I look out for me and mine …
I know, that seems like an incredibly callous quote to start off a post with … but the message is resonating loudly in my world right now. While he is a very flawed character, written/created by a flawed writer/director, Mal Reynolds has some great philosophies and views — however flawed they, in fact, are. He’s a character written espousing great qualities (dedication to crew, preservation of “honorable” ideals, protection of family) and great flaws (a rebellious streak, distrust of authority, dedication to his ideology — often at a great personal cost) … much like every other person around — real or fictional.
Mal Reynolds stood out because he was spectacularly unspecial.
That’s not to say that the character is an exemplary human being or someone to be idolized, especially if he were a real person. He’s a thief, a criminal, in some eyes he’s treasonous (after all, he fought for the Independents) and dangerous. But there is something at the core of the character that I have long tried to make an everyday reality in my world — to varying degrees of failure and success: dedication to those close to you. Dedication to “you and yours” is a critical undertaking when following the Way of the Badger.
We, as a society, throw about terms aplenty for those we want or have close to us — family, kin, tribe, circle, clan, club, or clique, the list goes on. Regardless of your preferred term, the idea is the same: those people who are close to you, those who mean the most to you, those you trust and share vulnerabilities with, those you have fun with, those you hurt with (and sometimes hurt you). These are the people, the spirits, closest to you, and we each have our own determination of what criteria must be met in order to form that bond.
And form that bond we so often do … for better or worse. Looking back at the past 40+ years of my life (give or take a year) I see fluctuations in quantity and quality of those close to me. I’m a proponent of the term “family” for my own circle … and, I have learned, that family is what you make of it and who makes up the group for you. At a young age, most of us are taught that family are those you are born with/to, and we then learn that “family” can grow and change in other ways (by marriage/divorce or adoption/alienation, for examples). While we sometimes have a say in those matters, we often have far less say than we might like to admit — after all, we do not (and should not) control the actions, feelings, thoughts of other human beings, only our actions and reactions.
But, as so many of us learn as we grow older, family isn’t as simple a concept as we are often led to believe. After all, there are many of us (especially of my generation) who grew up with absent or abusive parents, or siblings who were much older or much younger, extended familial relations who “went away” and never came back to the fold. It’s rarely (if ever) a “neat package” that so many would like us to believe.
It’s uncomfortable for us, as a society, to talk about “bad stuff”.
That’s a harsh statement, but it’s so very true. We, as a whole, don’t like to talk about the bad things that happen to us … or at least we don’t like to talk about the bad things that happen to us directly. (We love to talk about the bad shit happening to others, though … but that’s another post for another time and another writer.) However, those things still happen to us/in our lives, no one is free from “bad things” that happen “to us”. People come in and out of our lives at intervals often out of our circle of influence. As someone close once told me:
We each play a role in one another’s lives, like in movies or TV shows. Some people have a lead role, while others might have little more than a cameo appearance … but each of those roles has an effect upon us individually.
Those roles are reflective — as we also play roles in the lives of others. Sometimes we are the propagators of joy or misery or we just complete their order and wish them a nice day. We seemingly know how to react to the “good” stuff and the “neutral” stuff … but the “bad stuff” is where we struggle as a group. If it’s uncomfortable or painful, we will shy away rather than confront … it’s difficult, it’s awkward, and (yeah) it’s painful. And, to avoid that pain or difficulties, we continue and suffer. Maybe we make excuses or accept behaviors that we don’t like, but we don’t want to “make a fuss” (as my grandma would say). But a fuss is often times necessary when someone(s) does us wrong.
As the story goes, Earth as we know it got used up, and people left her behind for space. The central planets formed the Alliance, with a government that attempted to control every aspect of life. The outer planets were under less influence due to distance, and did not care for direct, central control — they preferred their independence. The War of Independence broke out, and Mal Reynolds fought on the side of the independents. It is a result of this that we see the character’s true colors come into play — that dedication to those men and women he served with and fought alongside. While he suffered countless losses, Mal stayed true to those who were true to him. This carried through when he took over Serenity. His crew was all he had, but it was enough for him to keep flying, to keep fighting, to try like hell to see another day — for them and because of them. He even goes so far as to take on stowaway siblings, against his first notion, as he sees good in them.
They ain’t a part of my crew, unless I say
Which brings us on back to the Way of the Badger and yours truly … my “crew”, my family has changed a lot in 40+ years. I’ve lost loved ones and I’ve been hurt and betrayed by loved ones. I’ve had friends who decided that they can’t go where I’m going in life — usually due to it being uncomfortable for them (I was once told my wife’s medical issues were “drama” and that person couldn’t be around for that). And I’ve left friendships (often with no ‘warning’) as I saw the path that person’s life was going down or saw who they were choosing to associate with. I went through a phase of my adult life (when Facebook began to grow exponentially) where I thought I needed more friends … after all Quantity > Quality, right?
It’s taken me a few years to come to terms with who I really am and what I want and need in this world. In that time, my family circle has drastically shrunk. To some people, it’s alarmingly small … but each of those people are ones I care about. Each has a place in my crew, and each has shown that they care about me and mine — just as I have tried to show the same in return. I have lingering trust issues. I have my own goals and priorities that line up with my family’s goals and priorities. And I have a powerful need not to be trifled with, to have my independence.
But, above all else, I look out for me and mine … and, that list has become much smaller over the past couple years. But that smaller group is founded in and fueled by something that is critical in this world — love. We may be beaten and battered by life and this world, but we’re still moving forward. In the end, that’s the first rule of “flyin’” … love.
Mal: It ain’t all buttons and charts, little albatross. You know what the first rule of flyin’ is? Well, I suppose you do, since you already know what I’m about to say.
River: I do. But I like to hear you say it.
Mal: Love. You can know all the math in the ‘verse, but you take a boat in the air you don’t love, she’ll shake you off just as sure as the turning of worlds. Love keeps her in the air when she oughtta fall down… tells ya she’s hurtin’ ‘fore she keens… makes her a home.
River: Storm’s getting worse.
Mal: We’ll pass through it soon enough …