It starts with five simple words:


And then it comes. The music builds. Lightning from the sky strikes the man with the upraised sword. Does it hurt him? Just listen to what he says next:


You remember. Electric bolts of pure energy crackle around his muscled body. Hands that can punch through solid steel grip the sword that transformed the bumbling prince into the most powerful man in the universe. You remember the way it felt to grab hold of a plastic sword or a stick or even empty air and say those same words: I have the power.

We all want the power. But the world seems to be short on magic swords these days. Believe me, I've checked. (You think I'd be writing this if I had a magic sword? No way. I'd be out battling shadow beasts and seven-headed monsters, saving nubile red-haired maidens from guys with skulls for faces.)

So what do we do? Well, I suppose you can grow a mustache and build weapons devices and adopt an orphan who grows up to be captain of the guards. But let's face it. Not everyone can grow mustaches. And even if you can, do you really want to? Basically the only people who can have mustaches without looking silly are those who've always had mustaches. (Having a mustache attached to a beard doesn't count, by the way. It's still just a beard. That's a whole other story.) It's something set from the time of adolescence, something you have to choose. Either you're a mustache guy or you're not. Once you've decided, it's locked in. (It works both ways, too. Suddenly you shave off your mustache and bam! You've got a lip coming from nowhere. Scary.)

Okay. You don't have a magic sword, or a mustache, or skill with weapons or space technology in a barbarian sorcery world. You can't be He-Man or Man-At-Arms. I'll assume that, like me, if you can't do any of the above, you also cannot fly, ram into buildings with your head, or transform into a mystical falcon. Is this reason to despair? Will your life be meaningless from now on?

The answer to all of these questions is: NO! You can have the power without the magic sword. No, I don't mean you'll be able to pick up Castle Grayskull and throw it into the air using your bulging muscles. I'm talking about the real power that He-Man wields. His morality.

Fast forward to the end of the show. The battle with Skeletor was fought and won. Old skullface runs off, shaking his hands in the air, vowing eternal revenge. Like we're scared. Next time we'll just beat him again. No matter who he brings along! (By the way, who has a skull instead of a face? How can he even see without eyeballs?) After all that the show should be over, right?

Wrong! Now comes the most important part. The moral.

You've heard the expression, "the moral of the story." No doubt your 11th grade English teacher had you combing all the pages from "Call me Ishmael" to "Finis" so you could explain, in your own words, just what Moby Dick really meant. He-Man would never lead you on such a pointless chase. At the end of every single episode, He-Man (or one of his faithful and heroic friends) tells you plainly and simply what you should know about how to live a good and happy life. That knowledge, my friends, is real power. With it you can master the universe. Stay tuned.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Something To Prove

Teila has a destiny. We’re told pretty early on that Teila is actually the daughter of the Sorceress. Man-At-Arms found Teila as a baby and decided to raiser her (he was mustache-less at that time. By the time she began to form memories, I’m sure the mustache was firmly in place.) The Sorceress is one of the three most powerful forces on Eternia (the other two being He-Man and, you guessed it, that old calcified cackler, Skeletor). So Teila, presumably, has a lot to look forward to. But she doesn’t know any of this.

Teila takes every opportunity to test herself and go beyond the rules laid down by Man-At-Arms. It’s true that she isn’t a child; she is, after all, the captain of the guards! Man-At-Arms still tries to protect her, though. Maybe it’s because no matter how old she gets, she’s still his daughter and he will always worry about her. Or maybe it’s because Teila takes risks a little too willingly and places herself in unnecessary danger.

Like the time Teila wanted to spend a couple of days in the Darklands. She ended up getting captured by the sorcerer Kor’s soldier creatures. Kor turned out to be a good guy, but it could easily have been the realm of an evil sorcerer.

There are times we want to prove ourselves so badly that we behave rashly. Why is it so important to prove ourselves to others? Because we start out in life without much experience. We learn how to do a lot of things from watching others. They tell us when we’re doing things right and when wrong. So naturally we look to them to validate our abilities.

This isn’t a bad thing. Before we have internalized a skill or ability, it’s important to look to experts so we know whether we’re doing it right. Later on, once we’ve acquired the necessary knowledge and experience, we’ll be able to judge for ourselves.

The mistake Teila made is thinking that Man-At-Arm’s validation just by itself will make her capable or not. This is backwards. It’s our successful abilities which win the validation, and not the other way around. It’s easy to become impatient with ourselves and want to be good at something right away. If we think that the validation of others is the mark of being good at something, that’s what we’ll aim for. But that can result in lying or misrepresenting our actual abilities, just to get a good scorecard.

In the end, the only one who will know whether we’ve succeeded is ourselves. That’s not something we can take a shortcut for.

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