Saturday, November 16, 2013

Three Things I Learned From Ender’s Game, Part Three

The Power of Words

“There are times when the world is rearranging itself, and at times like that, the right words can change the world.”

One of my heroes is Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the theologian-pastor who plotted to kill Hitler, and maybe more importantly, stood against him even back in the early days when the Nazis were changing things mostly through creeds and committee meetings. He thought deeply and wrote powerfully, using words that cut through empty rhetoric to get to the truth.

Hitler was mentioned in Ender’s Game. He’s always the one we look back on, maybe the one we will look back on forever into the future, as a person who accomplished despicable things because he had both clear insight into how people think and the ability to craft words and make them beautiful.

I have clear insight into how people think. I have the ability to craft words and make them beautiful.

I could be Hitler.

Or Bonhoeffer. Or Ender’s sister Valentine, who “could persuade other people to her point of view—she could convince them that they wanted what she wanted them to want.”

That same passage could be describing me. And that terrifies me. Because even if there is no chance that I will commit the atrocities that Hitler did, what happens if someone else does? Won’t I be responsible to say something, do something?

I am an ordinary person in (so far) ordinary times. Bonhoeffer had Hitler. Valentine had a corrupt world order. All I seem to have is an alarm clock that goes off too early, people who don't know how to merge, and an enormous heap of laundry. Hardly the setting for the rise of a hero.

Sometimes I don't want to be one anyway. Sometimes I wonder what to do with the intelligence, empathy, and words I have been given. And, probably the most common "sometimes," sometimes I wish I had more opportunities to be heroic.

Either way, I closed Ender's Game with the certainty of several things: I shouldn’t want to be a genius. I can’t take on all the suffering of the whole world. And I could still be a hero.

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