Character Alignment and Chamomile Tea

I am a person who knows how to be comfortable. My pillows are always fluffy, though I’ve been told that “Klingon Warriors do not fluff pillows.” I don’t wear clothes that leave lines of pinching in my skin, nor shoes that hurt but look oh-so-hot. And though I make no claims to rigidity or perfectionism (my desk will attest to the opposite), I do move through the world with predictable routines and expectations for the way things should be done. When introducing character analysis to my students in Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature, we discuss the axis of character alignment. The nerds among you will appreciate the following examples:

From Giant in the Playground

While I’d like to think that I’m V, a chaotic good free-spirit, I’m probably more of a Picard. There is a Prime Directive controlling my world, and it is “Be logical. Avoid conflict.” This serves me fairly well by minimizing the amount of discomfort that I have to face. But it also creates certain anxieties that plague me. Worry about upsetting others makes breaths come short, fluffy pillows make it easy to stay in bed on sleepy-grumpy weekdays.

So why this trip? The lovely warmth of my chamomile tea saturates my hands as I ponder my reasons. Think of those  evenings in your life that follow trying days. People were on your case, meetings lasted forever, you had so much to do, you were fighting a cold, something was wrong in your world, and still you managed to kick ass. You took care of business, worked out, cleaned the house, enjoyed the company of your family and friends Comforts at the end of days like that really hit home.

As much as I love a fluffy pillow, I love better the perfect rest found by laying my head on a bag of clothes at the end of a long day backpacking. I love peeling off ski boots and socks at the end of a bluebird set of runs.  After grading a stack of 95 papers of varying skill,the kickback of a cold beer makes it all okay. Challenges you can’t control suck the life out of you, but the challenges you build with intention shape you. And I’m the first to admit I need a bit of shaping. Perhaps we can push ourselves to try on the types of characters we want to be.

I don’t know if I can bike 3400 miles in 70 days. I don’t know if I can spend 8+ hours a day on a small strip of only-slightly padded plastic, or if I can fix a busted spoke on the absent shoulder of a road with giant trucks barreling by at 75mph. I’ll have to work on the mindfulness part, the appreciating pain part. But at least I know I’ll enjoy the little things at the end of the day.