Mark vs Cancer

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Karate Kid Within

Some modern psychologists propose that we all live out our lives according to an internal "script," a living, fluid drama/ action/ comedy wherein we play a pre-determined role as protagonist or victim . . . or the guy who gets pushed into the produce stand while the cops chase the stray dog through the supermarket. (Then the dog pees on the watermelons, and there's a close-up on your yucchy face.)

Our personal scripts work like this: we subconsciously piece together fragments of acquired stories--from folklore, family history, novels, plays, movies, etc.--and time and again our personal experience either reinforces or revises the validity of our script. If we figure out what our script is, then we can skip to the end and decipher how our lives will play out in real-time: will you be a hero or a villain? A martyr or a victim? A success or a failure? If we're really self-actualized, we can even change our scripts, mold them to conform to our best qualities and dreams, and thus shape our destinies.

What is your personal script? Mine closely mirrors the original screenplay of "the Karate Kid," which Elizabeth gave me as a DVD for Christmas.

Not only is this movie a tour de force of 80's pop culture (big hair, camoflauge pants, cheesy rock soundtrack), but it is an iconic representation of how I view my relationship to the world: the scrawny, slightly sardonic, good-natured and somewhat nerdy guy who gets the crap kicked out of him over and over again, only to be standing at the end on the winner's stand as the crowd cheers and the soaring music plays, holding the trophy and the beautiful girl. (That's you, Elizabeth.)

That sounds like yours truly, doesn't it?

Ending of my script:
"You're okay, Mark-san," confesses Bad Johnny through his nose, freshly bleeding from my indefensible Flamigo Kick.
--Cut to credits--
(Question: why "if done right, no can defense?" I mean, it's not like you can't see this kick coming from a mile away. I guess you've just got to snap it, man, like lightning. No way can you defense that.)

Anyway, I cannot overstate the impact this seminal movie has had on my childhood and life. Here's a few momentous events of my life that have followed the dramatic arc of my internal Karate Kid script:
  • making the Chatfield varsity basketball team (after initially getting cut)
  • my entire missionary experience
  • getting into medical school
  • wooing and winning Elizabeth's heart
  • surviving and succeeding in residency
  • the Worland opportunity rising out of the Cedaredge ashes
  • pounding on my little brothers (OK, so this one was always the reverse script--the Johnny version--but it was always the sweetest, ending with Goose writhing on the basement floor like Daniel on the beach)

The scene pictured below, where Miyagi reveals the ways of the force to Daniel--"show me . . . sand-a floor. No no tt tt tt. Like dis. Show me sand-a floor."--is one of my all-time favorites from any movie. When they showed this scene in the MTC as part of a motivational meeting, my heart was bursting out of my chest and I was ready to walk on water. You talk about getting a bunch of Elders pumped to go memorize some more vocab lists!

Plus, this movie provides a terrifying example of pure evil; the Sensai of the Cobra Kai was one bad dude. Has any Hollywood line ever been uttered with more pure malice, more dripping venom, than "Sweep the leg."? (Of note, he does not say, "Sweep the leg, Johnny," as many of us like to recite. Rather it's simply, mercilessly, brutally, "Sweep the leg.") In spite of Miyagi's heroic goodness, I have a feeling that Sensai would have whooped his hiney if they'd had a throw-down in his home dojo.

But back to the script. In more serious terms, I do actually find motivation and meaning in stories like the Karate Kid, Rocky, Star Wars, Hoosiers and Seabiscuit (too intense), and so my personal script is probably better entitled, more generically, as "Markie the Underdog." (This is different from the B-movie classic "Markie the Wonderdog." Not me.)

So now I pose this question to you: what is your personal script? What stories give meaning and perspective to your life and challenges? (Hopefully not Dumb and Dumber.)

Now, fade out of this post with a triumphant refrain ringing in your ears:

"You're the best . . . around.

Nothin's ever gonna keep you down.

You're the best . . . around.

Nothin's ever gonna keep you down . . ."


Jeff said...

My life script is more like "the Count of Monte Cristo," in that everything I do is a coldly calculated move that inches me ever closer to exacting revenge upon all those who have injured and done me wrong in the past. Remember when you used to make weird guttural noises that were supposed to be impressions of us being nerdy, even as we yelled and screamed for you to stop and insisted that we did not sound like that? "God will give me justice!"

Adam said...

My life script is more of a mixture of Nacho Libre, Mission Impossible/Bourne Identity/X-Men, Pride and Prejudice, and Lord of the Rings. More specifically Aragorn. An underdog, that at heart is an unstoppable force, that has a yearning for love, and is a scrapper that is just waiting to show the world he is really the King.

Goose said...

My life script is perfectly summed up in one movie "Chariots of Fire". Like Eric Little, when I turn on the juice, I fling back my head and begin to show my true running form. While you may laugh at how I look, I will be the one with the last laugh when I come burning by you on the final turn!


Matthew said...

Now seriously. Mark man, you're heroic... but in a different way. In fact, to me it seems that everyone wants to be the triumphant hero who overcomes defeat after humiliating defeat who finally conquers his foe and lives up to his foretold glory.

No offense... but has any of your guys' lives been so... I dunno. Dramatic? Really? Lucky you!

I had never considered my personal narrative as a movie before. I would like to say "World According To Garp", except that Garp dies a violent death at the end, and I have no desire for that. Garp is good at heart, but gets into and out of a fair share of troubles. He never was a hero... only human.

So, no... Garp is not me. I would rather adopt Flash Gordon's glorious and well-earned victory over Ming the Merciless(set to rockin' Queen tunes) as my personal mythology. He saved every one of us... from varied and deadly exotic aliens in polyester tights wielding silver rayguns, spaceships, asteroids and so forth.

Beat that.

Angie said...

My life script is an exact copy of The Incredibles, except that we only have one kid instead of three. But everything else lines right up... Being capable of great feats but caring more about protecting my family, having a macho husband with super-human strength, and being constantly chased by a psycho guy with pointy orange hair.

Wendi said...

Hrmmm. As yet I haven’t really found any movie heroines whose stories seem to emulate my own life, given that it’s been way too topsy-turvy for any decent fable (or because I take myself too seriously, as my husband seems to believe). But I guess if I had to name a heroine whose character / story I admired and identified with in some vague way, Cate Blanchett’s stellar performance in the film "Elizabeth" comes to mind (although I am not nearly as regal, calculating or cold-hearted as she is depicted to be). Guess that makes me a monarch wanna-be…?

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