Survivors of Heroic Trials: Prompts for Reflection

Airplane Lightning Strike

As I sit down to generate a Tuesday list of writing prompts for this week’s topic of Surviving Disasters, guess what’s on TV: the movie “Poseidon” (the remake of “The Poseidon Adventure”); to be followed by “Twister”. I will watch them then, while contemplating this week’s topic of surviving disasters from a Better Endings perspective.

Disaster films and novels are a very popular genre. Even Classical mythology and Greek (and later) tragic dramas often center around tales of surviving either natural or supernaturally induced disasters.  In the mythic story of “Theseus and the Minotaur,” for example, Theseus—as part of his trials by the Gods to replace his father as King–sails to the island of Crete to free Athenian brethren taken prisoner there who are being fed to the monstrous half bull/ half human Minotaur. Theseus must use his warrior instincts and creativity and he must be receptive to Ariadne’s suggestion to unroll a ball of string as he descends into the depths of the Labyrinth where the monster lives. This way, after defeating the Minotaur in combat, Theseus is able to lead the freed captives back out from the Labyrinth to safety. Theseus displays heroism: he sacrifices his own safety to rescue others in a selfless act.  He is aided by the Gods in this worthy venture, and with a bit more mythic story twisting (his father dies in a battle that ensues when Theseus’ own boat is mistaken as an enemy ship from Crete), he returns to assume his throne.

Disaster survivors have much of value to teach us. Their stories often reflect the sort of spiritual or divine intervention underlying mythic tales of obstacles and triumph. A student whose parents lost their homes to the Colorado Springs wildfire in the Mountain Shadows neighborhood two years ago shared that when she and her family sifted through the ashes of their family home, nothing at all remained, EXCEPT an unframed, paper photograph of my student (the homeowners’ daughter) when she was an infant. How could that be? Also this past year, a good friend who is a therapist lost her home and her beloved wolf hybrid pet to the raging Black Forest wildfire. She showed me a picture of the only surviving structure on her property: a limb-framed Sweat Lodge she used for therapy retreats! This structure was only some 30 yards or so away from the house, forest trees and garage that burned to the ground. How and why would this structure be saved?

The stories above—and the countless others I am sure you can think of—are food for thought. May the following list of disaster topics inspire you to write, or talk about, or actively contemplate what we can learn from surviving disasters.

  • Triumph
  • Surviving Disasters  (student: baby photo; friend: twig frame sweat lodge)
  • Fires
  • Floods
  • Hurricanes (Katrina, Sandy)
  • Earthquakes
  • Fear
  • Terrorist attacks/ (including mass shootings)
  • PTSD
  • War
  • Car accidents
  • Airplane crashes

I welcome your insights via the Comments box below. You may share your stories by sending them as either a Guest Blog or for Sunday’s Story of the Week.

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