“And they lived happily ever after” is an iconic ending to many re-tellings of folk or faerie stories which most of us
have grown up with over the years. This is not the original ending of those stories in many cases.
I really don’t know when it began, if indeed a beginning it had, but especially since the advent of cinema, then television
and all the other audio-visual propaganda in succession, we’ve become accustomed to the ‘happy ending’, whereby hero
or heroine and their entourage survive, emerge victorious, fall in love... usually all of the above. The hero/heroine (not
the entourage !) have defeated the antagonist in whatever form this may be presented – this also has changed in very
recent generations – and whether they live ‘happily ever after’ or not, we wait for the sequel, not being content to let
stories end until we’re either tired of them or disappointed by them. These days, they must subscribe to some virtual
universe where we get to see what happens next. Until the next new (sic) shiny thing comes along... A stand alone story
would meet with all the (financial) success of a shoe store that sells only one shoe at a time.
We both have and haven’t gotten far away from our storytelling instinct. We still like to hear/see stories : they help us
give meaning to the absurdity of our lives, they give us a moral compass and thus a sense of direction in the chaos of
everyday being-ness. But, over the rather recent span of just a few generations, we’ve gotten spoilt by the ‘happy
ending’. Needless to say, stories – our own and those of others – do not all have ‘happy endings’, especially with what
we need to let us feel happy nowadays.
Our storytelling and especially our story-listening-to (which we unconscionably call “consuming content” these days)
pleasure is an evolutionary trait that accompanied us probably into the African savannah a few million years ago. We
have since told one another stories to entertain and pass the time, but also to disseminate prudence and a shared sense of
ethics. The stories we have grown up with have been passed down via the oral tradition in one form or another, in most
languages, since time immemorial, well before everyone had the privilege of being taught how to write (which many
resent these days). Stories were told of evenings by the hearth, not only to children but also to adults. They were not only
for entertainment, they were not solely the Disney + of the pre-media epoch, but also served a cautionary motive in
peoples’ lives. Often there were only a few who had learnt and who knew these stories because books were quite rare
and most common people could not afford them. Buying books for children was ludicrous as many did not live beyond
the age of five or ten. Thus, the stories we read to children in our modern era so that they might go to sleep, after hearing
their original versions, one may not have been able to get to sleep very well !
The characters, objects and events of these stories were – and still are – archetypical : they relate to our shared
psychology as human beings of which much is quite imaginary (reality being the conjunction of the symbolic with the
imaginary – I’ll come back to that from time to time but not in this sermon, so you can always just ask). These symbols
were not concocted in the imagination of some clever author nor team of screen-writers (!) but come from our
anthropological iconography. We have lost the connexion with most of that in our post-industrial, post-modern, post-
truth society ; we have come to anticipate and even demand that ‘happy ending’. Or, perhaps, we live vicariously by
them through our ‘mediocre middles’ and our tragic circumstances. It’s most likely a bit of both.
We have let ourselves become so indoctrinated by individualist mass culture (do you see the oxymoron in that ?), by
generalised instrumental rationale (means to ends) and perhaps most insidiously by the culture industry (commercial
culture production and consumption) that we insist that those ‘happy endings’ that we think we have earned and deserve
to follow us into our everyday lives. Since we are the heroes (sic) of our narratives, we practice “leadership” and all the
other motivational buzz-fucks of our self-help, popular psychology, secular era that we feel we “deserve the win” (after
all, we’ve paid for it, right ?) and as a result are susceptible to being blinded to the injustices (the real ones, not the trendy
ones) around us. This is the meaning of alienation. Alienation from work, from nature and most horribly, from our
fellow humankind – as well as our non-human cousins.
In stories of old, we were reminded to remain a bit humble, to remain grateful to those in our live who are really only
there out of grâce or by chance – not by mere rational choice. In faerie and folk tales, especially in their original
versions, there were no “rugged individualists”, not even the troll under the bridge or the witch living in a tree or a
gingerbread house. As it were, goodness and evil were not always all that distinct.
These days on the other hand, we tend to feel they are. We are pretty obnoxiously sure of our morality most of the time
and, of course, we’re always the untarnished hero. What we do not like, what we feel is unfair or what jeopardises our
favourite values is bad, evil, toxic... Do we ever consider what our “win” costs for others ? And I’m not even talking
about the troll or the witch, but our neighbours whether we know them or not. Are we ever able to put ourselves in the
place of the victim or the perpetrator or just the poor persons who cannot sustain their families ? It is not that hard to
make that imaginative leap. How much do we know about “justice” before crying out about “injustice” ?
If we want to embody the hero, we need to remember these three essential things :
• Everything we think we know from the ordinary (to us) world – that is, everything we’ve ever learnt, thought,
been taught needs to be reconsidered under present circumstances, those of the “adventure” that we are actually
living, no matter what one has seen on Netflix to try to assimilate (and we all do that !)
• We must leave behind our “deserving” selves, our childishness, our selfishness, our desired outcomes.
• We must accept that the hero does not always win.
In order to embody the heroic archetype, we must embrace our interdependence and intersubjectivity (forget objectivity –
that is a crock of shit), not only with our own tribe but with all tribes (even if you think they are evil). We need to get
used to some very unhappy endings and realise that the Force cannot be used like you use a smartphone. We need to
become aware of what “justice” is before having too many firm convictions about “injustice” – and be sure as hell that
we are not perpetuating injustice ourselves, because...
• Often we are the Dragon hoarding the gold and holding captive the Princess or Prince ;
• We need to come to terms with that many of the individualist values we have been inculcated are sometimes
corrupt, false, imperious and vain ;
• We may need to count how many times in a day we begin a sentence with “I” ...
In conclusion, the “good guy” does not always come out on top and is not always “good”. Our Western post-industrial,
post-modern, post-truth values are mostly mistaken : the hero loses/dies, the vile antagonist just as often triumphs and the
love interest doesn’t give a rat’s arse even if one did save their skin. And still, everything is just as well in the Force.
Yavin IV has been blown away by the Empire a thousand times, from the Appian Way to Tienanmen Square to Kabul and
...and the Dragon still has the gold, the troll is still under the bridge and the witch is baking gingerbread to repair her
vandalised house. Extend that metaphor as far as you can, it can cover much of our parasitic and predatory entitlement.
Should we like to live “happily ever after”, we owe it to our communities and our environment, natural as well as social,
to provide for the common welfare of all living things. In the old stories, it was often the youngest child (humility) who
found favour of the magickal realm by generously doing something out of the goodness of the heart, not for something in
return. This is the meaning of symbolic exchange, of which we are dreadfully in need of in this individualist mass
culture. Even the Jedi.
Thus, although no ‘happy ending’ can be guaranteed, should any of us hope to find that connexion to the Force from time
to time, from second to century, we need to be more vigilant about that which sustains and fosters our connection to Life,
rather than waging combat against the monsters we all harbour within us.
May the Force be with us always,
Me Alexandre Orion
28 juillet 2023