Posts Tagged ‘NASA’

Lex Luthor.  While not the most famous of villains in Science Fiction or Fantasy – that distinction goes to Darth Vader – he’s close, in most minds ranking equal to The Joker and Magneto (and unfortunately higher than my favorites, Ra’s Al Guhl and Darkseid); he’s the Gordon Gekko of DC Comics (unless someone wants to throw Bruce Wayne – not Batman – into that role).  Of these nefarious characters, he is the most relateable; yes, even more so than Magneto.  While some would certainly argue different as to the relateability of the character – probably because of Luthor’s stature and wealth – it’s the seven seasons of Smallville that make the case, thanks to a brilliant turn by Michael Rosenbaum.  It’s the transformation of Lex into the character the world has come to know that gives pause to ask “Would I have made the same decisions he did had I been in his shoes?”  and watch him make the smaller choices along the way that bring him to where he is as the show ends.  Which brings me to “Luthor Syndrome”.

What is it?  It’s the condition that Lex suffers from, a condition that you and I can suffer from too.  Lex Luthor was born into resources, born into wealth and power.  These circumstances helped lead him to believe that he was special, that he had a destiny and the means to achieve it.  He felt as if that end MUST be achieved, so that he could do greater things than his father did (the whole juxtaposition of the father/son relationship between Clark/Lex and Jonathan/Lionel is fantastic and a study in and of itself, especially in an age of such fatherlessness amongst youth).  Because of his roots, Lex felt that his destiny was owed to him – that he was entitled to it – and the choices he makes are justified in light of his embracing his purpose to rule (he finally becomes President by the time the show’s finale ends).  Before I go on, I want to make a quick point:  the idea of destiny isn’t a bad one at all, it’s how we choose to lay hold of and embrace it that can be a dangerous thing; it didn’t start that way for Lex, but he let it overtake him.

Curing one’s self of this disease is a great challenge and as the entirety of Curiosity’s recon mission to Mars didn’t happen in a day, neither will this.  It’s a rare individual who doesn’t desire to be more than they already are or more than society around us says we can – or should – be.  Most if us have it in us, I think it’s hard wired; the proof lies in our love of myth, triumph, and heroes who rise to greatness (and it hits home even more when movies like The Dark Knight Rises and Avengers crush the box office…and that’s just this summer; wait till we go back to Middle Earth in December).  There is something inside of all of us that looks at what culture says about us – or what we should be like – and our response is to prove them wrong and sometimes at great cost, for there are few whom society accepts on account of themselves and those whom are accepted are the ones the rest of us are told we should emulate…often to the detriment of giving up on who we are and creating an image we don’t even want.  Add too all this the idea – espoused by many in government today – that you have a “right” to just about anything you want – thusly entitled to it – and the curing is even more difficult.

Thanks to “Luthor Syndrome” living with some sort of “disability” can be even more of a challenge.  I’ve talked before about the “conventional wisdom of society”, that folks with disabilities are “less” in comparison to those without and how erroneous such thinking is; thinking prevalent enough to warrant more and more prenatal genetic testing for all sorts of conditions and disabilities.  Additionally, there is also the dark side of having a disability, the sense of entitlement that can come with perseverance.     As much as suffering through the difficulties that can arise from having a disability can lead to perseverance, and that perseverance can lead to character, it can also lead to a sense of  entitlement.   Sometimes, having persevered, having overcome, a sense of entitlement can creep in – a feeling that says “look what I’ve done; where is my reward…the world owes me a prize…look at what I’ve been through”  When that doesn’t happen, then comes anger, disappointment, resentment, disillusionment, and sometimes, even hate.  The steely, arctic truth is that we are owed nothing, yet so many  of us (living with disabilities and without) think that we are.  I live in this tension often.

As with many other things there is a choice to be made between character – often considered to be a positive element or quality – or entitlement. It’s much akin to a fork in the timestream, or watching a parallel dimension: in one, perseverance produces character (and subsequently, hope) and in the other entitlement is produced due to a lack of character.  This sense of entitlement, if not gratified but rather spurned and crushed, can lead back to the fear and anger from which one started.  Fortunately, there is a way to combat “Luthor Syndrome”: humility.  A friend once told me that “the best cure for entitlement is Scripture”.  Therein is the truth of our state in relation to the Creator and Master of the Universe.  Andrew Murray’s book on humility has also been suggested, fortunately it’s on one of my bookshelves.

The world we live in and the worlds we create for ourselves often aren’t nice places because of “Luthor Syndrome” – how would you fight it?

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I really like books; I like owning them, having shelves full of them, and reading them.  I’m currently in the midst of four separate books between various small groups and my own personal reading.  I started reading Frank Peretti at 11 years old and started collecting the Star Wars expanded Universe at 12; 17 years later my Star Wars  novels count is well over 80 and takes up three shelves of one of my bookcases.  I was obsessed with Christian apocalyptic fiction for most of Jr. High and High School thanks to the Left Behind books (but I won’t say anything more about that – except that I never finished the whole series).  When looking at my bookshelves, I never expected for it to hold a book by Donald Miller, the author of Blue Like Jazz (which is going to be released as a theatrical film soon)JRR Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Susan Cooper, G.P. Taylor, Chuck Colson, and two series on Philosophy and Popular Culture (Star Wars, Star Trek, Transformers, Terminator, Green Lantern, Batman, X-MEN, Battlestar Galactica, 24, LOST) sure, you’d find those, but Donald Miller?  Wasn’t he the guy that the “cool kids” read, those on the 21st Century cutting edge of Christianity?  Yeah, that was way too “Christian Hipster” for me when I actually thought about it, and I honestly would have rather read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books if given the choice (which I own but  haven’t finished).

All that changed one night a few weeks ago.  It was a cold Tuesday night and I’d just finished leading a C.S. Lewis reading group called “The Inklings” (what else would you call it?) when I ran into my friend Andy.  We hadn’t seen one another since the Leadership retreat for National Community Church a few weeks prior, so we got to talking.  Before we knew it we got talking about dreams, destiny, and how it takes intense conflict and perseverance to make a good story (all in “epic superhero/comic book movie” context as well as some of my own life story).  All of the sudden a light goes on inside Andy’s mind and he asks me “Have you ever read Donald Miller?”  I said “no”, and I wasn’t so eager to begin.    Andy began to explain that he understood my hesitation, as he didn’t like Donald Miller either, at first.  It wasn’t until he read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years that his perspective began to change (and he has now lead multiple smallgroups though this book).  In fact, my friend believed so much that I should read this book that he bought me a copy and had it sent to my house.  When that happens, you’ve got to give the book a shot because someone you respect sees it as a powerful vessel for wisdom, transformation, and change.  So I began reading.

This being my first experience with this author I didn’t know what to expect.  I had recently seen a trailer for the theatrical release of Blue Like Jazz and it looked very “indie and weird” (redundancy?).  I don’t really like “indie and weird”, except when it crosses over into “epic, super-ish, and full of awesome” like Scott Pilgrim vs. The World does (and SO WELL), because I live in the land of epic and I don’t’ like to stray outside those borders.  As I read I began to realize that one of the threads going through this book was the story of how Blue Like Jazz was going to become a movie: a ground floor account of the author’s life though that process and how it all went down (from characters, to conflict, inciting incidents, plot turns and the like).  I began to wonder “Has George Lucas done this?” and I found myself wishing the answer was yes.

Miller uses this book to look at his life as a story, and to ask the overall question of “what makes a good story and am I living one, a story worth living and inviting others to be a part of?”  As I read I realized that these were questions that I was (and am) consistently wrestling with in light of some of my experiences.  It brought to mind the ending of the two part episode of Facing Life Head On that I was featured in last year, when the host of the show, Brad Mates, says that I and my fellow interviewees had made our lives “stories worth telling”.  Does that mean that at the end of every day you have to be able to say that the day that just ended was worth it?  No, it does not, but worthwhile things have sure happened.  Often in our own stories it’s others that see the worth that we can’t as we’re in the midst of it, as I wrote about Kirk and Spock yesterday.

The book talks about how in Star Wars, the viewer can pause the movie at any point and ask the question “what does a certain character want and what do they have to overcome to get it?” and you know the answer.  Luke wants to become a Jedi and join the Rebellion; Leia wants to defeat the Empire; Han Solo want money so he can pay off Jabba the Hutt.  Ben Kenobi wants to teach Luke the ways of the Force.  Reader finds themselves asking, “what do I want and what do I have to overcome to get it?”  (Along that line of thinking I started to read Quitter by Jon Acuff and will blog about it when I finish the book).  I started asking myself, “is mine a story that is one others should be invited to participate in?” once the book raised this question.

In addressing this question, thoughts drift to The FENX (how can it not?)  I think of how that part of the my story touches and relates to so many other parts and is the fulfilment of some aspects (like wishing I were a superhero).  It’s also something that so many have been invited to be part of.  From Carl Sears and his wife Sheila at NBC to Brad Mates at Facing Life Head On; from radio show hosts Aleksander Danilov, Rick Amato, Anthony DiMiggaio, and Armstrong Williams to writers like Kate Tumerello and Roll Call newspaper.  Even two wonderful ladies who work at NASA and have become good friends of mine (one I actually went to high school with).  Not to mention friends in DC that find themselves part of the crazy incidents that happen on a regular basis and become wondrous tales.  It isn’t just my story anymore; they’ve all been invited to be part of it, and in accepting it’s become part of their story too.  One of the pastors at National Community Church once said that “everyone had that friend on college that was the crazy one that stuff happened to all the time; you either wanted to be around them or run from them because of that.”  I am fortunate to have friends that haven’t run away yet.

There’s still much ground to cover any always improvements to be made, and some of them monumental ones, but yes, I think my life to be a story worth living on the whole of it.  Remember that a good story requires intense conflict and perseverance – the road of The Greater Miracle is unpaved and sparsely trod – the Apostle Paul speaks to this in Romans 5:3-5 for a reason, venturing into the realm of suffering where Yoda dared not go.

What sort of story is your life, is it one that people want to be a part of?  Are you inviting people to be part of it?

It is rare for me to come across something that I find so compelling that I have to act. A good friend of mine recently commented to me that we often come in contact with situations which impress upon us and move us, but they do not impact us enough to actually do something about it. For some it’s poverty and/or homelessness. For others, like Mike and Heather Colletto, it’s the trafficking and subsequent slavery of another human being – the robbing of another of that individuals’ inherent dignity bestowed upon them by the Creator by seeing them as less than human and ensnaring them in to a life of bondage either by deception or force. Still, for others it is the sacredness of human life – especially the unborn. This is a cause to which I have attached myself, along with countless other friends and strangers. In the midst of ALL that seems to be transpiring in our great Nation over this issue in the last few weeks, I’ve noticed a particular “sub-issue’ which isn’t addressed all that often, maybe because it gets wrapped up into the various facets of the larger issues at play within the Pro-Life Cause. This crucial “sub-issue” is the “quality of life” for individuals with medical conditions, physical challenges, handicaps, disabilities – call it what you like.

Previously, I wrote about my experience being interviewed on this very subject by an Emmy-winning pro-life television show, because of my life experiences, trials, and triumphs with Cerebral Palsy. Since that interview four weeks ago to the day, this issue of quality of life, the importance of it, and the lies surrounding it have been made starker than ever before.

Almost two weeks ago, I was present for a subcommittee hearing of the Energy and Commerce Committee, a hearing on Rep. Joe Pitts’s Protect Life Act to ensure no funding for abortion in Obamacare (since this hearing the bill has made it though sub-committee, full committee, and is likely to see floor action). During this hearing (which degraded into a circus at certain points) a member of the minority on the committee lamented the lack of access to abortion (if this bill becomes law) for the purpose of terminating a pregnancy wherein a fetus is determined to have a disability (just about a direct quote and certainly the spirit of the comments is not lost in how I phrased it). I caught this and my mind exploded. Here I was observing all this and I had to hear those words. The underlying “wisdom” in society is that such a life/baby/child does not deserve a chance because they will not have a good quality of life and/or raising such a child is too much of a burden to the parents (mother – since Planned Parenthood doesn’t really want the father involved at all). This is often how society is urged to think by purveyors of culture and it is a pernicious and sinister LIE. This “wisdom” is the under-girding foundation upon which that comment was uttered in the hearing last week – and people BELIEVE it. There I was, the proof to discredit this lie and no one knew because I wasn’t allowed to speak out because it would have broken decorum rules in a committee hearing.

Reeling from that experience over the last two weeks after it has been seared into my brain, I came across a blog post last Wednesday that floored me. Zack Arnold is the editor of the popular show Burn Notice on USA Network that happens to star Bruce Campbell among others. Zack’s blog post details his “Passion Project” (ironic/awesome since he edited the trailer for Passion of the Christ): a documentary about the late Chris Rush, a metro Detroit native and dear friend to Zack. Chris was a quadriplegic with Muscular Dystrophy who at a young age became an ambassador for Jerry’s Kids, met President Regan, was designated a honorary NASA astronaut, and as an avid Star Wars fan caught the attention of some of the crew who worked on Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Reading Zack’s blog post (twice) and watching the footage he had already edited together, I couldn’t help but ask myself “how can I help here, what can I do?” So I contacted Zack, and surprisingly heard back. Over the course of a few hours (as I told my own story and shared footage of The FENX Project and Zack expounded on Chris’s saga) I began to realize what a fantastic project this really is, and how much like Chris I actually am – we’d have been great friends given the chance. Since Zack is trying to raise $10,000 – with almost $5,000 raised as of this writing – to go out to Las Vegas for the next Muscular Dystrophy telethon organized by Jerry Lewis’s organization (and to try and interview Jerry himself) I’ve been trying to get the story out to folks in DC and around the country who might have an interest because they are familiar with my life and it’s triumphs and trials.

In this project, I see an excellent opportunity to showcase the quality of life someone can have while encouraging and inspiring others to live their own lives to their maximum potential; Chris did that. In the face of a culture that creates molds and an erroneous concept of the ideal which says “if you do not meet this you do not belong, we do not want you” – Chris lived and excelled. He reached higher and achieved more than anyone in the beginning (save his family – and I know how that is) thought possible, and that legacy has a chance to be immortalized.

I look forward to the day when Chris and I will walk together on streets of gold and talk about how our faith in Christ sustained us though trial, as we appreciate something for eternity that we never were able to experience as intended on Earth. One day, two Star Wars fans will race from one galaxy to the next to “be the first one to see them all” (as a young Anakin Skywalker once exclaimed).

Riding Towards Eternity to meet Him (and Chris),

Aaron