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For the first time since I was a child, I spent the entire day reading a book. I forgot what an amazing feeling it was to lose myself for hours at a time inside some world created by someone else. There’s always something just a little bit familiar to these worlds. If there wasn’t, we could not become so lost exploring them. This story, however, seemed more familiar than any story I’ve read in years.

I just finished reading Ender’s Game. I literally closed the book just seconds before I started writing this. I identified personally with little Ender Wiggins. It was strange to watch as he went through these strange worlds in ways that were so familiar to me. In this book, a little boy quickly became isolated because he was different. Many adults would praise him and many worried he was not living up to his potential. His peers mocked him and played tricks on him. Any displays of weakness were quickly snatched up and used against him. So he quickly learned to shield his weaknesses from the view of others.

He began to isolate himself voluntarily. He trusted no one and only let down his shield in the privacy of his own room. He had small pockets of friends here and there, but even they were only allowed to see what he wanted them to see. He was never comfortable in large groups, always sensing their judgment or possible danger, so he sat back and watched them from a distance, observing their interactions, learning more about himself and mankind through the interactions of others than he ever could in any school. Still, he isolated himself, still he watched, still he learned, still he longed for a childhood he could never have; companionship he thought always out of reach.

It’s interesting to me the way a text, such as a book, or a movie, or a song can connect with us on such a personal level that we transcend our own existence. We begin to see our lives from the outside, through the eyes of some character in some story, taking place in some other world. The story is the same. It is our own story, but the characters and the setting are all different. This is what draws me to the art of storytelling. Whether through books, or movies, or music, I am always looking for new versions of the same old story; different perspectives of my own story. I wonder if others are reading the same stories and connecting on such a personal level as I am.

On the flight home from visiting my family for the holidays, I watched a couple episodes of Scrubs. This show is another one of those texts that takes me out of my regular frame of mind. It’s not quite as transcendent an experience as some, but this show always reminds me of my buddy Scott. It’s uncanny the similarities between the interactions of JD and Turk and myself and Scott. It goes all the way down to the mannerisms of the individual characters. It’s like someone took our life and hired a team of writers to make it more interesting and cram it into 30-minute segments. I can never watch an episode of Scrubs without being reminded of Scott, and it never fails to put a smile on my face.

While I was out visiting my family, trying feebly to adjust to the three-hour time difference, I watched Hotel Rwanda. This proved to be a completely different kind of transcendent experience. This was not a reminder of past or present experiences, but a demonstration of what-ifs. It appalled me to watch as these people were stripped from their homes and their loved ones as their country tore itself apart.

In this story, one man comes at first unwillingly to the aid of many of his friends. Over the course of the story, he rises to conquer greater and greater obstacles. But it is not this man that I identified with. This time, I connected with the cameraman played by Joaquin Phoenix. His job was to capture as much of these people’s tragic story as he could so that his superiors at the major news network would get more viewers. His mission, however, was much more noble, and much more tragic than that.

There is a scene in which all the foreign nationals, all the white people, are leaving on a bus, leaving all the Rwandans to deal with the savagery on their own. A group of children then come walking down the street, singing and cheering only to be separated into Rwandan and National, chum and prize fish. Nuns are separated from the orphans they have cared for and come to love, forced to leave them to a grim fate. The cameraman comes out and films it all, but it gives them little hope.

Earlier in the film, the cameraman is talking with Paul, the hero of the story. Paul tells him that he’s glad that the cameraman is filming all the savagery, that now the west will be forced to do something. The cameraman replies simply, “I think, if people see this footage, they’ll say ‘Oh my God, that’s horrible,’ and then go on eating their dinners.”

I couldn’t help but wonder what that would be like if it were me. What would I do if I were there, the only one able to tell these people’s story to the world? What if those were my friends being torn from the orphans they had grown to love, leaving those orphans to uncertain death. Would it all be for naught?

This is the reason I chose film and media as a possible career. I want to tell these stories. I want to tell my story. I want to be a voice for the voiceless; I want to be a tool for the development of some young mind somewhere, destined for greatness; I want to be a speaker for the dead, but will it all be for naught?

All of these transcendent tales end with the hero accomplishing some great feat, or overcoming impossible obstacles. All those trials they overcame, all those lessons they learned all prepared them for that one final battle, where they emerge bruised and battered, victorious, and a completely different person than the one that began the story.

Isn’t this what we’re all trying to do? We’re all learning, we’re all growing, we’re all preparing for some unseen event in the distant future. No one really knows what it will be; it will probably be different for each of us, but maybe that’s the point of all these stories.

Maybe these stories can’t help the victims of the present. Maybe they’re not supposed to. Maybe they’re only supposed to help future societies. Maybe we’re all preparing each other unknowingly for that final battle we’ll all face someday where we’ll emerge bruised and battered, victorious, and a completely different person than the one that began the story, ready to pass our boon on to a society that may or may not be ready.