For Each of Us Comes A Time When We Must Be More Than What We Are

For each of us comes a time when we must be more than what we are.

Lloyd Alexander, the Castle of Llyr.

Listening to Mr. Follow Follow by Fela Kuti as I write this–you should too.

I remember when I first read this line in The Castle of Llyr over 10 years ago. It actually ended up being my first tattoo. It was done by an amateur artist, so 6 years later it’s almost illegible.

It’s funny, every time someone asks me what the tattoo says they usually don’t ask anything else or try to comment on what it might mean. I usually supply, “it’s actually from a children’s book,” and sometimes, “yeah, one of the books in the series was turned into a Disney movie, you probably haven’t watched it,” because most people haven’t seen the Black Cauldron and that’s not ok, but it’s fine, you know? But the story of Taran, the assistant pig keeper, is one of my favourite series to this day.

More than what we are. What are we?

Just people, I guess. We’re all people; humans. And in specific moments, those special moments, we have the option to be more than just a person–a hero.

A large part of Taran’s story is based on this point in particular. He’s a nameless boy (he has no family) who wants to be a hero, more than the orphan boy he is at the beginning of this story. There are many opportunities for him to give up, but he pushes on–for an amazing article about the series, check out David Robert’s piece on Vox. The whole series and its appendices deserve a re-read by me, I’ll fully admit.

If you’ve read the first story in 23 Different Jobs, “Aliens”, then you can probably infer how I feel about humans in general. I don’t hate humans, I just think at our most basic level we’re selfish and cruel and insecure and most of our lives are spent fighting against that; that basic instinct to look out for yourself and no one else. I question whether we’re really capable of change or if we’re doomed, Westworld style, to continue in these same paths no matter how we try to change. I wouldn’t say I’m disgruntled, because I also have a lot of faith in humanity, with, for example, the recent Canadian election proving me wrong in a lot of different ways, some of them for better and some for worse.

For each of us comes a time where we must subvert those expectations placed on us; where we have the opportunity to show that we’re better than how aliens might see us or better than we might see ourselves. Maybe it’s just listening to somebody who needs to be listened to or doing the right thing–but you gotta do it. That time comes for all of us.

We all have the opportunity to be a hero. We can all be more than what we think we are–than who we think we are. You understand that, right?

I guess if you don’t have this quote tattooed on you to remind you of this every step you take, you can always point your telescope to the declination +6° 24′ 33.2″ and right ascension 7h 7m 59.2s and see a star named Taran Wanderer that hopefully isn’t dead yet.

Hopefully Lloyd would approve.