Posts Tagged ‘Optimus Prime’

In the last three weeks I’ve authored a series of blog posts in an attempt to forever capture the spirit of the events at Lake Ann Camp during Alpha week of Reborne Rangers 2012.  Why go in the first place?  Why take an entire week off work in the midst of a busy legislative season and an election year?  Why book an expensive plane ticket on short notice and go through the hassle of missing a flight and flying out early the next day while the world slumbers?  My love for this place aside, I went because someone thought I had something worthwhile to say, and had I not gone I’d be a step behind on my own journey of discovery and acceptance; not willing to live out my own admonition to the Rangers to “take your first step into a larger world”.  Put another way, I was supposed to go if for no other reason than the many “lollipop moments” that occurred.

When I began wrestling with the question earlier this year of “if I were to go, what would I have to say?”, the single theme that kept coming up was:   illustrating the importance of destiny and purpose to avoid wandering about like Scott Pilgrim before he met Ramona Flowers and “The League of Evil Ex’s“.  What’s more, the ability to use the circumstances of my own story to illustrate this concept; that and my love for “The Wars” (Star Wars) and general Hero/Superhero culture to attempt a 21st Century equivalent to Paul on Mars Hill in Acts 17.  What better way to begin than with the “snap-hiss” of a toy lightsaber?

With that as my launchpad, I explained the significance of the lightsaber, Lake Ann Camp as an arena of conflict in spiritual terms, and the Reborne Rangers program as a training ground for transformation.  In sharing my story with them, the faith built up in me through various events and circumstances could be loaned out to them for their own edification and encouragement toward embracing the story that is being written in their lives instead of living their lives through the story of someone else; Revelation 12:11 in real life.

I spoke of how my story began in an operating room and not in a maternity ward because of the circumstances of premature birth and the need get out into the world ASAP.  How the doctors didn’t expect me to live through the night and presented my parents with a grim assessment once I did, putting before my mom and Dad the choice if they wanted me (or not).  Moving through childhood I mentioned the mystery of a number of the scars my body carries because I was too young to remember how I got them.  Nevertheless, my memory of Shriner’s hospital at the end of 1996 is still very clear as I talked about much of what happened back then and what it was like to be confronted with my own mortality and stark spiritual reality as a young teenager and to carry that as life goes on – how it changes the way you “mind your surroundings“.

As I neared the crux of my address to them I talked of my desire as a Jr. Higher to be in Washington someday, working on Capitol Hill because two friends saw something in me and called it out when we were kids and how all of that brought me to where I am today.  “When Paul wrote Ephesians”, I told them, “he wrote two verses that we know very well (Eph 2:8-9), but he also wrote the next verse – Eph 2:10 – and when I encountered it a few years ago, it rocked my world.  ‘For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which He has prepared for us in advance'”  I explained that this verse implies destiny, puts forth the idea of individual purpose, and shouts from the rooftops that “there are things on this earth that you are meant to do that nobody else can do; there are problems to which you are the solution and prayers to which you are the answer – find out what those things are!”  To illustrate this idea, I mentioned Frodo’s conversation with Galadriel in the Fellowship of the Ring.

I went on to tell the story of attending an events in DC earlier this year wherein I got to see James Earl Jones (the voice of Darth Vader in Star Wars and Mufasa in The Lion King) interviewed live on stage.  I explained that in  attending this event, I learned that James Earl didn’t have a relationship with his dad growing up and how that affected him.  Further, I talked about how interesting it was to me that a man without a father would go on to to voice both the most notorious father to grace the silver screen in recent memory and the best fatherly portrayal I’d ever seen; one that tugs at me even now, because I see so much of my Dad and I in it.  I went on to posit that what my Dad and I have done with the FENX and media coverage over the last few years is part of Eph 2:10 for our lives as father and son, something we were meant to do together.

I thought it important to discuss the issue of disability, difficulty, and healing and how that ties into my purpose, my destiny; putting forward the idea that the “Greater Miracle” wouldn’t be a complete healing of this physical pain and infirmity, but that I have persevered for 30 years with it.  In perseverance I have learned dependence, knowing that I need to depend on the Heavenly Father much like I depend on my earthy Dad.  If my Heavenly Father is looking out for my welfare more-so than my earthly Dad, and my earthy Dad built me a rocket-car, how much more can the Heavenly Father do?  More than I can ask or think  (Matthew 7:9-11 and Eph 3:20 fused).

To wrap it all together, I simply explained:  “If you follow Christ and journey where He wants you to go it will often be filled with unexpected adventures to places and through things you could not imagine.  For once you leave this place and venture outside, the wisdom of Hobbits will ring true – ‘Home is behind, the world ahead, and there are many paths to tread; it’s a dangerous thing going out your front door, for if you don’t keep your feet there is no telling where the road will take you’  If you ask the Father ‘what story are you writing in my life?’ and follow where that leads, then you will be able to follow Obi-Wan Kenobi as Luke Skywalker did and ‘ take your first step into a larger world'”.

People need to know how important this idea of purpose is; there’s a reason that it’s one of the prime things individuals struggle with, that’s because it’s fundamental to who we are.  It’s a large part of the answer to the question “why am I here?”  If a life like mine, with all it’s uncertainty, perceived difficulty, and other challenges can be forged into something that illustrates purpose, plan, and destiny in a way that helps someone else embrace their own, then it makes the overgrown trail…that takes a lightsaber to blaze, worth more than it was moments before that “lollipop moment” happened; even if the wise words of Optimus Prime are often apt – “Destiny rarely calls upon us at the moment of our choosing…”

What is Ephesians 2:10 for you?

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I think that Destiny and Revelation have common denominators.  Not only do both posses a massive feeling of “otherness” or “beyondness” to them, but I think the two are both often inconvenient; neither, as Optimus Prime said, “calls upon us at a moment of our choosing.”  Rather, they present themselves in the midst of moments wherein nothing can be done about them “right then” and, as such, things must wait and risk the moment fading away.  Recently, I had a moment like this and only now record it, willing it to stay within the foreground of my memory.

When considering a instance of destiny in modern American culture, few are more poignant in my mind than the tale of John Connor in the Terminator films.  The story of a young boy possessing the knowledge of not only what he will become, but what must happen to the world in order for him to become it; always racing against time to prevent it and stave off disaster.  It is within this story that a recent revelation arose. In the first Terminator film, the T-101 cyborg is sent back in time to the year 1984 by Skynet, a self- aware artificial intelligence system bent on the destruction of humanity.  The programmed mission a simple one: kill Sarah Connor, the mother of John Connor.  John was to grow up and save humanity by leading the human resistance in defeating Skynet in the future.  The Terminator pursues this mission relentlessly, with a detached ruthlessness beyond human capacity.  The T-101 nearly succeeds, but for the valiant efforts of John’s father, Kyle Reese, a solider from the future sent back to protect Sarah.

In 1991, Terminator 2 released and changed the Terminator mythos, forever.  The year is 1995.  Sarah Connor has been committed to a facility for the mentally unstable and 10 year old John Conner is living with foster parents.  Once again, Skynet has sent a Terminator back in time to kill the Connor family, and the resistance has sent a new protector as well: a Terminator; encountered, reprogrammed, and re-purposed by John Conner to protect him and his mother. 

J.R.R. Tolkien is often credited with the idea that any Myth is ultimately reflecting the truth of Christianity.  While the Terminator franchise is certainly myth, I find that it actually supports Tolkien’s idea and reflects the story of a central character in the New Testament: The Apostle Paul.  When Saul/Paul is first mentioned in Acts 7, at the stoning of Stephen, he is approving of those taking part in the actions against Stephen.  Just a chapter or so later, he is actively pursuing violence against the newborn Christian church, seen as a threat to Jewish religious thought.  As recorded in Acts 9, Saul is en-route to Damascus, the Capital City of Syria, to quell the fledgling church there when he has an encounter with Jesus Christ and the path of his life is altered and Saul, now named Paul, is repurposed to work on behalf of the growing church he dedicated his entire life to decimating before his conversion.  Ultimately, the fate of the Terminator and the Apostle are the same – a life with new purpose and death while in the service of the one who gave them new purpose.

And as an an interesting aside, John Conner possesses the same initials as Jesus Christ and in both cases, powerful forces attempted to kill them as children, before either could fulfil their destinies – fictional or actual.

“Autobots wage their battle to destroy the evil forces of the Decepticons” – Transformers Theme

Those words, familiar to many a Transformer fan for nearly three decades, have never rung as true as they do in the case of the new Transformers movie, Transformer: Dark of the Moon. Of the three films, this is by far the darkest and most intense and the war between the Autobots and the tyranny of the Decepticons comes home in a big way. The last installment in the franchise was a disappointment and there was no doubt it had fallen from the great heights of the first film (even if I liked it more than most folks did). This movie redeems the franchise on many levels.

The film opens with vivid and fantastic scenes from the final days of the war on the Transformers’s home planet of Cybertron, detailing a failed mission that, if successful, would have allowed the Autobots to prevail against the Decepticons. The mission focuses on a secret ship that crash lands on Earth’s moon and NASA detects it. This sets off the “Space Race” between the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1960’s in an attempt to discover what happened. History goes forth, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin arrive on the moon on Apollo 11, but really to embark on a secret mission, wherein they discover the crashed Autobot vessel and special pods. Fast forward to present day and Sam Whitwicky is a recent college graduate living in DC with his girlfriend Carly (long gone is Megan Fox and her character) who previously worked at the British Embassy and now manages a car collection for a character played by Patrick Dempsey who functions as a foil for Sam on multiple levels. Sam is struggling to find both a job and himself, not understanding why after helping to discover the Transformers and save the world (twice) he can’t make something of himself; as Sam says “I just want to matter”

The Autobots are now working with the United States Spec. Ops. to quell conflicts around the world. During a secret mission to Chernobyl in Russia, the Autobots come across two nasty Decepticon baddies known as Shockwave (to whom Megatron entrusts Cybertron in the original cartoon from the 80’s) and Laserbeak, both on missions in Russia related to the moon crash. Meanwhile, Decepticon leader Megatron is in exile in Africa with his minions Starscream and Soundwave (now in vehicle form instead of the satellite from Transformers 2 and also the keeper of Laserbeak, much like Ravage – the panther – was his minion in Transformers 2). Once the Autobots learn of the existence of the crashed ship on the moon, from the real-life Buzz Aldrin, (Optimus berates the Obama Administration for their silence) and the survival of it’s captain – Sentinel Prime, the leader of the Autobots before Optimus – they travel to the moon to retrieve and revive him. With Sentinel revived, the movie really kicks into high gear and the remainder is a intense experience filled with heroes, villains, dark moments, and massive destruction that does not let up.

I really enjoyed the film and the places it take the audience (and the special effects were fantastic throughout). Bay really did work hard to redeem the franchise from the last outing, and there were a number of moments in which I honestly didn’t know if key characters would live or die (and not all of them make it through this film). Having grown up with the Transformers mythos and now gone through three movies, I love these heroes and to a degree the villains; in these characters there are no shades, it is good vs. evil – period. In a culture filled with anti-heroes and vampires-as-heroes I prefer this any day of the week. In a film like this the robots are the real stars and they shine through the massive action sequences. Megatron, Shockwave, Starscream, and Soundwave are true to their classic iterations and are as evil as ever, wanting nothing but power and subjugation through tyranny and fear. The Autobots seeks to preserve freedom and protect humanity from the Decepticons. In the same vein, the US Military (and America in general) is shown in a great light (which has some critics writhing) by way of Spec Ops and SEALS working with the Autobots to defeat the Decepticons and their human toadies.

One aspect that stuck out to me was the development of Sam’s character. His desire to matter, to stake his place in the world around him is something that come through loud and clear in this film and resonates; we all want to be worthy, we all want to be more than we are. It a classic theme seen in many stories and movies, seen in Star Wars, The Last Starfighter, Harry Potter, Green Lantern, Spiderman, and even Batman Begins to a degree. Everyone of us grapples with this in life at one time or another, and some more than others (certainly so if you try and live within and around the world of epic superheroes). It echo’s Bruce Wayne’s words, from Batman Begins: “It’s what I do that defines me”. The danger exists when “what can I do (for others)?” transforms into “what can I become (for my own sake)?” In this film, Sam makes the choice to put himself in harms way (for the sake of another) instead of unintentionally being a part of what happens, and danger ensues.

If you’re wavering as to seeing Transformers 3, don’t listen to the critics, go see it and make your own assessment.

On a personal note, when the production team was filming in DC last year, I took the FENX on a hunt for the Autobots one day and found them not too far from Chinatown. There before me was Optimus Prime in all his Autobot awesomeness and I am having to answer questions from others who wonder who/what I am and if I am part of the film. As it turns out one of the production managers in charge of the vehicles did admit that if the FENX had been in Transformers 3, Michael Bay would have wanted to blow it up.

Aaron