Gather ‘Round, Padawans: Never Give Up, Never Surrender

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c. Marvel Comics
c. Marvel Comics

Magic, as it has been in the Marvel Comics Universe, is dead.

Stephen Strange isn’t quite read to give up on the patient.

He is, after all, a doctor and the Sorcerer Supreme.

Stephen could be resuscitating access to the mystical world the easy way, using the human batteries Wong was stockpiling to augment Strange’s own abilities to fuel his efforts.

He isn’t.

Stephen Strange is doing it the hard way. The slow way. The painstaking, painful way.

The right way.

Stephen has attempted to find the easy road before. After the accident that damaged his hands and took his career, believing himself unable to live with the pain of his physical and psychological injuries, he explores every possible means of regaining his old life including nearly killing himself by injecting illicit mutant growth hormone.

He ended up dead in a dumpster, returning to life only with the intervention of the Ancient One.

Dead in a dumpster may not seem like the “easy” way but, for Strange, it’s easier than accepting his life has changed, easier than accepting it will never be the same again.

Easier than accepting he must now start over.

“One spell at a time.”

c. Marvel Comics
c. Marvel Comics

Where once he fought demons with incantations and magical weapons, he now has a baseball bat wrapped in vaguely enchanted wire and a high pain tolerance. Where once Stephen had a near infinite library of spells, he now has rather a pathetic, tragically thin binder of the same. When once the power of the Sorcerer Supreme flowed into him, there is now blood draining out.

Despite all of it, Stephen Strange, broken, depressed, exhausted, has no intention of giving up.

In his world, magic is more than important; it is essential to the new life he has made for himself as a hero. He can only save others if he has magic with which to do it and he will die himself before he allows a single person to be sacrificed to one of the vampiric beings leaking through the ether no matter how difficult the battle, how dire the war.

That is not to say difficulty and sacrifice are necessary elements of all Thing sWorth Doing. It isn’t the difficulty that defines the thing as being worthy but, rather, that difficulty doesn’t, can’t, negate the importance of a thing, no matter how great the resistance.

No one is going to understand such a thing instinctively. It’s entirely counterintuitive to throw ourselves into the path of the speeding train of life. Yes, humans are tough, we’re resilient, we are inherently survivors, but there are very few of us who won’t choose the path of least resistance when it’s available because there is so much we have to do in our short time on this ball of rock and water. Conversely, our higher function and our moral constructs urge us to do what’s important, what’s right; the confluence is a mental paradox in which self-preservation and responsibility to the living things smack one another around until one of them wins.

Responsibility and perseverance are hard. No chance they win without some help.

Which is why I do origami.

c. Marvel Comics
c. Marvel Comics

Nope, not a non-sequitur.

I love looking at origami. I love the beautiful paper and the delicate yet flexible pieces of art, the ordinary made exotic, the mundane extraordinary. I do not, however, love doing origami. In point of fact, and as I may have mentioned on more than one previous occasion, I hate it. I’m terrible at it. No matter how hard I try, no matter how carefully I review the instructions, all but the most simple of designs turn to complete trash in my hands. I have purchased books with detailed diagrams. I have watched videos. I’ve asked knowledgeable friends for help and… I continue to suck. I also continue to do origami and I do it when the kids are there with me. Why? I want them to see me tank a project and start again. I want them to to see me start over six or seven or ten or one hundred times. I want them to see me ponder and get frustrated. I want them to see me persevere to the end even if the result is creased or lopsided or crumble into a ball in the trash. And then I want them to see me start yet again. Because if I don’t persevere, if they don’t see me persevere through all of that, then how will my kids know how to do it when their time comes?

Is it pleasant? It is not. Is it fun? I always think it will be but it rarely is. Is the satisfaction immense when I do manage a decent result? Heck, yeah.

Is origami as important in my world as magic is in Stephen Strange’s? Yes, because my kids are as important to me as magic is to Stephen Strange and it’s a lesson they need to learn if they are going to thrive in this world of ours.

My son is in first grade. He catches on to math and science with the same ease with which he breathes. And my heart sings when I see him beam with excitement. He also loves stories and loves being read to but the reading itself has presented a bit more of a challenge. Because so many things come easily to him, he wasn’t sure what to do with a thing that proved more difficult, that required more effort. His instinct, as it is so often all of ours, was to give up. For him, giving up entirely isn’t an option but attempts on my part to guide and assist ended in tears (him) and frustration (both of us). So, I did origami when he was around. I pointed out each time I made a mistake when I was reading aloud to him or to his sister and then went back to reading, even if I stumbled again immediately. I signed him up to work with his kindergarten teacher once a week over the summer. We let him buy a new book each time we went to the comic shop, hoping allowing him to pick the topic and story would engage him in the effort.

He had to work.

But yesterday, he read the hubs and me a whole page from a Minecraft book. And then he asked if he could read us another, and then another (prior to the other day, getting him to read one page, even in a simple picture book, was torture on all sides).

He hasn’t just learned how to read though. He’s learned how to prioritize, how to choose what’s important. He’s learned that it’s okay if not everything is easy for him.

He has learned to persevere.

C Marvel Comics
C Marvel Comics

Maybe next time will be a little easier. Perhaps it will be even more difficult. But either way, he has tools now, tools he didn’t have before. One more thing to keep in the toolbox of life.

Stephen Strange learned the hard way and so have the majority of us.

So has my son.

But he has learned and there is a hell of a lot of magic in that.



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