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We Need Catastrophe: Human Motivation and Heroes

Updated on March 30, 2012
Moses with the Ten Commandments -- tablets of stone soon to be broken in his wrath.
Moses with the Ten Commandments -- tablets of stone soon to be broken in his wrath. | Source

A Social Commentary

Ever watch a movie which contains no conflict? Likely you haven't, simply because conflict is the juice which drives a story forward. Remove conflict from a movie and the flick is guaranteed to be a flop at the box office.

Imagine The Ten Commandments where everyone agrees and everyone does the right thing. The pharaoh lets the Hebrews go without resistance. There is no need for the ten plagues, and no need for the parting of the sea. The people naturally worship God and not Baal and do not need to spend forty years in the wilderness. Simple but boring.

Imagine Rocky without the fight. Imagine Patton without the war. Imagine The Godfather without crime and betrayal. All that blandness wouldn't be worth watching.

Why does violence, tragedy and conflict attract us so? Why does a movie like 2012 or The Day The Earth Stood Still keep us riveted to the story?

One aspect, certainly is that we crave change. We crave something new and startling. And movies are safe. The building of an intergalactic expressway can result in the annihilation of Earth, and afterward we can all go home for dinner. But is there something more to this? Is there a deeper force at work?

Star of the 1992 movie, Hero (Accidental Hero), Dustin Hoffman at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival.
Star of the 1992 movie, Hero (Accidental Hero), Dustin Hoffman at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival. | Source

We crave heroes, because of something they reflect inside all of us. Dustin Hoffman, Geena Davis and Andy Garcia showed us this in the movie, Hero. We all crave that better side of us — that nobler and more generous self, though we may not be able to bring ourselves to portray those traits.

There is a certain inertia to our own personalities. Sometimes it takes a figurative bomb going off in our lives for us to change direction. And yet, we still admire those traits when we see them in others.

There are many movies which capitalize on the theme that humans can be at their best during a crisis — that the potential for social evolution is greatest at the edge of the precipice. One film which makes use of this idea is the remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still with Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connelly. Unlike the original (which is also a must-see movie), the remake has a decidedly dark storyline.

Michael Rennie as Klaatu in the original, 1951, production of "The Day the Earth Stood Still." Keanu Reeves played this role in the 2008 remake.
Michael Rennie as Klaatu in the original, 1951, production of "The Day the Earth Stood Still." Keanu Reeves played this role in the 2008 remake. | Source

Please note, the following is a bit of a plot spoiler, so if it bothers you to read such things before you see the movie, just bookmark this and come back afterwards.

The alien (Keanu Reeves) has come to save Earth from humans, because humanity has brought this precious sphere of life to the brink of disaster. The alien and his folk have come to protect all other species from humans. Like so many other disaster movies, there is an allusion to Noah's ark, and saving what is best of this world. But this time humans miss out. So, it's adios Smiths, Joneses, Yevtushenkos, and Changs. The elder scientist in the film begs the alien to give humanity another chance. And he asks how the alien and his kin had made it. The alien confesses that his civilization had faced a crisis — one where its sun had become deadly — and how they had needed to evolve or risk their own annihilation.

World War II was arguably the greatest conflict in human history. This scene shows Stalingrad, 1943. Courtesy
World War II was arguably the greatest conflict in human history. This scene shows Stalingrad, 1943. Courtesy | Source

We Need Catastrophe

This does not mean we need to be masochists. Sometimes, we need a swift kick in the pants to get us to change — to let go of our childish ways. Karma is like that. Some people are exceedingly unlucky, but there is a reason behind it.

If we can believe the philosopher of 2000 years ago, those unlucky people are dying by the sword by which they had lived in a prior life. Karma is payback time. But don't think of it as punishment. It is an opportunity. An opportunity for what, you may ask? It is an opportunity to awaken our better halves — and I'm not talking about our spouses. I'm talking about our spiritual halves.

Deep down inside, we know that we need to be the hero. We know we need to suffer and be grateful for the karma — not to actively seek it — but not to resent it when it comes. We need to sacrifice the selfish side of us so that the nobler side may rise anew.

We know what this feels like when we watch a really good movie with a good guy who wins in the end. Or, if we prefer a more poignant touch, we know what this feels like when tragedy strikes despite best efforts to avoid it, and when the hero dies in the end. Good movies work because they make this visceral connection to that powerful part of us, deep inside.

Current Crisis

Earth is nearing a very real precipice. Every aspect of our lives is becoming more volatile and fluid. Financial crisis ebbs and flows, and war spills off the edges of the battlefield into mundane realms through terrorism. New biological threats are made even more dangerous by the ease with which they may spread to all corners of the world.

Recently, two friends on opposite sides of an argument paired off in a Hubster duel over Darwin and Evolution. It wasn't a pretty sight, but there was lot of excitement and activity amidst the accusations.

Words of calm and wisdom fall on deaf ears when two sides of a debate are so polarized they can only see their own egos. I'm right and you're wrong. Logic doesn't matter. Debating skills only infuriate those who disagree. They do not want to be "converted." Anyone who tries is seen as the enemy. Perhaps the polarization needs to find its critical mass. Perhaps we need the conflict to reach ignition followed by the cleansing of some holy fire. It is sad that some require this, but when things are at their most chaotic, some are able to rise above their egos and the conflict. And perhaps that rebirth is the true purpose of our need for conflict. In that rebirth, we join again our heavenly Father who has waited patiently for us to make this critical decision.


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    • lone77star profile imageAUTHOR

      Rod Martin Jr 

      6 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Thanks Apostle Jack. I appreciate your input.

    • Apostle Jack profile image

      Apostle Jack 

      6 years ago from Atlanta Ga

      I totally agree with your view concerning quality,leadership and great occurrences that is needed.Mostly,its all show.....and no go. But i perceive that........not all the apples in the barrel was rotten.

      And that.........He still send forth His messengers,and PREDESTINATE His chosen.

    • lone77star profile imageAUTHOR

      Rod Martin Jr 

      8 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Betty, yes, inertia is sometimes a bad thing when it comes to our own personalities and habits. I've had a few bomb blasts of my own, and thankfully I've had support to choose the right way to view those minor catastrophes.

      And it seems in all of my sixty years of this life that I have budged my path only slightly toward the light of spiritual awakening. I am at least grateful that I have nudged it in a positive direction, rather than a negative one.

      If I am allowed another sixty, I hope my progress builds in momentum perhaps even to completion of the task.

    • lone77star profile imageAUTHOR

      Rod Martin Jr 

      8 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      PWalker281, I didn't always have the same views on karma, but I've had visions of prior lives for most of this life. How do I know they were memories, rather than merely imagination (or hallucination)? The skeptical side of me doesn't, and perhaps never will. But the fearless part of me knows that some, if not most, were glimpses of an earlier time.

      Why mention this? What better way to learn than by karma? If we are indeed spiritually asleep, and if on occasion (in one lifetime or another) we decide to take advantage of others, perhaps even brutally, how can we shake loose of such selfishness? Karma is a perfect mechanism for this. The suffering we may now experience, or in the future, could merely be a wake-up call of "balance" -- an opportunity to pay back for what we have taken. But in that suffering, the once hardened heart has an opportunity to soften. Perhaps we will merely ask, "Why is this happening to me?"

      If we blame others, or blame circumstances, or blame anything, then we remain powerless against it. If we accept full responsibility for it with full-hearted gratitude -- ripping open our chest to let all the suffering in, soaking up every last morsel of it, hungrily -- then we take control over it.

      You may remember my "Anatomy of a Miracle" Hub and my description of humility in my reply to your question. Karma helps us attain humility, if we are guided to accept it as an opportunity. And humility is the antidote to selfishness.

    • Betty Johansen profile image

      Betty Johansen 

      8 years ago

      Hi lone77star, You're so right about the inertia in our personalities - mine anyway - and the bomb blast it takes to change my direction. So much more pleasant to watch it happen to somebody else in the movies!

      Great hub! Makes me think.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thought-provoking hub. I don't know if I believe in karma, but I do know that the current financial crisis I'm experiencing reflects similar crisis I've experienced in the past (i.e., this lifetime), except this time it accelerated to the edge of critical mass. Hopefully, I'll get the lesson I need to learn and not have to repeat it. Thanks for sharing. Rated up!


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