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The Dark Tower Demonstrates the Power of Pain and Suffering} ?>
“I do not aim with my hand; he who aims with his hand has forgotten the face of his father.
I aim with my eye.
I do not shoot with my hand; he who shoots with his hand has forgotten the face of his father.
I shoot with my mind.
I do not kill with my gun; he who kills with his gun has forgotten the face of his father.
I kill with my heart.”
This is the creed of the gunslingers, a blend of old west sheriffs and holy knights, who have been charged with defending the Tower and the people of the realm. Their word is law and their bullets strike true. They wander the realm defending the weak, caring for people and championing justice—or at least they used to before they all died. The Man in Black, a malicious sorcerer, has made it his life’s goal to destroy the Tower and end the humans’ reign. Two things stand in his way: Roland, the last of the gunslingers, and finding a child with the perfect “shining” (telekinetic-type force of mind that can see into the past and future, defeat demons, and contact people telepathically).
Roland, for some reason, is resistant to the Man in Black’s magic so the sorcerer cannot kill Roland personally. But as the Man in Black does the next best thing: kills everyone Roland loves. Roland is left wandering, alone and distraught. This is where Jake Chambers, the missing piece of the Man in Black’s master plan, finds him and hears him profess, “there are no more gunslingers.”
Roland has ceased to care about the world around him and is obsessed with destroying the Man in Black. He’s constantly haunted by the voice of the Man in Black and the memories of his lost family, who were killed with the simple command to stop breathing. And yet Roland cannot seem to strike back. His heart has been broken and a gunslinger kills with his heart, so the power to right this wrong is lost in his sorrow and personal agenda of vengeance.
Lots of us end up in the same place Roland does. When hurt we retreat into ourselves and become obsessed with our own pain and suffering. We become blind to the world around us, and focusing on our own suffering keeps the pain fresh. We disassociate from the good things around us, because opening up means the possibility of more hurt. However, withdrawing from the world out of fear leads to bitterness and a miserable existence without joy. Like any injury, spending too much time nursing the wound can lead to atrophy.
It’s difficult to avoid being selfish when our pain is constantly encouraging us to think about ourselves. Roland is powerless in his self-centeredness, but as he begins to care for Jake, something changes. Jake reminds Roland what it means to care for someone other than himself; he also reminds Roland of his larger mission, his purpose. Roland’s heart begins to soften and his power returns. His ability to oppose the forces of evil that have plagued his land comes back. By focusing less on his own pain and considering the pain of others, he overcomes the impotence created by his sorrow.
Remembering we are not the only ones who suffer is powerful. In an episode of the podcast Under the Skin titled “Is There Any Point In God?”, Russell Brand and Alister McGrath discuss how caring about others and breaking from self-centeredness does something special to a person. McGrath comments, “When you stop seeing the universe as orbiting around you, then that gives you the possibility of seeing things in proper perspective and doing better things.” By focusing outward, there’s a connection to others that adds value to who we are.
Even if you are only focusing away from your own suffering for a little while, that time finding meaning elsewhere helps grief heal. For example, doing something for others after the death of a loved one—like volunteering at a soup kitchen, planting a tree, or even just listen to a neighbour—can be therapeutic. There is evidence that caring for others increases your mental and physical well being as well as lowers depression in those who have experienced loss.
As Roland reclaims his place as a gunslinger, his grief begins to heal. Fittingly, the only bullet he shoots against the Man in Black that reaches its mark is fired not out of vengeance, but in defense of others. Only when Roland truly embraces a vulnerable, loving heart is he able to defeat his foe. For those of us experiencing sorrow, bitterness, grief and loss, to truly defeat it we will probably have to do likewise and ask how we can help someone else. In doing so, we just may heal our own hearts as we participate in the healing of another.
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