Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Indomitable Spirit

People love stories about a character with an indomitable spirit. Such examples are the little girl who never stops believing that everybody has goodness inside, the young man who faces all obstacles in order to achieve his goals, the brother who looks over his sister regardless of the personal cost, and the wife who holds together her family while waiting for her husband to return from his voyages.

Like most story tropes, though, people like this because it is uncommon in reality. The idea of the indomitable spirit flies in the face of the human condition. What people are the most skilled at is adapting. No matter how fantastic or how repugnant a person’s situation is, it will quickly become normal to them. It is the greatest survival mechanism we have – what doesn’t kill us becomes our norm.

And yet, we love stories where people don’t adapt. We are amazed by characters who never let bad situations bring them down. We are encouraged when characters filled with hope refuse to let themselves get deflated, and we are vindicated when those characters see the things they hoped for become real.  

Stories often do not show us how life really is, but show us how we wish life was. Struggle and stress still exist, but we handle them well. And people who stay strong long enough are rewarded. It is a lovely ideal, no matter how rare it is, and one that may be worth perpetuating, no matter how unlikely it is. After all, maybe some day it will become a reality.

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