Sifting for Gold

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I woke with an image today of a piece of meat that had been hammered to tenderize it, and I sensed nonverbally that it meant I should shift my approach this week to “sifting” rather than “pounding” on a topic. So what might that mean for the topic of television Better Endings?

What are some benefits we may sift from the dross of television fare? I’d say when we become interested in or identified with either one character or an entire ensemble cast, and when we are witness over time to positive transformations in those ‘character arcs’, this can lead to personal growth and development in ourselves, by association.

So I invite you to focus on some transformational storylines from TV to uncover Life Lessons you have gained insights about through the adventures and interactions of some of your favorite characters. Transformational storylines require some basic character “flaws” initially that may get resolved or transformed over time.

M.A.S.H. comes to mind. We see in this popular sitcom an ensemble cast of rather disparate seeming characters at first, who have been thrown together at a medical triage station near the front lines in South Korea, during the Korean War. But since nothing is truly accidental, especially in storytelling, this odd assortment of personalities is actually not random at all. Let’s explore the key characters and traits they represent, traits that may have archetypal reflections for the audience!

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Some
 M.A.S.H. Character Traits:  Strengths/ Weaknesses

Maj. Hawkeye Pierce  jokester, intelligent, man of conscience / sarcastic, cynical, drinks alot

Maj. John ‘Trapper’ McIntyre  comical, blythe, accomplice to Pierce / buffoon-like, shallow

Maj. B.J. Hunnicut   loyal friend to Pierce, introspective, good husband / depressive

Sgt. Radar O’Reilly  acquisitive, resourceful, ‘common man’/ self-abnegating at times

Maj. Margaret Hoolihan  military upbringing, sharp, crisp leader / promiscuous, overbearing

Maj. Charles Emerson Winchester III  intelligent, highly educated, musician / out of his element, snooty

Col. Sherman Potter   competent but “allowing”, retirement aged / dismissive of order

Col. Henry Blake    fatherly, compassionate / drinks too much, gullible at times

Priv. Maxwell Klinger  passionate, rulebreaker, inverts norms / overly self-oriented, escapist

Father John Patrick Mulcahy   pious, resourceful, caring / doubtful at times, sense of inadequacy

Major Frank Burns   rule-governed, hapless luck / awkward, philandering

Over the many seasons that the TV series MASH was on the air, most of these characters experienced major epiphanies that led to subtle and sometimes extreme character transformations.  All of them experienced together what the anthropologist Victor Turner would call “shared liminality” resulting in  “communitas”. Liminality is the ‘between and betwixt’ situation of these characters overall in the war context: they have been stripped from their lives in normal society and they are caught “in the margins”; in the nebulous, dangerous shadowland of the MASH unit. They attain communitas by putting aside their individual differences of rank and their normal social status as civilians in order to realize their common goal of administering medical aid to wartime victims, serving together as a well-organized team.

In the context of interactional encounters that occurred over time through the series, our key characters faced their own weaknesses, and developed their strengths, over and over again.  As we laughed at their foibles and reveled at their strengths, we laughed ALONG with them, as at our own selves. This is how this ensemble cast came to mirror our own archetypal traits, as Americans perhaps, but moreso as humans immersed in the “human comedy” of life.

You can reflect for yourself about how the individual MASH characters transformed over time. What Life Lessons can we sift from our collective memories of this beloved TV series? Put aside our differences to exercise Conscience in response to terrifying threats. Learn to laugh at ourselves and be grateful for Friendship, that overlooks or tolerates our foibles, at least, and that fosters and supports our efforts at change and growth, at best.

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The series finale of MASH was culturally iconic and ‘expiative’ of all of the ills of warfare. Hawkeye Pierce suffers a nervous breakdown and submits to psychoanalysis. This betokens a human epiphany that was central to the overall message of MASH—which provided a metaphor for the Viet Nam War and its aftermath in the American collective conscience. War is brutal and potentially destructive to the human spirit, Pierce’s breakdown asserts. Human conscience and sensitivity will not allow the vicissitudes of war to triumph. Hawkeye responds well to analysis but he will go home a changed man, a doctor in a home town community where he will get to know his patients personally, as individuals.

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It’s in the in-between
that the real magic happens.
The seeds are planted,
the roots take hold…
and we blossom into who
we were meant to be.

~ Kristen Jongen
re-blogged today from Brenda’s
FriendlyFairyTales.com

Turning Points and ‘Combustibility’

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Our Better Endings Life Mapping activity for this week allows you to focus on what sorts of Life Lessons you are learning through the most critical, pivotal events of your life. See if you can list one or more events in your life that have been of such magnitude in terms of their impact on who you have become that you feel you were not quite the same person before and after this or these events occurred. These are your Turning Points.

Take some time to reflect on these ‘chapter turner’ events in your life. For each one, what did you learn because this event transpired in your life? Did it have a positive or a negative (or, both?) impact on you, in retrospect? Why? How? If you could go back, would you change anything about this event or situation? If so, what might have gone differently then?

One basic way to explore a Turning Point is to write or journal about it, talk about it with someone you trust, and actively contemplate its role or effect on your life. What LIFE LESSON have you learned because of this experience?

I welcome any insights you would like to share!

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Because a very special story has come through about our weekly topic of surviving disasters that I will share with you tomorrow (and another story also, for Sunday), I will add a second piece today about a Principle of Better Endings that I’ve been learning about this week:

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Combustibility : a Better Endings principle?

I was having some difficulty early this week finding just the right principle of Better Endings to account for how disasters or personal hardships result so often in major Life Changes and Lessons. I awoke then Wednesday night at around 2 AM from a series of dream images: rocket ships! So the first word that came to mind was propulsion; that such heavy impact events propel us forward at great speed; they launch us into another level of awareness or situation or or purpose. Applying that metaphor to what happens within us that allows this launching to occur, I find the word combustibility!

A few weeks ago I shared the life metaphor from Will of a golden spiral. Will said the spiral he imagined had “launch pads” along it that would propel him to a higher level of awareness. Again then, we must have the capacity for ‘combustion’ to allow this to occur.

Or, are we the astronaut within the combustible rocket? Then we must be willing to be launched! And the ship must have enough fuel to propel us upwards at great speed.

Interesting how some natural disasters themselves exhibit combustibility—a wildfire, hurricane or tornado, for instance, all are very highly charged phenomena. Do these impart their intrinsic quality of combustibility upon those that they impact? Perhaps we either combust into an accelerated change in our lives and/or the experience burns us?

Heavy impact events in our lives have the capacity to propel us forward, upward, or downward at great speed!