Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Incredibly Called

The Incredibles was truly incredible to watch. Trust Brad Bird to write a story that's fall-off-your-seat entertaining and emotively satisfying all at once. Having given us years of irreverent Simpsons and some heart-warming work like the Fox and the Hound, Bird is a master at his craft of story-telling and irony. And what a story of ironies it is!

First there's Bob Parr, aka Mr. Incredible. A herculean hunk who files insurance claims and cramps himself into a tin can for an automobile. Then there's his wife Helen, the Elastigirl (probably inspired by Plastic Man?), a body-stretching crime-fighter now mother of two and lawkeeper at home, doing all she can to hold together their precarious existence. Dash - now that's a character I can identify with! - capable of sound-barrier-breaking speeds but whose only expression of talent is tacking teacher's butt and losing at races to conceal his abilities. And Violet, the proverbial wallflower girl whose gift of invisibility helps her fade ever more into the background. Sad?

Sad it is. Yet the irony in The Incredibles is often the irony in our own lives. We too, are often forced to go undercover. The bigger part of our life stories are chapters of confusion. We try to make sense of our station in life and make good of our calling (whatever THAT may be!) While we plod on in the doldrums of work our gifts and passions get buried in increasing layers of disillusionment and despair. We strive to make a living but never actually LIVE. Not the way we were meant to anyway.

Our gifts may not necessarily be the popular ones, or sensational like superhuman strength or subsonic speed. But in big or small ways, the one who stands against the norms, who dares to make a difference, and hold on to the Truth against opposition is the real hero. The real hero is the one who exercises faith, believing when all around have given up. Who exercises hope, giving everyone the courage to press on against all odds. And the one who will continue loving no matter how much it hurts. Faith, hope and love - sounds familiar?

I believe there's a hero waiting to be set free in each of us.

I guess that's why I had to fight the urge to jump and cheer when Elastigirl blew up into a parachute bringing Dash & Violet to safety. Or when Dash whirred his feet to propel the boat that was his mother and run flaming circles round his captors. And when Violet bubbled up her force field for the first time, shielding everyone from the onslaught of heavy fire. I found myself rooting for these undercovers breaking loose and rejoicing in their moment of triumph. But it's not just the triumph of good over evil that fired up my heart. Or the good guys giving the bad guys a sound thumping that gave me satisfaction.

No, I find it was their triumph over internal obstacles that satisfied the most. When they find the joy of finally doing what they were made to do. When their outer blows were aligned to their inner passion to give to the world what they were given. When they broke free of their self-imposed bars telling them to be less than what they could be. When faith, hope and love brought Purpose and Passion together.

Well, maybe I'm just a die-hard fan of the superhero-comic genre, trying to derive meaning from a fantastic animation flick. But while I am trying to make sense of my job, ever trying to move from career to calling, the Incredibles are my heroes for this moment in time. In a world of little hope, this production goes down as a classic for me. As John Schuster says in his book, Answering the Call, it is in the time of doldrums and meaninglesness that we must mightily believe that we are called to a deeper purpose and pursue that with all our hearts.


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