First off - If you haven't read Ender's Game, do so. Second, after doing so, go see the movie. If you've done neither of those, probably don't read this.
Me writing about Ender is nothing new per se, but in some ways it is, so here we go again. Ender. Ender's Game. If you've forgotten the past, feel free to refresh yourself. This and this are my most important writings to date on Ender.
Ender and I have been an experience and journey like no other. Years we've been on this road, and now the movie adds a new layer to that. I -against all trepidations about doing so- went and saw it. I will note here (this could easily spiral out of control into its own rant-y diatribe, so I will not let it) my extreme dislike of Card as a person for his personal agenda/beliefs. His homophobia is rampant and very problematic. However, I must say that Ender is still one of the characters that hits closest to home for me -deeply, wholly, on ALL levels of who I am- and so I cannot discount that. He and his experience are incredibly sacred and valuable to me, even if his creator is less-than-ideal in my eyes. I finally figured out WHY Ender is so important to me, and why I feel so strongly about/for him. It's because I relate to him on a deeper level than anything I have ever experience with another human being. I may never relate this completely to anyone in real life. But with Ender I do. Asher Lev is the same way. The bond goes beyond the surface and takes it to something visceral, something I feel with every iota.
That said, this is about the movie adaptation of Ender's Game. The next piece of my journey with Ender. As stated, I was very nervous to see this. I have been less-than-impressed with quite a few book-to-movie adaptations in recent months. Most notably Hunger Games whose rant I don't ever seem to have finished (though I could have sworn I did...)
But the movie was not the let-down I was praying it would not be. Phew. Indeed, it plummeted me back to the same space that made me so agitated I had to pen my thoughts on the vomit bag in an airplane because I had nothing else, and it needed out of me. Tonight I was to attend the farewell party of a friend moving to Ghana. I stopped by and said hello, and then exited myself to the side politely. I told a few people what was up. I am in that space. Ender does this me. Whether Ender's Game, Ender's Shadow or, now, the movie - I am driven by something in my soul to put words on paper and make sense of these thoughts and emotions swirling inside me, pulling and pushing in so many different directions.
I liked the movie way more than I was expecting to, which I was glad for. I must say, up front, that had I not read the book my experience and understanding of the movie would have been totally different. I touched on this sort of bias/expectations previously in my post on Ender's Game the book. Without book knowledge, much of the movie would have been confusing, or dare I say shallow. Hollywood uses sweeping brush strokes that gloss over the nuances and depths that make books the better half. skipped SO SO SO much in the movie. Like Peter, for example. He was in the movie 1 scene. Maybe a minute of screen time. But he's such a pivotal part of who Ender is and how he got that way. Same with Valentine, though she appeared a little more. The book greatly enhanced my viewing experience because I had the background, I had the knowledge that related to these characters and who they were that wasn't going to make the movie's final cut. I have to say one of my biggest complaints about the movie was the fabricated love story between Petra and Ender. She's the one girl in battle school with a name, and let's have her head-over-heels in love for Ender in the movie. That's not how I remember the book. Kind of lame. I also didn't like the portrayal of Bean, which I feel is a pivotal, crucial, role... but that bothered me less than The Petra thing.
The movie did alot of things right. I feel like the movie in many aspects enhanced my experience of the book, and I was glad for that. Asa Butterfield was 100% the correct pick for Ender. Graff and Anderson were well cast also. The movie was almost 2 hours, but I think they did okay; especially if you come to the table with the book behind you. They missed A LOT, but I don't think 3 movies like the current Hobbit debacle would have been appropriate either. Asa did great as Ender and I felt for him many times. I cried in the movie, like I was hoping I would. That means they got it right. They connected to me in the right places, the right way. But I feel like they failed to convey the sense of aloneness and isolation that made Ender. Of just how incredibly stacked everything was against him, and how he would not be broken, even when he was completely, utterly, alone. So alone. I had that from the book though and mapped it onto the events on the screen, and it ended up okay. That's part of why the whole Petra thing was so annoying to me. The book made it clear that though he gained respect, Ender never really gained friends. That was a luxury he couldn't afford, and Graff made sure of it. I did find myself wishing that the book were a little fresher in my mind, but I was worried because I knew the movie is on its way out of theaters, and if I was going to see it, I needed it to be on the big screen. So it had to happen now. I just didn't have the time to revisit the book.
But the main message got across. I was absolutely bawling, yet acutely aware of my skewed viewing experience as Ender took his "graduation exam." With the book as my foundation, I was omniscient where he was not. I knew what was happening, even when he did not. The lives being lost, the ships being abandoned, I was crying, crying, crying. And then the moment came where he would be broken, and I sobbed along with him. "I just killed an entire species." The crushing, crushing weight of that genocide. They made you, Ender. They built you, and you fought, and you tried the best that you could with the knowledge you had been given. You won their war. At great, great cost. I actually really liked the ending of the movie. I remember the book ending with the Formic War, not him finding the queen, and vowing to find them a new home, but maybe that was in the book too. I really liked how it was executed in the movie.
It's so interesting to me how I have changed and grown and am in such a different place than I was when I wrote my previous Ender thoughts. Yet, deep down, I still resonate on such a level with Ender. I connect with him in a way that I cannot explain. Him and Asher Lev. I am not the broken, hopeless, totally alone, peaceless youth I once was. I have ended the largest, worst, most pervasive battle for peace I have ever fought. The one inside me, with my warring halves. I have reached the place where Asher Lev is free. I am there. But I remember. And I can still feel the past, even if it doesn't define me anymore.
I remember the pain, the loneliness, the fear, the empty. I have not forgotten and I will not. And thus I still feel Ender. Not just for him, but him. I feel Ender. I feel Asher. And this is part of what drives me to know that I am on the right track. I must write. I must create. I must share. This kind of human-ness on the page is so real, it's terrifying. I must try and do the same. I've talked about that before in my previous Ender posts. It's so real, it hurts. The movie got that. That's why I cried. Shaking, crying. I am looking in the mirror, and it hurts. He hurts. I hurt. We hurt. And yet still, even after all that... After 10,000 deaths Ender presses on. His humanity is played out perfectly in the movie. Graff curses him as Ender questions what they were waiting for, saying what you were going to do, start a dialog? Ender has stopped all future battles, but in doing so, has revealed humanity's own ugly nature. The nature that is instinctual in him, but that he is trying to distance himself from. The violence. Peter. I omitted some lines from my initial write-up from the throw-up bag. I don't know why now I chose to do so at the time. I wasn't hiding anything. I went back to the bag (of course I still have it) and revisited those cut lines and found one I regret not having included the first time:
Ender captures the notion [of decency], but there is no indication he ever achieves it. "I don't want to beat Peter." "Then what do you want?" "I want him to love me." All I want is for people to love me. So why does Ender play so perfectly to me? Because he is so human? Yet where is his redemption? The knowledge that he can bring back what he unwittingly obliterated?
An interesting emphasis on love that I previously omitted. This now coupled with the emphasis the movie gave from its very first seconds with the opening quote:
“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him.” – A.E. Wiggin
I want to be loved so deeply that I am totally and wholly vulnerable to the point of someone being able to absolutely and completely destroy me. And yet, they do not or will not - for love overcomes the need to destroy. That is where true victory is achieved. This is what Ender boils down to for me when you strip everything away and leave only that single element. That level of love and understanding is something I have achieved with Ender and Asher. In reality, I love and I give of myself to gain that power over people. Some I regrettably have destroyed or attacked in moments of anger, rage, or discomfort. But others I cherish and protect and would give my life for in an instant. This force drives me at my core, surrounded by the loneliness of my past.
Ender's isolation and manipulation are severely undercut in the movie, and much of battle school is left out. I would have loved to have seen way more of the Battle Room. Not to mention the moral complexities that arise when using children to engage in war. That's barely even touched on at all. Also downplayed is what is intended in the book to be rife food-for-thought on the dynamics of empathy and vulnerability, and instead the movie offers us only the line I already mentioned where Ender confronts Graff, denouncing the "ends justify the means" methodology just used to win a war and commit genocide. Ender is now tasked with the stark reality that he has just annihilated an entire species of sentient beings -not to mention the lives he unknowingly sacrificed when he abandoned the majority of the fleet- who had just as much right to life as humans do.
I think though that when you consider how internal and inside-Ender-driven the plot is of the original book, many good things have come from this movie adaptation. It is worthy of its place, and I accept it as a fitting supplemental experience to my enjoyment of the book. I would not replace it, and I sure as hell hope this movie is not the attempted beginning of a franchise, but on its own, Ender's Game the movie is not as bad as I expected, and thus I came away pleasantly pleased.
It definitely dredged up all the questions I'd mulled on previously, and took me back to the place of balancing empathy and vulnerability without costing humanity, even if the movie did not explicitly do so. It was fulfilling to watch, and I appreciated being able to revisit the world of Ender, even if for me it comes addled with so much alienation and loneliness. But this, I think, in many ways allows Ender to be even more of a redemptive character, especially with the way the movie ending was framed. I appreciate Ender in new ways from my new point in life and perspective and am glad for him to have been such an impactful, insightful part of my journey toward better understanding myself, the human condition, and this crazy construct we call love.
In the end my desire, and Ender's, remain the same. No matter the bruises, bumps, or attacks, we seek only love. Even when the cost of giving that love is at great expense to ourselves, we will give. And give freely.
To recap, the movie is well done for the most part. If you accept it as a supplemental experience enhancing your view and understanding of the book, then it is well worth your time and money. So read the book. Then see the movie. And love. Love fiercely and wholly, even when everything is stacked against you or you feel alone beyond all reason.
A good friend of mine made a facebook post on December 5th, asking people's opinions on two questions. She specifically tagged me, asking my thoughts. I had to mull on it for a while, but I felt like my thoughts were important enough that I didn't want to share with just her.
I've discoursed before on bullying in other forums, including my experience when she invited to go visit the kids in detention with her. Knowing that she's going to weigh heavily my response and have it help shape her discourse with them made me feel like these next words would be even more important.
The questions to consider
#1-- What is the difference between "unique" and "odd"?
#2-- What makes someone an "original" or a "freak"?
Alot of people gave the standard, sort of knee-jerk reaction answers. Two of the words are how we define ourselves and help build us up, while the others are negatives other label us with to tear us down. That sort of thing.
But I disagree. Like, almost completely. It's not that simple. I wasn't vocal about it either, because she's one of the few people who remains in my life from a more conservative background than I can generally stand to associate with. So I wasn't sure how her friend-base would take to my truths. In short, I was scared to have a different opinion. I didn't want to be "odd." Not their label, but my own perception of them and how they would label. Those are different in nuanced ways.
I'm getting away from myself before I've even started. Stop. Step back.
Let's start with question one. Difference between two words. I'd have to argue that the difference is that the words practically aren't even related. Unique and odd don't even fall along the same parallel in my mind.
Miriam Webster defines UNIQUE as "very special or unusual" and "belonging to or connected with only one particular thing, place, or person." Furthermore, it states "being the only one" and "being without a like or equal." "Unique." Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2013.
ODD is defined as "strange or unusual," "different from what is normal or expected," and "happening in a way that is not planned or regular." Additionally, "being without a corresponding mate" or "differing markedly from the usual or ordinary or accepted." "Odd." Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2013.
Let's break it down. To me these words are very, very disparate. Unique to me denotes something singular, almost anomalous. There is no replica, no duplicate, nothing like it. Unique stands on its own, apart. Odd reflects un-same, but it still ties to the greater whole. It relates, it can be measured against something else, it still has place, even if that place is apart. There can be more than odd. People can be odd in the exact same way. This isn't attainable with uniqueness. Once you achieve any level of sameness in the realm of unique, the realm has been lost. The landscape has morphed and changed, and unique has broken.
That said, labels are not mutually exclusive. I could have an entire other super long deconstruction post on labels, but I won't for the sake of brevity and focus. I acknowledge that there is some overlap. I'm not saying these are completely, wholly unrelatable terms. Just that the relation is not as strong as many people make it out to be. You can push the boundaries of odd until it becomes unique, but there's a point where once you've transcended to unique, you have to abandon odd. They can't exist at the same time. I don't know that I can illustrate just where that point is, but it is.
I also don't think it's relevant to delve into the attachment of values to these words. Yes, most people see unique as a positive, but what about those of us who that being unique creates an uncrossable chasm of separation from everyone else? And so it isolates and hurts us more than it helps? That's a pretty lonely way to look at unique. And most people would call odd a negative, but what about those who see "odd" in a different light as something that sets them apart, keeps them with but away from the masses, and thus take strength from embracing the label? Some of my oddities are my favorite qualities about myself.
The second question to me hinges on the word "makes." What makes... warrants a foray into definition, perception, self-labeling, and group-labeling. I don't know that I have the time and energy to go deep into all that. It can get messy, and philosophical, and aporetic very quickly. Yup, cop-out. So let's stick to the words themselves for now. Original is is understood as "[A] document, film, painting, etc., which is created by someone and from which a copy or translation is made" and "a person who is different from other people in an appealing or interesting way." Likewise, "a person of fresh initiative or inventive capacity." "Original." Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2013.
Most of the responders to my friend squashed original and unique into an impossible box of co-existence. Original much more closely relates to odd than it does to unique. Original denotes a copy has been formed from it. Original is comparative in nature, just like odd. It is separate, but relatable to the whole. Again, it cannot occupy the same space as unique, just like odd couldn't. Because of their inherent ties to others, they annihilate the possibility of the existence of uniqueness.
Freak is characterized as "a sudden and odd or seemingly pointless idea or turn of the mind," "a seemingly capricious action or event." Also, "archaic: a whimsical quality or disposition" and "one that is markedly unusual or abnormal." "Freak." Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2013.
I think really there are myriad reasons and arguments that can be applied to these terms to shade them one way or another. And really, when you throw them all in a pot and boil away everything, that shading is the only thing that remains. I guess we're having the conversation anyway, though I'll keep it brief. Making is an action word, it involves doing, energy, effort. What makes someone these things is action. From themselves or someone else. These words are all lifeless and unimportant until we pick them up and start to paint with them. We can color them with our emotions, biases, and experiences. We can paint ourselves and we can paint others. But in the end, that's what it will always come back to. These terms can be fluid, argued, attached and discarded like fashionable or horrific accessories.
When I went to detention with her before, the lesson was all about showing them they could be in charge of what labels stuck to them and which ones didn't. These words are no different. Words have power, and so do we. To accept, to mold, to change, to heal, to hurt. Power is all around us. We can imbue words with that power, or we can choose to let them bounce off us like harmless drops of water. When you take a step back from language, the way we use it, the ways others use it, and trace back the power there to the wall plug, we find only one thing driving all our interactions, classifications, and understandings.
If you want to use those words to empower yourself, by all means do so. Thrive and prosper. Be odd, be a freak, but be great while you are. If you use them to hurt yourself, tear yourself down, or as self-torture, you should stop. You should seek help. You should find a way to move past that. There's enough already out there that will try and smash you to dust... you don't need to help the process along. If you find yourself using these terms to hurt others, or build yourself up by separating them out and holding them beneath you, you need to stop. You're damaging. And you're part of a larger problem. Flippancy and thoughtlessness are rampant, and the use of words in this way are some of the dark heart of bullying. When I didn't know how to protect myself, I came away bloodied and bruised. I can't even count how many times. I was surprised when after seeing the documentary "BULLY" with friends how unlike their experiences that movie had been. I was shocked actually. Because that was my reality, and my normal. Whenever someone else uses chooses to use their power to make their words weapons, often to try and tear you down in a feeble attempt to bolster themselves, I admonish you to hold fast to the words of David Brinkley:
A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.
Bullying is difficult, terrible, and exacts a toll. But you can move past, move up, and find strength in broken places.
Having lived in broken spaces, imprisoned in cages built by other people's words and perceptions painted onto me for many years, I now try and live in a way that is as embracing as possible of all terms and language, underlining them with the intent and power of building, helping, and healing. Really, I just try not to get hung up on labels at all. I'd sooner just wash away all the labels that get thrown at me and just BE.
Define me with all your words
Then find me a lesson to be learned
Try to brand me or burn me and I won't let it hurt me
Define me as what I am
Then try me as just a simple man
I’m no harm to you, I’m just doing the best I can
And if I’m defined by what I do
Then what am I supposed to call you
The shadow of a broken past you abused
And if I can stand on my two feet
I’ll break the wall where we will meet
I’ll document our combination for you
We’re starting this party tonight
Where people will be undefined
And love who they want, when the judgment is done
And won’t have to hide
We’re starting this party right now
Where people can shake off their doubts
And send out their love as it moves through the crowd
And people can shout
That they love a man
Or they love a woman
And no one will be judged for love
And I can’t be judged for who I am
Define me with broad clichés
But I won’t undergo any hate for a stranger’s mistakes
I’ve struggled through the boundaries of society’s needs
And now I’m not trying to please
Define me as God’s child
I am human and we’re all in the wild
This Earth is as much mine as yours in the end
So let’s unite as friends
But if I can lie in nature’s bed
Without the roses killing me dead
I think the Earth has got a point
And we’re a moving joint
And if I can say my prayers at night
I think I’m doing something right
Let’s open up a song of safety
And carry through the night
We’re starting this party tonight
Where people will be undefined
And love who they want, when the judgment is done
And won’t have to hide
We’re starting this party right here
Where people will shake off fears
And mass tolerance is replaced with resistance
And everyone cheers
That they love a man
Or they love a woman
And no one will be judged for love
And I can’t be judged for who I am
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So I connected my blog to my google profile and then it erased my description...
I went back and found the cached version just so I could have it. I just didn't want to lose the wonderfulness that was my description.
"I am smitten with esoteric wanderlust. I am plagued by an imagination that forces my hand to eke out pithy pontifications on parchment. I am hopeless, I am nothing, I am everything. I am brilliance, I am dumb apathy. I am evinced and cowering. I have surmounted challenges, effaced difficulties, thrived through struggles, and embraced victories. I do not know what my future holds, just that is rife with adventure, spontaneity, and happiness."
Langston Hughes had a number of thoughts on A Dream Deferred. I don't have answers to all of his questions, but I've finally arrived at what I feel is a suitable answer for me: A Dream Deferred is Not A Dream Defeated.
It took me some time to wrap my fingers around that place of clarity and hold on for all I was worth. I'm still clutching kind of frantically.
In those first moments, I felt like I was back in 2006, redefining everything about myself and my world. How was this possible? These plans... my entire life had been marching solidly in one direction for the last 18 months and then all of a sudden... just like that... snap of my fingers... and it's gone. The overwhelming reality mocked me, and everything fell away. How had I been so misled? How had I not seen this upfront? How could it spiral so far out of my grasp in just seconds?
The sense of loss, overwhelming. The disappointment, crushing. The stark reality, just black.
One of those moments you never want to have. And if you do, you never want to have them again. "I do not eat. I do not sleep. I cannot focus. I cannot study. I cannot think. I cannot breathe." It's crazy how life can twist back in on itself and in an instant thrust you back across years and scars like a song on repeat to the same feelings you thought you had laid to rest for good. Yet here I was. Again.
Even being a veteran at life-shattering moments, in the center of the crash, it's hard to see anything rational. The pain is too great. The realization that what you thought was happening... just isn't. To avoid making it any worse for myself, I immediately deleted my FaceBook. It seemed like the right answer at the time. I was in a place where I was reeling, hurting, and trying to re-establish myself after having the foundation of my life rocked. For a few days I didn't even know how I would come back from something like this. It seemed akin to a deathblow. Done. I was just done. It was over. The dream was dead. Everything splintered, and the dream of the last 18 months was murdered. The last thing I wanted in that space was to talk about why my going party was cancelled to 600+ people. So I erased it. Some people noticed, most didn't. But for me it was easier if that extra burden was just... gone.
I learned in 2006 how helpful other people could be, how sharing your pain can be a release, but this time I thought it would be easier to withdraw further into myself. I don't know why that was my answer. Over the last few months, I've been moving more and more toward introvertedness, which I can't explain. But it's been happening. So I closed myself off. I hid away. I nursed my depression, and buried myself in frisbee and work, the two best things I had in the moment. Like I said, I don't have all the answers. This problem isn't fixed, but I know it's there, and that's the first step.
Once I did start letting people in, they all wanted to have their say about what I should do. They all meant well, of course, and I appreciated them trying to be there for me, but it just wasn't working. This was further compounded by the ridiculous notion (but a legitimate one that still affects me) that this wasn't just a disappointment for myself, but that I was letting everyone else down too. So many people were rooting for me, encouraging me, sometimes I even think that some people live through me. Maybe that's narcissistic, but I just remember how people have commented how impressed they were that I was one of those people who do it. That goes for it, no matter what. I won't be held back. I won't back down. I won't take no for an answer. How many people settle instead of fighting for their dreams? I was ready to this time. I was broken. I was devastated. I wasn't sure how to pick myself up.
I'm working on it now though. I'm getting there. I didn't let the redefinition of myself stop me. I didn't let relearning how to walk stop me.
So why would I let money stop me? The way is not yet crystal-clear, but that doesn't mean I'm going to stop fighting. I'm a dreamer, and dreamers implement impractical solutions to achieve the unachievable. Yes, I'm not leaving in September. Yes, I've had to shift focus. Yes, I'm still rebuilding. Yes, it's going to be INCREDIBLY difficult. Maybe impossible. But I'm not giving up. I'm not set, I don't have the solutions laid out before me, but I'm back on my feet. I'm picking myself up. I'm dusting myself off. And I've got my dukes up again.
One of the first moments I knew I had decided to continue on was when this song came on the other day and I resonated completely with its message.
This post is a little more raw than I usually like to post, but it is what it is I guess. Time for some honesty and some vulnerability I guess. I'm still here, I'm not in danger, and I'm trying to rebuild the wreckage of my path so that my dream becomes reality. Life threw me an asteroid, but I'm not going to let that stop me. I'm glad that I'm strong enough now to bounce back from something like this, even when I didn't see how at the outset. Onward. Upward. "It's okay not to be okay."
2012 is over. So I should probably be over it.
As usual, I don't think this list is comprehensive, but it shows I am clicking on things. Actually, this list seems really, really, really short. Like seriously...oh well.
Usual disclaimers: No guarantee any links will work. Not a comprehensive list. Don't read if there's going to be something that offends you.
One teacher’s approach to preventing gender bullying in a classroom
What's the 'gayest' U.S. city? Not necessarily the most gay friendly
I have a letter to read from the Stake Presidency
Ender's Game hitting big screen with big names
Proof that Utah isn't the only state with insane politics
'Firefly' returning to cable; Fillion says he'd play Mal again
Settlers + Star Trek = Nerdgasm
You'll only appreciate this if you watch The Walking Dead...
Same thing here
Racism is alive and well and The Hunger Games proves it
BYU’s Gay Mormon Panel a Huge Success, Overflow Crowds Turned Away
Star Trek: The Original Series' surprising role in US civil rights
Flycoons spiked in Ultimate Frisbee Final
Back to Reality: A Case of the Mondays
Revised poll: Crockett-McAdams race is a virtual tie
LEGO Finds Spare Discontinued Set So Boy Who Saved Up For 2 Years Wouldn’t Be Disappointed
Men in tights: how 'meggings' are taking fashion by storm
King's Quest reboot coming courtesy of Telltale