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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Hunger Games, Keep Your Eyes Open, and the Origin of Pain

A couple of years ago, I read an amazing review of "The Hunger Games," so I bought it and devoured it. When I told my friends about the book, it embarrassed me to describe the premise, but I assured them, "It's amazing. I couldn't put it down." My husband cocked his eye at me and I realized how ridiculous the "children killing children in post-apocalyptic North America" theme seemed. I explained Panem and the districts to my (avid reader) sister-in-law, Stacey, and she also eyed me suspiciously. But I professed despite the looks because the work was so compelling. I read all three books in the trilogy in a matter of weeks. The world crafting is genius and, while dark, the books demand to be read because the protagonist, Katniss, is the person we all wish to be. She is nurturing, sacrificing, selfless, resourceful, and strong. All while being vulnerable, open, and loving. We swallow the difficulty of watching/reading about starving children being forced to kill one another because we find everything in the main character to embrace and cheer for. The metaphors and cliches abound, but it's authentic and raw. 

The soundtrack to "The Hunger Games" is equally compelling. Needtobreathe is a contemporary Christian band that successfully leaped to popular radio in the past. Their song from the sound track has followed. "Keep Your Eyes Open" resounds on Hits1. A line from the song strikes me as particularly profound. They sing, "Pain is just a place the will has been broken." I've turned this over in my mind since the first time I heard it. I've tried to reconcile the idea that weakness opens the door for pain. Do we feel pain because of cracks in our resolute strength or because of our inherent humanity? Is emotional pain caused by something internal rather than external? Is it a matter of perspective? Is it subjective?  

No. Circumstances create pain. People in our lives create pain. Words create pain. Bee stings create pain. These things all originate externally and they all create visceral pain. It isn't a crack in our will. It isn't weakness. It comes from outside us and doesn't define us. Limit us. Reduce us. It exists because it is real. Not imagined, extrapolated, or assumed. If we feel pain, it's because something has hurt us. So, I love The Hunger Games Trilogy, the soundtrack, and the pause it forces. But I love the human spirit more. Our resilience and how the written word can cause millions to stop and pause. Consider the unthinkable. Pontificate our values. Push us to think. All of the controversy surrounding The Hunger Games simply reiterates the point of literature. To cause us to pause. Consider. And think of something outside of ourselves.

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