Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Three Life Lessons From Labyrinth

Devoted (or even casual) readers at The Vault will know that my family and I recently moved to a new home. So far, we like the place quite a bit and are settling in nicely. This is not to say that everything is quite sorted out yet. The biggest shortcoming that remains right now is that we are still without cable television and the Internet. I won't bore you with the nuts and bolts details of that. I will say that it has renewed our appreciation for our DVD player and for our esoteric collection of discs.

A few nights ago, I was sorting through a box and stumbled on one of my favorite movies of all time, to whit, Labyrinth. If you have never seen it, I heartily recommend it as an excellent movie for all ages. Of course, if you haven't seen the movie then you may not fully appreciate my post today. Sorry for that.

I first saw the movie as a new theatrical release in 1986. Having been a long-standing fan of both David Bowie and of all things Muppet, I instantly fell in love with the movie. It was a fun combination of action, adventure and fantasy, intermingled with superb music and masterful muppetry.

It wasn't until a few years later when I got my first VHS copy of the movie (no snickering about my age) that I realized that there was far more going on in the movie than I had first realized. Intermingled with the muppets and the fantasy, amidst the adventure and the music, the writers had managed to shoe-horn in some very insightful and eternal truths. Hidden in this fun romp were lessons about Life and how one could live better with a better understanding of certain things.

So, my post today will consist of Three Life Lessons from Labyrinth. I hope that you recognize and are reminded of them as much as I was.

1.) Not Everyone Who Gives You What You
Want Has Your Best Interests In Mind.

Sarah, the 15-year heroine, spends her time in the fantasy world of her book, Labyrinth. Reading the book and acting out scenes from it feeds her need for magic and wonder in her, otherwise, boring and mundane world. At the movie's beginning, she rushes home only to find that her parents are going out and she is stuck watching her baby brother, Toby. She finds out her beloved teddy, Lancelot, has been taken from her room and given to Toby. She makes Toby cry from her outburst of teenage anger at the violation of her space. Unable to handle the crying, she tells him a story from her book of a girl who becomes so tired of her brother's crying that she asked the goblins to come and take him away. She ends her story by turning off the lights and saying, "I wish the goblins would take you away. Right now!" To her amazement and horror, Jareth, the Goblin King, and his minions DO take poor Toby. The mortified Sarah begs Jareth to return the baby. Jareth makes a deal with her that if she can solve his maze, the Labyrinth, within 13 hours he will return Toby. If she fails to do so, he will keep the baby...forever. Sarah realizes that, by granting her desire, Jareth has made her an unwilling player in his twisted "game". His only reason for doing as she asked was to solidify her belief in him and his powers. Thus begins her harrowing and dangerous quest to undo the damage wrought by a, seemingly, innocent wish. I daresay we have all had the truly unfortunate experience of being given that which (we thought) we desired most from an unexpected benefactor only to find ourselves cruelly ensnared in the strings attached to the "favor". It is never a pleasant thing but seems to be an inescapable rite of passage in Life.

2.) Life Is Not Fair.

In the early scenes of the movie, Sarah is rushing home when she is drenched by a sudden downpour of rain. She wails, "It's not fair!!" This is a persistent complaint from Sarah as the conditions of the Labyrinth keep changing and foiling her progress. She even complains to Jareth that his changing of the terms of the game isn't fair. Jareth jibes to her, "You do say that quite a lot. I wonder what your basis for comparison is??" At that point, it is as if a lightbulb pops on above her head. Sarah realizes that whether a situation is fair or not has nothing to do with the fact that the situation still exists and must be dealt with. I don't recall when, exactly, said lightbulb popped on over my own head but it still shines brightly to this day. Anyone else out there familiar with the harsh glare that bulb can cast? I would venture to say most of you are.

3.) Nobody Has Any Power Over You
That You Do Not Give Them.

Immediately after Jareth takes Toby away he tries to dissuade Sarah from trying to get him back. He tempts her with one of his magical crystals KNOWING it will not alter her resolve. He knows she will not abandon her brother, and steers her down a path of his chosing. As soon as Sarah undertakes the challenge, she is under Jareth's sway. The Goblin King is a fictional character whose magic and his very existence are dependant on Sarah's belief in him. Throughout the Labyrinth, Sarah is tempted and tormented by the, seemingly, limitless scope of Jareth's magic. In the climactic final scene of the movie, Jareth makes a final impassioned plea for Sarah to abandon her quest and remain with him. In a flash of insight, Sarah breaks his hold by uttering a line from her book, "You have no power over me!!" Her realization and the act of affirming his hidden weakness ends his control and Sarah and Toby are returned safely home. We have all felt ourselves, at some point, cast in the role of unwilling pawns. We have all felt the hopelessness and despair of being victims of circumstances that we were convinced were beyond our ability to alter. It is another sad rite of passage in Life. An unfortunate number of people never do seem to grasp the dea but I hope none of you are in that number. We all have within us the seeds of greatness. We all have worth and free will and the innate ability to become every bit as great and powerful as we can envision ourselves to be.

This ends my post on the Life Lessons From Labyrinth (for now). The movie offers many more gems of wisdom and, like Sarah, I would imagine I will have no choice but to venture back into the Labyrinth to extract more of them at some point. Be Well and Be Empowered my friends!!

1 comment:

  1. I love the Labyrinth! I saw it for the first time when I was just 6 years old, but it had a huge impact on me.

    I've been bullied in school from the 3rd grade until I switched normal hight school to evening school. I survived thanks to lessons taught by books and movies. I even retaliated (threw a dirty rag at their face, nothing serious) a few times.

    I kept thinking "it'll get better" and "If I dwell on their words I'll only hurt me". Life did get alot better: I'm in love, I have an inspiring dog and I got into the shcool I wanted on the first try.

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