Mega Man X Complex: Armor

zeroRemember, you have not reached full power yet. If you use all the abilities you were designed with, you should become stronger. You may even become as powerful as I am.

 ‘Zero’

X_piecesTherefore, take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand, therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breast-plate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all these, take the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

 The Apostle Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, 6:13-17

Zero alludes to the upgrade capsules left to [Mega Man] X by Dr. Light, his creator, which together form the armor that equips X for his quest. I am not certain what that means to me. I read Paul, contextually, as speaking to a community with an unpopular ideology and bolstering their resolve with reinforced images, stripping the essence from Roman Imperial gear to equip the Ephesians with powerful abstracts. When I approached security at Tel Aviv airport, especially when I was hiding literature, the sound of electricity rushing from my core into my extremities filled my ears, as if they could see filaments of charged particles dancing all over my body.  If I were armed (literally) with a plasma-canon, I could wash the machines from the airport — from existence! — in a torrent of light and rush … rush onward instead of submitting to strip-searches…

I distilled X’s weapon as Determination but there is no satisfying release for the charge I carry, still.

Mega-Man X symbolizes my impossible wish to materialize and dematerialize in zaps of energy, without any history, constituted for a specific purpose. Behind my aliases, there was always a real person with a record of missteps – career and interpersonal. For over a decade I’ve been looking for the crucial piece that would launch me from my seeming stasis and satisfy my impatience to reclaim my identity as—valid? “Excellent” rings tinny. “Worthy”: if not superior, then loved. I wove a narrative for myself, fittingly, of being salvaged from the proverbial scrap-heap. Fussing with this piece over a week, it dawned on me that it was Vile (not Zero or Dr. Light) who called X a worthless piece of scrap.

helmet_salvNow, I will retrieve a treasure from Christian cliché: the Helmet of Salvation. X’s helmet is a less than perfect example; its only use seems to breaking walls to find other components: its a necessity for the sake of what it obtains. The blurred generalities of Salvation inhere in us as “church-speak” before we know the uncanny fibers within. Only yesterday, I realized Salvation was bigger than theology, that it has a power in secular life that exists mostly unnoted. Whenever the worth of a person seems irretrievable but resurfaces, astoundingly, then Salvation has been at work. The Gospel was decidedly about works of Salvation – unmistakably in the story of the ‘Good Samaritan’, who stops to help an injured man when priests (fearing the touch of a dead-body) bypassed him. It was no accident that Jesus’ example character came from a different background (Samaritan) – we should not skate lightly over that. We are salvaged because whatever shapes us should not mitigate our worth in one-anothers’ eyes (let alone in our Deity’s); it’s necessary for what could be obtained, together.

My writers’ block would not break until I had accepted that Salvation mattered and that I deserved it. It can never be earned but it is always deserved, for everyone rendered ‘untouchable’ and for me, too. This is no sermon on Salvation but I can appreciate that the cycle of doubt and self-deprecation cannot end without saying “I’m worthy”, putting on the helmet,boots_peace and head-busting some blocks on my way to the rest of my armor. The ‘dash boots’ were always my favorite, as X jumped and skidded through virtual dangers on the television screen. As shoes for my feet, I put on whatever will make me ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. Not of perfection. Everything, in the service of peace. This peace cannot be the passive tranquility we associate with ‘pax’. This abstract is the extract of those boots, the essence of a nimbler but braver pursuit of nonviolent struggle. Early in the game, X clings to walls for safety but later he slides past heavily encumbered foes. That forward-leaning confidence in justice makes the shoes of peace. I laced my boots long ago…

breast_rightThe breast-place gives me pause. X’s armor makes him 50% less vulnerable but this capsule is not merely hidden: he must have a long, tedious battle with a heavily armored robot before Dr Light’s hologram message appears. Whatever righteousness is, it takes practice— but the word itself reveals even less than ‘Salvation’. On my chest I have a tattoo of an anchor, next to which is inscribed “…to seek justice and resist evil.” Those words bubbled to my lips that day, maybe from the vague memory of my commissioning. I rediscovered them in a baptismal liturgy… the words etched on my chest, lodged in my heart, came from somewhere and I admit that  I cannot find a better definition of righteousness than “to seek justice and resist evil,” consistent with a well-known passage from Micah…

God has told you, O mortal, what is good: and what does God require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:8

The context of that passage has little to do with personal holiness; Micah is calling his society to rid itself of corruption. When I look at the mirror, I see a farce of a missionary and an insult to self-control but when I look back at my body of work, I submit to you, Micah’s words have fueled me from August 15th, 2011 up until the present day. Cross-my-heart: I have fastened the Belt of Truth around my waist, to the best of my understanding.

The Sword of the Spirit, or Plasma Cannon of Determination, is something more elusive than problematic. If I were a literalist, the answer would be staring me in the face: Paul said it was ‘the Word of God’. Texts can inspire but translations are problematic and eisegesis is inevitable. This time, I am departing from the common interpretation: I think we are talking about a quality of the Divine, the ‘Logos’*. Unfortunately, my inability to tap it precisely in writing is a reflection of my inability to tap that purposeful energy, that truly inspired and creative energy, in an instant or at will. Right now, I am still shedding the tiredness of changing homes so often. I am not a machine. What I said on February 15th, 2012, is worth repeating:

plasma_blaster_determinationThe key to X’s weapon-enhancer is that it must charge to full power – it is a waiting weapon. Speaking to groups [at Wi’am], I closed my eyes and remembered the sound of [him] powering-up that weapon. I used to charge it before I faced a boss, whether I needed it or not, to put myself at ease. “I’ve got this—thanks for the power-up, Spirit.” Discharged at the right time, it is super effective.

When I worry whether or not I will ever reach full power, I remind myself that I am still in a disorganized phase. It feels like I will never master that blend of waiting and pushing forward but that is an illusion. The seed of Fear is inconsistent with my experiences of rare, but real, Spirit-charged moments in my life. At just the right time, that uncanny, reinvigorating power sublimates upon me.  With time and determination, I will wash away all obstacles in torrents of energy and acquire a battery of tools with which to use that enhanced capacity.

—and now let us talk about The Shield, among other devices—

Part 4 is in the making.

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Mega Man X Complex: Vile

Airplanes are the space-age cask for fermenting questions about memory and emotion. Jorge Luis Borges was a frequent ‘companion’ of mine on transcontinental flights but, as I returned from Iowa, I wanted only to gaze from the window. I was looking into the distance– imagining myself squeezing out the portal and running into the sun flooded expanses of grass—bypassing my reflection. I saw him  staring back at me, inviting me to recharge my aura, but I decided I wanted to write something ironic instead. ‘The Mega Man X obsession was a defense mechanism;’ I decided I ‘should disassemble my personal myths’. I sketched an outline, titled it “The Mega Man Complex”, and forgot about it.

vile_carrier

‘Vile’ in his armor

I had something more iconic in mind on February 15th, 2012 via “In Rainbow Colors”:

Playing from the beginning, I ran into that city over a hundred times, through the gauntlet, to challenge a foe in a reinforced metal-suit.

In the old SNES video game, one plays as a robot-turned-righteous. X obliterates a slew of unremarkable

‘maverick’ robots and stands before the bay door of an enormous air-ship. Vile emerges from a bomb-bay door. Like Sigma, Vile is a powerful and corrupt robot. There is something Jungian—shadowlike—in them because they were once ‘Maverick Hunters’: keepers of order. Vile is drunk on supremacy and nearly destroys X:

megaman_blue

X, without upgrades

The game is designed in such a way that X cannot possibly win without being rescued…”

Vile stuns the anemic hero, then holds him aloft and helpless. He gloats openly — calls X a “worthless piece of scrap metal”. Perched atop his armored hydraulic-carrier, Vile commands the fate of the battle. From my perch in the airplane, I saw some ‘Vile’ in myself. I had always seen vile things of a lesser nature in myself, like being intentionally abrasive, but this quality was quintessentially Vile (a capital ‘V’) because of my metaphorical armored-carrier. Sometimes it was manifest in surging anger but more often in a stun gun: every time a challenging memory surfaced, I paralyzed it. Maybe the Vile character sees his own vulnerability in ‘X’ –and is all the more merciless because of it.

Yet, he has no doubt about his mission, except for the doubts he has about himself. He is inadequate.

Vile flees the scene when Zero arrives but he’s waiting at Sigma’s fortress for a rematch; the Vile elements in our lives and selves return, still mounted on vehicles of control. The X in me has begun to doubt even Mission, in light of my self. Perhaps it is because I convinced myself I was a bad, ironic missionary: an ‘infiltrator’. When I was with coworkers at Wi’am I was nourished by our spirit de corps but alone in Amman (Jordan) I was fueled by challenging Israeli border control to one more contest of wills. The battle restored me to my post but the feeling of being impervious flowed into my veins like a warm drug.

Mega Man is neutral on issues of pride because his unprecedented power and skill is not for the sake of prowess or accolades but to respond to the increasing level of difficulty.

Really, Xavier? Stressors ferment into strength or else they desiccate us. I can hold back my shivers, under pressure, but it takes me far too long to weep again and release the poison. Stress can teach us both: abilities ajust_vilend disabilities. I wish only my ‘new’ struggle lingered with me—shades of preexisting darkness taint my ability to digest my ‘nobler’ flaws. A particular addiction comes to mind.  I’ve almost confessed the habit several times but backed-off because I couldn’t “explain” it sufficiently to make torching my reputation worth the confession. No one wants to read details of what I watched, how often, or how it’s “not as bad” as the things I refused to watch, and other qualifications, nor does anyone want to see me piously condemning myself (much less back-tracking).It is less a matter of filth than of weakness. The armored-carrier is a justice-missionary: why unshell the Vile character inside?  The only reason I hint at confession is…

Mega Man is emblematic of a new self-concept, for me, because of his dynamic growth and intrinsic goals. There is no princess or treasure waiting for him in Sigma’s fortress.

…the only reason I confess at all is because I already know there is no princess or treasure waiting for me. No max-tomato will restore my health in an instance, no dancing stars pop from the stonework and make me impervious—no magic mushrooms. Anyone who played this first game in the X series (the only Mega Man game I played, incidentally) knows that X’s strength comes piece by piece as he overcomes other bosses and finds upgrade pods. No equipment or even so much as a spare energy capsule comes to X without a fire-fight. I am in a campaign to reclaim my mind, from many things, yet Vile remains…

zero

Zero: an ally.

It is Zero that chases him away in the initial stage of the game—and X kneels in a state of utter exhaustion:

Yet, he has no doubt about his mission, except for the doubts he has about himself. He is inadequate. Zero leans over and says to him… well, I scoured the internet and could not find it…

I succeeded where I had failed before: I found Zero’s words of encouragement to X after their first encounter with Vile: “X, you should not expect to defeat him; he is designed to be a war machine. Remember, you have not reached full power yet. If you use all the abilities you were designed with, you should become stronger. You may even become as powerful as I am.” During his second encounter with Vile, X is nearly bested (again!) but Zero sacrifices himself to destroy the carrier.

It is not because our programming was fail-safe but because our paths have shaped our potential. Only the blue, self-doubting X from the first stage could have become the imposing X who eventually bests his opponent from earlier in the game.

Who is my Zero? The “right” answer would be to say Jesus, though I had not intended that. I am reluctant to assert that, not wanting to mock the idea. The deification of Jesus that so many Christians make central can distract from his example. I had a fruitful moment of meditation; I conceived of sin as real hurt circulating in our relationships, not as a supernatural stain. More than atoning, we have to remedy secondary-effects: the insidious interest on our debt of transgressions. Jesus is not a ‘sacrificial lamb’ who makes everything better instantly (a max tomato, a magic mushroom). If we understand him as a leader, through whose example we can stand on level ground with all that is Vile, then the crucifixion really did destroy the metaphorical armored-carrier. Unfortunately, that means we have to go beyond building strength to using it. We must fight to rectify accounts, even if we did not cause the imbalances. And I must unshell the Vile in myself so I can be salvaged, too.

Playing from the beginning, I ran into that city over a hundred times, through the gauntlet, to challenge a foe in a reinforced metal-suit.

Upgraded and looking dapper

Upgraded and looking dapper

Mission is continuing the struggle against the hurt already caused and the “sin” still compounding the damage. ‘X’ goes on the offensive and takes responsibility for crimes he is not perpetrating. His sense of collective responsibility is impressive, for a machine, and I think he aspired to be more humane as much as I did to be made of steel. Human or machine, our compassion and our selves are brought to full expression in adversity but not strictly from the trials themselves. There are specific pieces to be discovered and mastered together. As Zero said, “If you use all the abilities you were designed with, you should become stronger. You may even become as powerful as I am.” It is time to reclaim and charge my aura.

—with enhancements: put on the full armor.

As for Vile, he is defeated but never truly dead. The game’s overall storyline would lose X’s best foil if Vile were not reincarnated to be struggled with, on screen in every sequel, adding the thread of a long-term grudge to otherwise fresh casts of ‘mavericks’. In short, he makes the game more human by being SO stubborn.

On that note, part 2 ends.

Kirby things you deserve a max tomato for reading all 1400 words!

Kirby thinks you deserve a max tomato for reading all 1400 words!

 

*By tools I mean weapons. Its a video-game but I want to keep the violent metaphors muted.

Mega Man X Complex: Returning

One blog is “retired”, while this one is fallow and in shambles. Something has to be done – but what will it take to jar me loose?Shady Patch

On February 15th of 2012, I wrote an entry about Mega Man X for “In Rainbow Colors”:

Sometime in the last five weeks, I developed self-concept problems. It might have to do with the fact that I am a writer who is writing seemingly little.

On the plane home from West Michigan, well over a year later, I wrote the stub of yet another journal entry. They sit on my desktop like dead buds on a magnolia tree after a late frost. There is one where I almost wrote about this stage I have passed into, calling it a “quarter-life crisis”. For weeks I had been painting my future in light strokes, hinting to family and friends that I was going to continue in conflict resolution with an emphasis on narratives and arts based approaches. George Mason University was at the top of my list and – then I looked at the price: my feet went cold. The education is worth the price, provided I really wanted to study mediation… (and… well…)

I am in a time of critical challenge and opportunity. The shock-waves finally reached the surface this week when I found myself crying over Skype.            //           It is time to embrace a new narrative for myself.

Another among the many unwritten journal entries is one called “Dutch Apologies”. I was composing it in my head on the train from Geneva to Zurich but I felt too emotionally drained to reflect on my debrief. This weekend will mark six months since I disembarked from Bethlehem for that mentally dislocating experience in France. I promised myself I just needed to space-out for a while and then I would put the pieces together again – I would salvage everything lost, was my mantra. Not a word has graced this page about the facility, the staff’s philosophies, or my meditations by candle-light. I spent a week with that facilitator but cannot remember anything beyond a few images and phrases.

Mega Man X

An action shot of ‘X’ in full armor — later in the game.

I mused about who my cartoon super-hero avatar could be. Mega Man ‘X’ seemed to be the answer, by sheer exposure: I used to play Mega Man X on SNES every time I visited my parents during college – for the expressed purpose of blowing-up stuff.

I ignored my co-workers, seemingly ignoring me, as we wove through the alps, and argued with the facilitator in my head: “You need to climb down from your cross – you’ve given yourself the place that Christ should have in your life,” she says. “I can’t tell you the chapter and verse, but Jesus said something about taking up one’s cross…”

The more I dwelled on “X” the more I saw reasons to embrace his narrative as my own. X wakes from a long-nap in a time-capsule to discover a terrible development:

“You hate them, don’t you? You truly hate them—,“ she says. “I’m not sure, right now…”

Playing from the beginning, I ran into that city over a hundred times, through the gauntlet, to challenge a foe in a reinforced metal-suit. The game is designed in such a way that X cannot possibly win without being rescued…

“Your therapist doesn’t have to agree with your every view to help you.” “Maybe not but there are some basic facts—“ “No, this is not a matter of fact: this is your opinion.” “A wall more than ten times bigger than the one they tore down in Berlin is not my opinion – it was my everyday reality.”

Palestinian 'X'

A redesign in solidarity with Palestine, with apologies to Capcom.

This brings us to the first parallel: the self-hating robot. Down on his little, blue knees, X laments that he was not strong enough. X already knows he’s a self-hating robot in another, crucial way:

The therapist pegged me in one important way, which was that I was constantly ‘divergent’: going through the disorganized stage of grief. She gave me a piece of paper with the grieving curve on it, the slope angling precipitously into the darker and more self-aware stages of depression. My problem, now, is that I cannot remember how I went back into disorganization – I only know that I went deeper into confusion – and all my notes have disappeared. On some level, I must have wanted that to happen; sometimes the path of least resistance becomes the longest… and I was afraid of the darkness straight ahead. I went in circles.

I have been reluctant to embrace Mega Man as emblematic of my own purpose for fear it would expose my warrior dichotomy, wanting peace but moved to resistance.

It never occurred to me before now that revisiting the MegaMan complex might be the way to start revisiting France. I just realized that confession is an example of ‘the performative’: I am faltering, right now, to find something to say without trying to say everything at once. My paralysis, the essence of nothingness, is the ‘everythingness’ with which I anesthetize myself – my reveries, the internet, and of course…

I remain committed to nonviolence but my self-deprecation has been an assault on my purpose as much as on my self. I have been unwilling to stand tall and say “I am a prophet,” for fear that I will seem arrogant or combative. I have continued fighting on the outskirts of the city, popping plasma blasts at drones to stay alive rather than tapping into my legacy.

I confess again: I am faltering. Most of my reflection remains to be done but this is the end of Part 1.