Posts Tagged ‘Dune’

As I type this, Charlie Company of the 2012 Reborne Rangers has arrived at Lake Ann Camp and is learning their first lesson about conflict and teamwork in the face of the impossible on the paintball field as the final week of Reborne Rangers for 2012 begins.  I am still mulling over and telling the tales of week Alpha to friends who find themselves wishing they were there with me; to see what I saw.  Looking back, it’s accurate to say that the last day of Reborn Rangers Alpha 2012 was the most challenging one, as I wasn’t prepared for what awaited me throughout that day.

That morning, after breakfast and hearing from Chris, I tagged along as the Rangers headed out to a new physical challenge:  The Leap.  I thought I knew what The Leap was, I was so very wrong.  I thought The Leap was a event out on the challenge course at Lake Ann Camp that I had facilitated years ago involving slabs of tree trunk functioning as “lily pads” which the Rangers had to safely traverse while abiding by whatever restrictions their wise counselors put upon them.  This is not what The Leap is; The Leap is more, much more.

As I walked through the wooded area to our destination, with light filtering through the trees while leaves swished and crunched beneath my feet, I saw all the Rangers gathered in a large circle ahead of me.  As the circle drew nearer, I looked above me dazed and a bit confused.  Far above my head were cables strung between trees in proximity to what looked like small telephone poles about thirty to forty feet in height; and what was that red thing dangling off the cable, was that a ball?  I stood there somewhat speechless and amazed as the situation was explained to us:  Each Ranger would don a climbing helmet and full-body harness hooked to a rope and proceed to climb one of these telephone-like poles to a platform at the top.  Once atop the wobbly and wooden platform the Ranger would jump off into nothingness and attempt to strike the red ball hanging in mid-air from a cable.

As I contemplated what was going to transpire here, I began to think what many would consider “the unthinkable”:  Could I, in all of my physical weakness, instability, and pain, actually do this?  It’s not like I was 17 again, or even in my early twenties like when I was a counselor here; could I climb that AND THEN, somehow, jump off?  Something in me said I might be able to and that I’d regret it if I didn’t attempt to.  So I asked Chris what he thought: ‘The Youth Pastor in my says yes, you should do this and that it would be a sight the Rangers need to see; but the Program Director in me is conscious of the time constraints we’re under.  If we did this, what would you need?”  I explained the inherent stability issue, that  I would need one of the counselors already positioned on the platform located thirty-plus feet in the air to help me get on the platform and then to help me exit the challenge.  This wasn’t normal procedure and not everyone involved was 100% in support of the idea of me doing this but we forged ahead.

As the morning minutes spun on and the time for my challenge drew ever closer, I watched Ranger after Ranger climb this pole and leap into thin air like it was the most natural thing in the world.  To watch one such as Katie Champagne pull what amounted to “Spider-Man”, I just thought “how is she doing this?” Never doubting her ability or that of any other Ranger, but uneasy about my own.  As the last of the Rangers ascended and jumped, I handed all of my “pocketfuls of tech” and my lightsaber to Josiah Wyse so I could then get harnessed and helment-ed; one foot, then one arm, after the other.  I watched as the guy counselor for Rangers, JB, climbed the pole and fastened himself to it; waiting for my arrival.

Singularly focused on the challenge at hand, I walked through the circle of Rangers to the pole, where Doug Champagne strapped me in.  Suddenly Chris appeared to my right and asked me the same questions he’d asked every other Ranger he knew, past and present:  “What challenge are you facing back home?  What does climbing this represent?”  Considering the events in my occupational sphere and the knowledge that I’d be out of a job at the end of the year, continued employment was foremost on my mind.  Then, the climb began.

The thing about this pole is its pegs: the first 1/3 of the climb features longer, sleek, black, metal pegs upon which a persons feet can perch, even if they are unevenly placed.  While challenging, because my feet stick out at an awkward angle like the webbed appendages of a penguin, it’s do-able; more-so because of the assistance from Doug.  It’s the next 2/3 of the pole’s pegs that look down on you and sneer like a rouges gallery of supervillians in all their tiny and rounded “snubness”; these pegs screamed impossible.  By the time I reached them, all that kept me going was the words of a personal prayer inspired by the Green Lantern Oath:  “In Brightest Day, In Blackest Night, I cannot escape His sight; He who loves me with all His MIGHT, casts out all fear…Jesus Christ, the Light.”  My strength began to fade and I knew my feet would stage a protest if I kept going, not to mention feeling like my body was hugging the pole as if it and I were the only physical objects in my entire universe (for all I knew at that moment, we were).  I hadn’t given it everything so I kept climbing, one hard earned peg after another.  By this time I knew I was still hearing the voices of the Rangers below me trying to talk to me and shout encouragement, but so much of that became jumbled as I blocked out everything around me and could only think of the next peg and not about how much my legs were hating me for doing this to them.  One peg, then the next.  Most of the time my legs wouldn’t cooperate and I’d have to pull my body up at uneven angles so that my feet would end up far enough above a peg so that just the heel of my skater shoes could rest on them.  One peg, then the next; over and over.  Now the arms wanted to give out, but I was much nearer to the top.  Physically I wasn’t screaming the Green Lantern Prayer, but mentally it felt like it; one part of my brain was doing that while the other part kept repeating the Litany Against Fear from Frank Herbert’s Dune:  “Fear is the Mind Killer, I will face my fear, I will let it pass through me so that when it is gone only I will remain…” I wasn’t sure if I could keep climbing; my body had about had it but my spirit hadn’t given up yet and that was the key, much like using whatever item you find in the dungeon to defeat the dungeon boss in any Legend of Zelda game.  I kept going; peg after peg, weak penguin foot after penguin foot.

Finally, I reached JB and the top of the pole; only then did the Green Lantern Prayer stop, but only for awhile.  JB reached out his hand to grab me and help me onto the platform.  Since the sun was directly facing me though the trees, I couldn’t really see him.  With his hand reaching out, the moment had a Terminator/”come with me if you want to live” vibe to it which I of all people can appreciate.  As I stepped out on to the platform, I finally had an idea of how high up I actually was…and all the Rangers were about four stories below.  This was the point of no return, there was only one way off this bird paradise.

Ever so slowly I turned around and faced JB, my back to the sun shining through the trees and the edge of the platform.  Using JB for support I backed toward the edge of the platform, keeping my sight on the guy who had his grip on me.  It flashed through my mind that I had a small idea of what Peter might have been thinking the feeling when he stepped out of the boat on to the water, eyes on Jesus.  I felt my heels go over the edge of the platform and I gripped JB’s arm ever harder as he said “Count it down, then let go…3…2…1…”.  I let go.

Then the yell came as I was free-falling though time and space, no control over what might happen in the next sixty seconds; the Green Lantern Prayer returned.  Arms out as the descent began to be controlled, I found out later I was rocking somewhat of a “Spider-Man” or “Ninja Attack-hug”  pose of my own; be you more of a Spider-Man or Scott Pilgrim fan.  Closer and closer to the ground I came, as the adrenaline was still coursing through my veins and my muscles still wanted to punish me.   I don’t remember a whole lot after that, just a lot of people wanting to talk to me and posing for a victory photo before collapsing on the ground to let my body catch up to where the rest of me was.

All I knew at that point is that it was done, I had beaten The Leap; the impossible had become possible and I was told I had been awesome, and the pictures did not disappoint.

Yet, this was but the beginning of what I considered, “the toughest day”…

Advertisements

“In Brightest Day, In Blackest Night, no evil shall escape my sight; those who worship Evil’s might, beware my power, GREEN LANTERN’S LIGHT!” – The Oath of the Green Lantern Corps.

Those words were first penned many decades ago and for many decades since then, fans of the Green Lantern comics have waited for silver screen treatment; on June, 17, 2011, it came (kicking off a big weekend for me which included a birthday and the return of The FENX to Washington once again for my use). The story of Green Lantern is very much a cross between Top Gun, the original Star Wars and The Last Starfighter (all movies I love). The main character, Hal “Highball” Jordan, is a former United States Air Force (USAF) pilot who works as a test pilot for Ferris Aerospace a company started by former USAF pilot Carl Ferris (a friend of Hal’s aerospace daring father who died in a crash Hal witnessed as a young boy). Hal works alongside Mr. Ferris’s daughter (and fellow pilot) Carol “Sapphire” Ferris with whom he has an on again/off again romantic relationship. Both characters are asked to fly a sortie against a pair of UAV fighters that Ferris Air is development for the Department of Defense, an exercise which results in another plane crash.

Meanwhile, in another galaxy far from the Milky Way, an ancient threat that feeds on the fear of others known as Parallax has escaped imprisonment by the Green Lantern Corps, a group of intergalactic law enforcers who wield green rings which channel the will power of the wielder into anything they can think of. Having escaped, Parallax hunts down Abin Sur, the greatest of the Green Lanterns and the one responsible for imprisoning him. Wounded in their encounter and fading fast, Abin crash lands on earth and instructs his ring to choose his replacement; the ring chooses Jordan. In short order Jordan is transported light-years from earth to the planet Oa, the home-world of the Green Lantern Corps; here he begins his training at the hands of Kilowog (a brutish alien version of R. Lee Ermey) and Sinestro (an emotional magenta skinned Vulcan looking character). As the story progresses Jordan’s two lives collide and new villains and heroes are born.

In all honesty, I loved this movie. Not everyone will but I did. In full disclosure though I’ve been a fan of Green Lantern since the Justice League show on Cartoon Network so I’ve been waiting for it for about a decade. When DC Comics unleashed the Blackest Night crossover a few years ago it only solidified my position as a fan of the Corps. When it comes to a film like this my greatest concern is how close the movie stays to the source material and I never apologize for that fact. Green Lantern did a marvelous job here (no pun intended). Most of the characters were spot on as were costumes and locations like Oa. (Ryan Reynolds was what I expected Jordan to be, but even if Blake Lively had a good moment or two I hope she steps up the game going forward; she has to for the story arc of Carol).

One of the most important elements in the film was properly dealing with the relation between the Power of Will and the Power of Fear, illustrated by the colors green and yellow, and how they are often antithesis to one another. It brought to mind the mantra from the Dune universe “Fear is the mind-killer, fear is the little death that brings total inhalation; I will face my fear, I will let my fear pass through me and when it is gone only I will remain”. Critics complained that there was too much Computer Generated Images (CGI), and while A LOT of the movie was that, to not do it in such as way would have made the cost of the film astronomical and harder to execute. Additionally, critics expect all superhero movies such as this to be on par with The Dark Knight or the first Iron Man; without his powers, Hal Jordan is “Pete Mitchell” from Top Gun and with the power of his Lantern Ring he can’t be Batman. This is a film about finding courage (and the will to act) in the midst of overwhelming fear, and the places that courage comes from. It illustrates the power and influence of fathers (and how much younger men are affected by it) and mentors (in much the same way the Star Wars film did). It also hints at the cost of fighting as one’s enemy does (I expect the sequel to deal with this more), as well as the dangers of great power and the arrogance that can come with thinking oneself unassailable.

This film is a big step for DC and Warner Brothers, as it is really the first mainstay DC character to get his (or her) own movie (not TV show) and your name isn’t Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent. Seeing as how Marvel Studios is creating their own Marvel “movie-verse”, DC is finally taking a stab at the same (as illustrated by the inclusion of Dr. Amanda Waller; a character I expect to see much more of going forward who crisscrosses DC story-lines often and nods to the Department of Extranormal Operations (DEO)). In short, I look forward to future adventures and returning to Oa.

Finally, I couldn’t help but see a Christian parallel when it was the Sun that was ultimately the undoing of the interstellar baddie. On that note I will simply end with something I wrote years ago, inspired by Christian belief and the Oath of the Lantern Corps – “In Brightest Day, In Blackest Night, We Cannot Escape His Sight, He who loves us with all His might, He Casts Out All Fear, Jesus Christ, the Light”

*UPDATE* I just returned from an unexpected special Green Lantern in 3D screening in DC. One of the points in the film I didn’t cover but should have is Hal Jordan’s struggle with being chosen to join the Green Lantern Corps. Tomar-Re, one of Hal’s mentors (and his wisest), makes it very clear that Hal was chosen by the Ring even if he doesn’t understand why; that the Ring doesn’t make mistakes. Hal really struggles with this because in most areas of his life he is a failure who cannot overcome his fear. Ultimately, the Ring’s choosing Hal gives the character a sense of destiny that is both freeing and a burden; a burden because it is a difficult undertaking, but freeing because the die is cast and any sense of confusion and doubt about the path is past once he realizes why he was chosen. This is probably my favorite subplot in the film because ever since Star Wars and Terminator destiny has fascinated me.

In something totally unrelated, I am convinced that post-production conversion to “3D” is just a Hollywood gimmick, but when it’s actually filmed in 3D that is something else entirely.

Riding Towards Eternity,

Aaron

Life so far has been full of many crazy (some even fantastic – in the older sense of the word) adventures. As much as this shouldn’t surprise me considering I read things like Dune, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings – and thoroughly enjoy the TRON universe – many times it does. Worth is one of the greatest things humanity struggles with (both internally and externally; self worth and the worth of another) and I sometimes wonder if I am worthy of the adventure I find myself on. From a proper perspective of humility in relation to the Creator and Master of the universe, I’m not – but rather blessed to be on said journey.

Greatest amongst the recent adventures is obviously The FENX Project. I was reminded of this a few nights ago when I had dinner with Carl Sears and his wife Sheila. Carl is the producer behind the NBC News story on Dad, The FENX and I and his wife is the one who helped “discover” us on that late summer night in 2009 when I was driving home from the Capitol and her camera crew spied something coming toward them which they considered to possibly be a UFO, and in a sense the FENX was – in being an unidentifiable object flying past them. (To my friends to who secretly wonder if I’m really from somewhere else, here’s your shot but I am sorry to disappoint.) At dinner we shared memories of that night in July and the surrounding circumstances when it came to working on the NBC project together, such wonderful people. I shared with them a number of unlikely stories involving places like the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, Capitol Hill, and reactions from Members of Congress. It occurred to me, as it has many times, that I don’t lead a regular life – even if it seems so normal to me. (I’ve the Creator and my family to thank for that.)

Carl and Sheila opened the door for me to something much bigger than I thought, helped me take my first step into a larger world – as a crazy old man once said. The few opportunities I’ve had to tell the saga of my own life and the FENX Project have been amazing. I’ve been fortunate to be able to tell it over radio waves and in front of the camera and I recently went in front of cameras again to tell the whole tale on an Emmy award winning TV show focusing on issues from a pro-life perspective. We talked about quality of life for individuals who from birth have had physical challenges and long term medical conditions and that quality of life is possible. My own story is proof, I am living breathing proof that pre-judgments made by medical professionals are not always accurate, for one cannot medically assess the human spirit and the drive to persevere which resides within. What’s more: when the Master of the Universe enters into such an equation to ignite the path of destiny within someone He took the time to knit together, all bets are off. It’s why every life matters, why those who are perceived to be “less” by society aren’t – because they have been crafted and gifted differently. I had fleeting moments growing up wishing I could play sports like my younger brother did because I wanted the experience, but also because I wanted to be like everyone else. Sometimes it’s hard to lay down the sword and admit a pursuit like that isn’t the best use of the time, talents, and energy you’d been given – in the end I ended up on Capitol Hill and that desire to be like others and not myself has long faded.

A friend of mine – and fellow fan of the Galaxy Far Far Away – recently told me he thinks that my time in front of a camera with Facing Life Head On is something I was destined to do. Don’t know if he’s right or not, but he probably is.

Some inspire others though their actions, others inspire people by their very existence – because the world thinks they shouldn’t, yet they do; shouldn’t be, yet they are.

Riding Towards Eternity,

Aaron