The Legend of Zelda and the Serenity Prayer (day 93)

For those who don’t know the first and most well known part of the Serenity Prayer:

grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Its been influential as a grounding point for me: achieving serenity has been particularly hard for me, even though I’ve gotten much better.  I want to make the world a better place, and watching people make choices and actions that hurt themselves and others is tremendously hard and frustrating.

The Triforce is the super-powered, wish-granting macguffin from The Legend of Zelda series.  Its a wish-granting device that shapes the entire world. However, if the person making the wish isn’t perfectly balanced, it splits itself into three pieces: courage, power, and wisdom.  The wisher keeps the piece they most personify, and the other two pieces seek out people who personify their respective characteristic.  Most of the games involve Ganon (Evil) having power, Link (You) having courage, and Zelda having wisdom.  You save the world by beating Ganon and getting them all back together.

The triforce came up in conversation recently, and the matching words caused me to connect them in my mind, and poke around to see if there’s similarities.  Both are all about balance, about bringing three very different traits together, ones that are frequently in conflict and at odds with one another.

The apparent opposition of power vs serenity seemed to break down the analogy.  This bothered me a bit: they seemed so similar, representing the same basic concept, and they *felt* the same, so why are 2/3 the same and one is the opposite?  It made sense once I realized that its a great representation of fantasy vs reality.

In fantasy, Bad Guys™ are obvious, evil, able to be fought, and [almost] always lose in the end.  In reality, nobody thinks they’re a bad person, much less The Bad Guy™.  Struggles and conflicts aren’t clearcut; there’s no cutscene, music, and flashy special effects to tell you when they’ve started. There’s no annoying fairies telling you how to get to the next dungeon, or where a conflict’s weak point is (HEY, LISTEN!).  There’s no “Game Over: would you like to try again?” screen, no going back and re-doing things better this time.

Wisdom isn’t just a plot device, or the princess to be saved at the end of the Courageous journey.  In reality, you can’t fight every fight, the world is too big, your time and strength too little.  You can’t win every fight: there’s no re-dos, and the other side wins a lot more in reality than they do in fantasy (even in Game of Thrones or Dark Souls).

Unless one’s Wisdom is perfect, your courage will push to fight fights that shouldn’t be fought. As nobody’s Wisdom is or can be perfect, humility and serenity are virtues for real people, where unrestrained power is a virtue only for fantasy villains.


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