Some time ago I began casting about for a book idea big enough to encompass the many lessons learned in my twenty-five years of travel, human observation, and professional storytelling. It had to have something to offer those whose interests had nothing to do with fiction. And it had to combine my hard won skills as dramatist with a much bigger yearning to understand life itself.
At the same time, there nagged at me a strange and growing awareness of story patterns that were slipping the border between my fictional characters and my friends in real life. Battles that were wagged in one of these realms, often seemed to echo loudly in the other. Now why, I wondered, would that be?
What was it that kept my friends charging down paths that the dramatist in me could see more clearly than they could? Could ‘real life’ and ‘fable’ really mirror each other so often? And what mechanism of the psyche explains this?
How come so many real world messiah stories seem to play out to perfection, not just in one life, but in many? From Christ to Gandhi, from Martin Luther King to a Pakistani school girl who takes a bullet in the head so that girls in her country can be educated? Again and again, the same pattern emerges, right down to its plot twists and key reversals.
What human need casts us all into the role of ‘ugly duckling’ before we can come of age? What do we learn by this? Why is it so important? Or our experience of forbidden love? Or heartbreak? Or the decent into greed and ambition – the devil’s bargain – that seems to either define or break us. And what, finally, can be learned from seeing these stories play out again – in my life and in yours?
Little more than a year after beginning this inquiry (although in truth it started years before) I have placed my answers into this book. And they are surprising. There is so much more to this coincidence of between real life and ancient story than I ever imagined. In this search for clarity, I have had to traverse the works of the great thinkers and bravest souls of mankind’s thousand generations. I have read stories so old and so common no one can say from whence they came. I have followed with delight and awe, the discoveries of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell; the eastern mystics, saints, messiahs, and branded heretics who blazed these trails long ago.
With humility I can assure you that the answers to life’s most profound questions have already been answered. Not once, but many times. They await only a diligent student to ask them and see the response unfold – not in some arbitrary way, but in the ‘facts’ and events of your own life, seen with fresh eyes.
This has worked for me. It has worked for anyone inquisitive enough to truly ask the meaning of the play she is enacting. The only true mystery of life is how and why we have done such a good job at hiding how it works. For everything else, I have done my best to lay out the answers I’ve found in this book, playfully entitled – Quick, Where’s My Cape? – for reasons that will soon become obvious.
OFFER: Purchase this book on any format: Amazon, Kindle or iBooks and if you remain unconvinced of its value and application to your life, let me know and this author will personally refund your costs in full (with receipt). You won’t get deal that from Simon & Schuster! So take a leap. Buy the book. It should take you about three days to read what it took me twenty-five years to figure out. And you’ll be happy you did!
For the past several months, I’ve been writing a book about how certain myths recur again and again in the lives of men. And how each of us are unconsciously recreating these stories, through the characters and content of our seemingly ordinary lives.
Most times, this underlying architecture is pretty hard to see. But occasionally, it makes itself obvious. As it did last night for the whole country to see, in Game 7 of the World Series. Here’s the story:
Anthony Rizzo was chewing the shirt sleeve of veteran catcher David Ross between innings. Literally chewing the fabric. Ross is thirty-nine. Rizzo is twenty-six. He was looking for any port in the storm sweeping through his young psyche. Game Seven, World Series. Nobody in this ball club had ever felt pressure to win like this. Not in their lifetime. Not in their fathers or grandfather’s lifetimes. If they could pull this off, if Rizzo could just hold it together for six more innings, they’ve be the first Cubs champions in 108 years.
Full disclaimer, I am not a neutral observer in this drama. I am a Cubs fan. I grew up a Cubs fan, which meant that for my entire life, a Cubs’ loss was an inevitable as a sunrise. You hope it won’t happen. You pray the wins keep coming, that your team finally makes it to the dance floor before the music stops, before cold reality snatches the dream away for another year… but it always did.
When a team gets beat so often and so cruelly, entire belief systems develop around them – whole mythologies about why and who caused it. “The curse of the billy goat,” for example, many believed was placed on the club in 1945 by an angry fan who got kicked out of Wrigley Field for bringing his pet goat. The ghost of Steve Bartman, an over-enthusiastic fan who reached over the infield wall in 2003 to snatch a ball away from a Cubs outfielder and blow the playoffs. (Bartman was driven out of the city for that). Superstition around the Cubs is so deep, the fans won’t even sing their own fight song until AFTER a win, because it contains a forward-looking phrase “the Cubs are gonna win to-day.” And that would jinx things for sure.
If we never got to a playoff series, this might have been tolerable. But we did go. Hopes were dangled. Promises made. Please God, just let ‘em win. If you let ‘em finally win, I’ll do anything. We’ll do anything you ask. Erect churches. Build monuments. Love all mankind. And God smiled. Then snatched it away.
To show you how deep this wound lies, only one night ago (Game Six) I was watching with two other Chicago fans. We were up by seven runs at one point. Seven runs is a massive lead, but these men were BOTH still terrified. “Could still lose, could still lose,” Derek kept chanting. And that stress was nothing compared to Game Seven.
One of my favorite headlines for the entire season ran in the Chicago Sun Times the next morning. It read:
Game 7: Because that’s how the story is supposed to go.
Exactly. Because there IS a mandatory narrative to a transformation this big. Any victory this long delayed cannot come easily. An easy win would never fulfill our inner narrative. And make no mistake, the inner narrative of a million Cubs fans was absolutely controlling this game.
And so, it had to be a battle. An epic battle that fans would talk about for the next hundred years. It had to be played in hostile territory (Cleveland). We had to have the lead and lose it. Twice! We had to see our mightiest pitcher choke. Watch routine throws turn into bone-headed errors. And that 39 year old catcher? We would watch him fail to block a wild pitch, allowing not one, but two opponents to score! Then we watched him dust himself off, come back and smack a home run over the centerfield wall his next time at bat. His last time at bat, ever. Redemption.
And finally, if as this were all not enough, as if the gods would never cease toying with us, a rainstorm blew in off Lake Erie to drench the field and send the players running for cover. Into the clubhouse to wait. And sweat. And chew on shirt sleeves.
“Because that’s how the story’s supposed to go.”
What story, you ask? The triumph of the underdog. The triumph over adversity. The greater the adversity, the greater the triumph.
“An Excruciating Final Test” – Bob Nightengale, USA Sports
“Curse Cast Off in the Witching Hour” – Tyler Kepner, NY Times
I love sports writers. They write with such emotion. And they get nearer the truth, sometimes, than they even know. It was the Cubs’ night to win (8 to 7 in 10 innings) but it had to be monumentally difficult, almost insurmountable. It had to push them into a realm of heightened, almost surreal opposition – the witching hour – before access could finally be granted. When a curse is built up for this long, held in the hearts and minds of millions, that’s what it takes to break it – to cross that magic threshold, from losers to champions.
Ric Gibbs’ new book “Quick, Where’s My Cape?” will be published (God-willing) next month. Let me know here, if you’d like an advanced copy.
Smuggler and scoundrel, a man used to hit & run opportunism and flying under the radar – the last thing Wyatt McHenry wanted was to find himself dragged into a lopsided war, by a do-good American female hell bent on saving a nation! But that’s exactly what happens in this rip roaring and calamitous misadventure, set in a tiny Asian kingdom cut off from the world and harboring a mystery as old as the gods.
Part romance, part thumb-in-your-eye rivalry, “McHenry’s Guide to Treasure Hunting” is full-on adventure, both hilarious and deeply felt.
Genre: Adventure, with a strong dose of romance and hilarity.
Based on a true story of a young woman’s extraordinary odyssey through the underworld of sex slavery, and the young man who becomes entangled with her. Ric Gibbs’ first novel explores a hard hitting world that exists right under our noses.
Coming in 2017.