At some point in life, everyone experiences an event that makes one start to question how the past influenced our modern culture. Why is history so important? A few days ago, my professor for my Humanities Core lecture showed us the ending of the movie The Amazing Spider-Man. Thing is, I watched that movie as a kid…when I was 12 years old, so I didn’t really remember the ending. If you haven’t watched the movie yet, there’s a spoiler ahead.
The ending was heart-wrenching. Peter Parker rejected his crush, Mary Jane because he was Spider-Man. The movie’s nice and all but why did the professor show this to the class? One of our mandatory reading materials was The Aeneid, a poem by the famous Roman poet Virgil. The poem was about a man who had to fulfill his destiny at the cost of his own individual gain. The man, Aeneas, is the embodiment of a Virgilian hero; someone who sacrifices their personal happiness for the sake of their family, nation, or deity. To be a Virgilian hero, you would have to basically win a Pyrrhic Victory, a meaningless and costly victory. Spiderman is one example of a typical Virgilian hero. Like Aeneas, Peter Parker couldn’t give up his power or duty to his nation as a hero, so he had to give up his love for Mary Jane. Thus, the quote from the movie,“This is my gift, my curse.” suits this situation perfectly.
How is it possible to give up happiness and love? Such sacrifice is torture and to do so purposefully seems masochistic of the instigator, yet Aeneas and Peter Parker did so, albeit with some reluctance. According to researchers Sandra Langeslag from the University of Missouri-St. Louis and Jan van Strien from Erasmus University Rotterdam, you can regulate your feelings of love through a technique called ‘reappraisal’. Through reappraisal, you associate the positive characteristics or the negative faults of the person in question to increase or decrease the feeling called ‘love’. In other words, the two male leads used something called ratio, rational judgment, to overcome their furor or the state of being madly in love. Perhaps, that was one of the ways the two male leads got over their love; however, to be able to single-mindedly pursue their goal requires a type of determination and resolve that’s rarely seen nowadays.
In our modern daily life, as normal powerless civilians, we don’t have to become a progenitor of a new empire, nor do we have to save the lives of numerous people. We do, however, have to sacrifice some things for the greater good. We have to sacrifice our recreation hours for homework and school. We have to sacrifice time with family for work, for money. We have to sacrifice these little things in life because the incentives keep us motivated to keep on living. In novels and films, the main character has to resist temptation in order to resume his or her epic journey. We see bits and pieces of characteristics of a Virgilian hero in our culture. In a way, you could say the ruins of the Roman Empire has influenced our own, for we learn from the cultures of past empires. Similarly, like paleontologists who research fossils in order to understand the course of the owner of the fossil’s lifestyle and why it died and archaeologists who study the course of human history and pre-history through excavations of ruins and tombs, we take from their ruins to nurture our own. We scavenge for information of its fall to delay the ruin of our own. This continuity of birth and destruction, of development of an empire, is in the subtle aspects of our daily life.
It makes me wonder how much of our daily necessities, our technologies, our language, our fashion is original to our era and how much of it is influenced by the old empires. One thing I do know for sure is that Google originates from the United States. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about our Americanized Engish language though. Our language originates from the Germanic language and as my seminar leader likes to say, “The English language follows them (other languages) down dark alleys to rob them of loose grammar and vocabulary”. Even America’s favorite burger has origins in Germany! But, America still has some originality and creativity no matter how much of our culture is unoriginal. For instance, our trends are original. America is also the proud founder many great technological industries such as Facebook and Apple Inc. Therefore, even though America as a country is relatively young compared to other influential countries, America is not giving an inch in any field. With this new revelation, I’ve started to slowly understand why researchers are so interested in the relic, the ruins, of past empires and dynasties. I’ve always thought those eras are far too distant from our lives to be of any importance in my daily life. I was simply too ignorant.
P.S.: Do you know a creation original to the United States?