenna!

November 9, 2012 at 7:23 AM  
Blogger Carol said...

Wow, Jenna you are wise beyond your years.

I love how you always inspire and encourage. Keep up the good work, good things will always come to you.

PS I have also watched Braveheart many times and I agree, the movie does not glorify violence, it only shows it is part of the bigger picture.

November 9, 2012 at 10:21 AM  
Blogger Loralee said...

Great post, but it's glutton (for punishment) not gluten ;)

November 9, 2012 at 9:22 PM  
Blogger Loralee said...

Great post, but it's glutton (for punishment) not gluten ;)

November 9, 2012 at 9:23 PM  
Blogger Lara said...

Sometimes it depends on a person’s familiarity with violence when it comes to reactions about such things. Coming from a family full of war vets, movies depicting war of any kind brought on moods and bad images and were generally avoided and still are. What’s intriguing is that some can watch documentaries about war, but they can’t handle it put into entertainment format. I've always thought that it just made things too real wrapping the back-story of war with a personal drama. When all those war themed video games started coming out I remember the fight my brother had with my dad—my dad saw it as trivializing life and making war a game in the most disgusting sense. Each time my brother sprayed someone with his M-16 my dad was visualizing his best friends bleeding to death in the jungle. That anyone could find pleasure in killing even on a game deeply disturbs many people who've been through it for real. Movies that depict rape and other violence can have similar results if those things are too close to home. Some people it’s just too real and they already have enough images of such things in their heads for a life-time, and they don’t want such ideas tarnishing the home they’re trying to build, it’s not that we’re wusses who don’t have a fighting spirit or that we’re oversensitive and dramatic.

November 10, 2012 at 9:01 AM  
Blogger Firecracker Farm said...

Sequoia rose is right - That book doesn't end with torture and death. It ends with resurrection and eternal life. Pretty important difference. But you are certainly right about the violence in this case. It was the means of change.

November 10, 2012 at 6:03 PM  
Blogger Firecracker Farm said...

Sequoia rose is right - That book doesn't end with torture and death. It ends with resurrection and eternal life. Pretty important difference. But you are certainly right about the violence in this case. It was the means of change.

November 10, 2012 at 6:04 PM  
Blogger Firecracker Farm said...

Sequoia rose is right - That book doesn't end with torture and death. It ends with resurrection and eternal life. Pretty important difference. But you are certainly right about the violence in this case. It was the means of change.

November 10, 2012 at 6:04 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

I saw Braveheart many years ago and I loved the movie but I couldn't watch the violence. It kills me to see people doing that stuff to others. My heart broke when they killed him in the end even though I knew he was going to join his love. Also, it seemed so wrong. I loved that movie and still do but I can barely watch it. I hate horror movies, no point to them. I guess I'm soft. Sometimes it's worse when I know that the scenes depicted are real because it means that people really did those things. It just hurts to think they would take a beautiful inspiring man and CUT HIM UP!

I love this post. And I get it with the violence for a cause but I can't watch it. That's what blankets are for. Mine goes right over my head!

November 10, 2012 at 6:39 PM  

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