Personal Mythologies III: Toonami

When I was a boy, I watched a lot of Toonami.

Toonami was a programming block on Cartoon Network that specialzed in Japense imports. It was some of my first exposure to anime, and by extension Japanese culture. I spent many years thinking I was literally the only person in the USA who knew about anime.

“A boy has the right to dream. There are endless possibilities stretched out before him.”

This video is a montage of shots from several of my favorite series, but most prominently Outlaw Star. Downtempo dubby music, which I believe was composed Joe Boyd Vigil, plays under a smattering of monologues and inspirational dialog.

“Whatever happens from now on, you stand firm and face your desinty without fear, but with courage.”

At the end of it all, we zoom out to see Tom, the show’s host, quietly reflecting on the video. His hands are behind his back. He appears to look at the camera, as if he knows the gravity of what was just broadcast. We pull back into space and the song wraps.

“Believe in yourself. Create your own destiny. Don’t fear fate.”

This video has consistently been something of a psalm for me. A sacred hymn for the dark nights of the soul. I cannot overstate the effect this had on me as an adolescent 12 year old, alone and huddled around my 13” tube TV watching the Midnight Run with the lights off.

Just read the YouTube comments. I wasn’t alone. Hundreds of other 12 year olds were having the same experience:

YouTube Commnets

I unabashadely embrace the earnestness of this video, the music, the message. In an age where irony, sarcasm, and apathy are the defaults, this is a healing salve.

This reminds me of why I got into explicilty sharing my music and art in the first place. I wanted to make people feel the way this video made me feel. I wanted to pass that flame on.

On How Difficult it is to Dispose Hazardous Materials

I believe that if you sell a thing you ought to be obligated to also dispose of that thing.

My wife and I moved this year. Part of the process involved unearthing an exceptionally old container of photography chemicals. D76. You know. The really poisonous stuff.

Chemicals

The easy option is to throw the box in the dumpster. It magically disappears and we never have to think about it again.

It turns out there were only two facilities “near” us that would accept these types of chemicals. Both were over an hour drive away. Both had awkward drop-off windows. Yes, we ended up arranging for the dropoff to happen. No, we did not succumb to the path of least resistence.

The choice I was faced with was comically absurd. Either spend 30 seconds to throw it in the dumpster or spend half a day to dispose of it responsibly.

Comparatively, disposing of our house-paint was simple. All the hardware stores near us accepted it… for a fee! But nonetheless it was a simple and obvious decision.


While proofing this post I learned that Kodak recommends just dumping it down your drain.

What a world.

We Are Drawn to the Monomyth

We are drawn to the monomyth because it makes sense and our lives simply don’t. We’re afraid of our own stories because they are unlike the stories we’re familiar with. These two forces create a feedback loop.

The monomyth is the “only story” there is to tell. It is the hero’s journey: a step into the unknown, meeting a mentor, the darkest hour, then triumph, the return home.

Homer’s Iliad is one of the oldest stories to follow this template. You learn about these intricacies whenever you take a fiction writing class. It isn’t a secret. It is just the mechanics of how good stories work. Do it right, and your audience will feel comfort, cohesion, and continuity.

If only our lives were so tidy.

Our lives don’t work this way. Our lives are chaotic things. We meet characters who end up having no impact on the plot. We assume there is a plot. Horrible and wonderful events befall us, completely disconnected from all other events. Our lives offer no exploding Death Stars or melting terminators to signal that we’ve reached our goals.

I posit that the power of goal setting is that it allows us to live out miniature monomyths. The bigger the goal, the more satisfying and intricate the story. Lacking goals, we’re just tumblin’ birds.

I’m presently enjoying a season in life where, simultaneously, a 20-year, a 15-year, a 10-year, a 4-year, and multiple less-than-three-month goals are coming to fruition.

It feels like I’m on the last few pages of the book. That feeling used to be terrifying and empty. Now, I feel only energy and awe. All these little hero’s journeys are wrapping up. I’m eager to start more.

Since we tell each other stories that make perfect sense, our lives tend to feel like hot messes in comparison. I love a good mystery novel, but the celestial machinery of reality doesn’t issue puzzles with all the pieces included.

Is there a way to tell stories that are satisfying, but more closely resemble life? What would happen if we took a break from the monomyth? What would it mean to tell stories based around community instead of heroism? Threads instead of arcs? Harmony instead of conflict?

I’ve started exploring this in my practices. After all, what is the traditional pop song structure but another manifestation of the monomyth? And what is the expository blog post but the same?