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Where the Sea Meets the Land: Ego the Living Planet, Iron Man, and the Power of Relationship} ?>
Brandy, you’re a fine girl,
What a good wife you would be
But my life, my lover, my lady is the sea.
“We’re the sailor in that song,” Ego tells Peter in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. “There are fine girls out there, but they aren’t for us. We’re made for bigger things.” And by “bigger things,” Ego meant taking over the universe.
When Ego first discovered life elsewhere in the universe, it disappointed him. It wasn’t as powerful, as strong, or as perfect as he was. So he began a plan to terraform (Egoform?) every planet, replacing all known life with himself. Nothing else, not even the love of an earth-born River Lily, was worth putting aside this meaning Ego had found for his life. This plan of expansion was Ego’s sea—his life and his love. Nothing on shore could compare to it, and to him, it was worth destroying the distraction Meredith Quill posed to him.
Ego’s story reminds me of another sailor in the Marvel universe—Tony Stark. Being Iron Man is Tony’s life, his sea. Building the suits and coming up with better ways to protect the world have become so much a part of who he is that he can’t stop, can’t slow down, not even for Pepper.
At the end of Iron Man 3, Tony blows up the Iron Legion, effectively promising Pepper that she’s his priority, and that he’ll do better for her. But by The Avengers: Age of Ultron he’s already in over his head trying to save the world, and by Captain America: Civil War, he’s spent so much time on the sea, there’s no one left for him on land.
I can understand where both Ego and Tony come from. Though I’m not all-powerful or a genius, I have a bit of the sailor in myself as well. As a creative from birth, when I don’t get the time to work on any of my many projects, I end up feeling purposeless, like a sailor on land. I miss my sea of hobbies, and sometimes it does seems like the people on land are distractions. And sometimes, even though I want to focus on the people around me, I am drawn back into my projects, ignoring the people I love even while I’m with them.
But what happens when I get so lost in my accomplishments and in the purpose I’ve created for myself? What happens when I reach my goal and then move on to the next, and then the next, and then the next, because I need that purpose to survive?
What happens after Ego conquers the universe, after every planet is part of him? His purpose, the meaning he’d created for his life, would be accomplished, and he would be alone forever—and for real this time.
What happens if Tony devotes his entire life to creating inventions that protect the world? He won’t be able to protect mankind from itself, and will inevitably run himself to the ground trying to.
What happens when I focus all my time and effort on making, building, creating? The frustrations I encounter while designing will build up, and begin to outweigh the joy I find in creating, especially as the things I create continually fail to match the perfect expectations I hold in my head.
The sea is beautiful, and there is nothing wrong with loving it. Having a purpose, finding meaning for your life, is essential. But when you lose the context of relationship, and set sail never to return to land, it’s easy for the meaning to warp and mutate into something far less beautiful.
Ego found life that existed outside of himself, and was disappointed by it. But rather than using his power for the benefit of others, he decided that greatness lay in replacement rather than cooperation. Had he gone back to Meredith, he might have understood that ultimately the meaning he gave to life would fail him and the relationship was more valuable.
Tony is still battling with the conflicting ideas of being a protector of mankind and living a life with room for love. I’m curious to see where his arc goes, and I hope that he can see that the sea is worthless without the people he loves before it’s too late.
As for me, I lose as much of myself when I ignore the people around me as when I ignore my creativity. I need to balance both sea and land in order to be whole, and ultimately, each of them makes the other richer. I can bless people with the things I make, and am blessed when people remind me that the flaws in my projects aren’t as big a deal as I think they are.
In the Guardians 2 final conflict, Ego begs Peter not to destroy the planet, saying Peter will lose his power and his ticket to greatness. “You will become like the rest of them.”
“What’s the matter with that?” asks Peter. He has learned that true purpose comes where the sea meets the land, and that’s where I want to be too.
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