Sympathetic resonance is a phenomenon where one object responds to the vibrations of another of harmonic likeness. This phenomenon can be witnessed by using two bells of the same pitch and striking one; the second bell will vibrate in response to the first. Note that this phenomenon only occurs if the bells are harmonically alike.
I believe we experience a similar phenomenon with the world around us.
When we encounter something that resembles the deep parts of us, we are moved by it…we resonate with it. This resonance indicates something that we should take note of to learn more about ourselves.
We can learn more about ourselves and our society not by what is verbally said, but by what we resonate with.
Never-Never Land. Darth Vadar. The Fellowship of the Ring. Professor X. All of these iconic items resonate with us in different ways and each says something about us that is deeper than we realize.
Consider what we resonated with last year.
The top 10 grossing movies of 2010
For your consideration, here are the top 10 grossing movies in the US last year:
- Toy Story 3
- Alice in Wonderland
- Iron Man 2
- The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
- Despicable Me
- Shrek Forever After
- How to Train Your Dragon
We as a people paid to see these movies the most; don’t miss the implications of this. The fact that we resonated with the elements in these stories the most says a lot about us.
What these movies have in common…with us
We can learn a lot about ourselves by evaluating the common elements of these (and other) movies. Consider each of the following commonalities and how we resonate with each.
Woody and the gang want to escape from the creepy bear at the daycare. Alice is trying to figure out why she’s in Wonderland and how to leave. Multiple layers into a dream, Cobb and his sidekicks are wrapped up in an adventure that exists on multiple levels. Shrek exchanges his domestic life for one where Fiona is a barbarian…and then has to figure out how to set things right. And sweet Rapunzel wants to see the lights she has witnessed from afar on her birthday every year since she was born causing her to venture into a forbidden world.
None of these movies took place in a living room or in front of a television. We don’t chronicle the life of someone sitting at their desk waiting desperately for the clock to strike 5:00. Even the exciting worlds of SEO and online marketing are missing from this lineup (gasp!)
Instead, every one of these movies is wrapped up in an adventure that those of us watching are moved by.
We resonate with these movies because we desperately want to live an adventure too. We want to be part of something greater than we currently are.
We were made for something more than that which we settle for.
Edward does more than just glitter in the sunlight: he is Bella’s rescuer, her hero! Harry is the only one it seems who has the ability to destroy the Horcruxes. And Tony Stark is not just A hero; in the world of Iron Man he is THE hero!
But don’t think heroes are limited to the action movies that made it in the top 10. Girls, your “chick flicks” are nothing without the presence of the hero (which is all too often just short of a knight in shining armor). To use a classic example from the Hall of Chick Flick Fame, Pretty Woman was just a hooker until her knight on a white horse (i.e. Lotus Esprit) rode in and they rescued each other.
We resonate with the presence of the hero because of a deep rooted desire for one to exist. We either want to be rescued ourselves, to be the one doing the rescuing, or a combination of both. It’s why we respond to crises like Katrina, Haiti, the tsunami, and the Gulf Coast oil spill. Someone needed to do some rescuing and we wanted to participate in whatever form we could.
In our attempt to make sense of the world around us, we need a hero to exist.
From the animated movies we had Lotso (that creepy bear I mentioned), Rumpelstiltskin, and Mother Gothel (who I thought was especially cruel to Rapunzel). Harry has Voldemort, Alice had the Queen of Hearts, and Robert Fischer’s own mind sought to destroy those in his dream.
Let’s not forget about classics either. Darth Vadar is one of the best all time villains. Magneto had his twisted concept of morality. Failure to destroy the One Ring would mean that Sauron would become whole again and destroy Middle Earth. And Bowser continues to steal Princess Toadstool. To pay homage to Pretty Woman once again, Philip Stuckey was a slime ball that we couldn’t wait to see get punched in the end.
A good story requires a villain if we are to truly resonate with it. While not always a person who embodies villainy, our enemy is often more sinister. Death, sickness, poverty, cruelty, pain, loss, loneliness. In the world we live in, these villains are the ones we most often come face to face with.
We notice the absence of a villain in stories because we are all too aware of the presence of one in ours.
We have lost our story
We are part of a larger story proceeded by many chapters. There are heroes and villains and an adventure waiting to be had. But most of us have lost our story. Most of us have lost the adventure we were meant for.
Instead of main characters, many of us have settled for the filler role of “guy at desk” or “girl in coffee shop”. We’ve let the villains steal our story and our adventure and have become the real life equivalent of a video game’s non-player character.
Yet the fact that we resonate with stories about heroes, adventure, and of overcoming villains says something about us.
We know we are not what we are meant to be.