If your life were a book

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by cheri block

We all have a life story. It has a plot and subplots, many settings, and a host of characters. Most of us like to focus on our life theme. We might remember ourselves in this way:

My life has been about service to others. I am very unselfish and devoted to my family. When I am gone, people will remember me for my interest in other people. Etc.

But the truth of our life story is that people will remember us not for the big themes but for the details. That cup of coffee you brought up to my bedroom this morning. That note you left. That look on your face.

We all have a protagonist in our life story and as with all  narratives, an antagonist.

Who is your protagonist? This character moves your forward in meaningful ways. In your short 80-year-or-so lifespan, this part of who you are is present when your nerves are calm, your heart is pure, and your mind is clear. This part of you is your very own hero or heroine, that character that rises above the mundane and profane. Unfortunately, the protagonist in you is often caught by the ankle, tripped, and muddied. And you did it to yourself.

A Buddhist quotation  asks that we not bend to the power of our antagonist.

Who is your antagonist? This character is often the more interesting part of who you are. He or she is present when your nerves are frayed, your heart is spoiled, and your mind is self-consumed. This part of you is your very own villain, that character that refuses the kind and pure and is motivated by self-interest, greed, and vanity.

We are often Connie instead of Rose of Sharon, Kino instead of Juana, Willie instead of Mama.

Best selling books capitalize on antagonists because  what they do appeals to that dark side of us all. Who wants to read a book about people with clear hearts and kind souls?

As I grow older, I am more attracted to the protagonists in each of my friends and family members.

The only antagonists I want to know are in fiction.

I can deal with Tom Buchanan but I certainly would not want to live with him.

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About Cheri

Writer, artist, cable television host, grandmother to four!
This entry was posted in Education, Life, On fiction and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to If your life were a book

  1. Brighid says:

    I must remember to come to the Heartwood of Cheri more often… it’s good for the soul.

  2. As it happens you also just gave a simpler and clearer synopsis of the Bhagavad Gita. In that story, five protagonists (the Pandavas, led by Arjuna) face their own cousins, the 100 antagonists (the Kauravas). This “battle” is understood to be the struggle within each individual mind, for instant Cheri.

    Note that in this battle the protagonists eventually win (at great cost, because this struggle is f****ing hard.) If you’re right, it’s the only time in world literature that the protagonist is the sexy one.

  3. should say: “….for instance, Cheri’s…”

  4. Richard says:

    I recall some footage, a few years ago, of orcas tossing a live seal about just for the hell of it.

    Self-interest, greed and vanity are not, it seems, exclusive to the human race. Nor are they confined to stressful situations.

    Yes, the shadow is innate, fictional or otherwise. Do we do anything about it?

    • Cheri says:

      I have seen my cat Bobb tossing around a dead finch just for the hell of it. Dinah, too, exhibits tremendous greed for anything, even a prednisone pill, to eat. And then there’s the issue of my hair. I keep coloring it because of vanity.
      What do we do with our shadow? In my view, an awareness of our shadow makes it possible for our protagonist to stay clear and calm, focused and compassionate.

  5. Kev Ollier says:

    If my life were a book it would be unprintable as I still have children alive 🙂

    • Cheri says:

      Hi Kev,
      Welcome to my blog. I see that you are from England and write about Buddhism, among other things. It’s a satisfying experience, especially with thoughtful readers and insightful comments. I am very blessed here at Notes from Around the Block.

      And yes, I’d like to write a steamy love story but my children, ages 39 and 36, might be shocked.

  6. Christopher says:

    ”…….My life has been about service to others. I am very unselfish and devoted to my family. When I am gone, people will remember me for my interest in other people……..”

    Sounds like a Saint.

    Saints are not usually my favourite people, because they are often extremely vindictive in sneaky little ways, no doubt because their suffocated “shadow self” has to breathe sometimes.

    And, is not the “antagonist” that you speak of, a “shadow self” which one should allow to speak, lest it go berserk?

    • Cheri says:

      Christopher, I’m with you on the Saint persona. I’ve seen many of my “angelic” little students be quite inwardly defiant.

      Just seeing the word “berserk” in your sentence reminds me of my favorite history book (I’ve blogged about this I know somewhere among my 355 posts…) 1066 and his chapter on the Berserkers.

      Back to your comment. Yes, one’s antagonist should speak. Do other readers agree?

    • Richard says:

      There is a dilemma here.

      Examples above of cruelty in animals demonstrate that “The Antagonist” is primitive and deep. There is no need to allow it to speak, it has its voice everywhere anyway.

      It is so primitive that I can be conscious of only a small part of it and I cannot differentiate it from “The Protagonist” in the manner suggested. It is there in everything I say and do, everything I read and write, it merges fiction and reality.

      What is new, and has also evolved from “lower” animals, who also possess it but to a lesser degree, is reason. It represents an alternative, more complete world to which I should endeavour to submit all my actions. It may not seem as exciting, or as spiced with the spirit of adventure, but it is the only future.

      It is not that I should reject the primitive, merely demote it to its proper place. My reasoning consciousness enables me to do that.

      Now for some fun.

  7. My protagonist is very quiet and peaceful when I am sleeping. At other times, my inner bitch active trying to prevent my protagonist from beating her down. Thus I am smetimes like the proverbial ferret on a 3 shot Starbuck’s.

  8. Cyberquill says:

    I don’t really have an antagonist. I’m a good person, pretty unselfish and devoted to my family and my friends. It’s just that wherever I live, a lot of people seem to go missing, and I keep having these blackouts where I don’t remember where I was and what I did for varying lengths of time.

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