Nothing is the most terrifying thing in the Universe.
Specifically, the Nothing. The swirling, mysterious, relentless darkness that looms on the horizon and threatens to devour the entirety of Fantasia in the movie “The Neverending Story.” Fantasia, of course, being the mystical, magical land of imagination — basically, an alternate dimension created and maintained by the creation of fiction and the continued belief in the importance and meaning of the symbolism and idealism of fiction. Not merely as entertainment, but a provider of moral and ethical lessons through story. Fantasia is basically a metaphor for mankind’s ability to reason and create tied to our sense of “soul,” whether you believe it to be an innate, spiritual entity that resonates from within, or simply a complicated mental construct created to identify ourselves within a chaotic, confusing universe.
There’s a whole lot of Nothing now days.
We all still read and hit the movies, and we enjoy them, and we admire the stories and the characters, we feel a sense of exhilaration as we emphasize with their plot-lines, see ourselves and visages (though perhaps a little less absurd and fantastic) of our own life dilemmas in them. A long time ago, you BELIEVED those things, you made that example a guideline for how you might live your own life.
But now, we close the book or we leave the theater, and we like what we read or watched, and we collect clothing, books, and other memorabilia, memorize quotes, read and re-read through wikipedia so that we can be the master of trivia, but a whole lot of the time we don’t really modify the way we live our lives in order to actually emulate those things we admire so much.
The reason why is apparent: we live in a world where money matters. It has become the lifeblood of existence. It doesn’t make the majority of people evil, or bad. Not remotely. It’s just a fact. Instead of putting meaning into other things, intangible things like goodwill, community, love, honor, integrity, etc., we put a majority of meaning into money, and from there you can purchase whatever is meaningful to you (assuming you can earn enough, which is a whole other issue) in tangible form. But it isn’t a part of you, is it? And how often in those stories we enjoy is money even an issue (or eating or going to the bathroom, but I digress..)? Very rarely.
So something is lost. We forget that we’re all just individual story-tellers, participating in one big Neverending Story, so the fantasy and idealism of fiction becomes quaint entertainment rather than ethical foundation, and the Nothing grows.
In the story, (spoilers ahoy) Fantasia is saved by a combined effort of the heroics of Atreyu, a young warrior within the world of Fantasia, and by Bastion, a bookish boy in our world looking for some sense of meaning in his life. Ultimately, the Princess of Fantasia, the hub, is fading and the way to save her (and the world) is simple — Bastion must give her a name. Not just any name, not just a label, the name he chooses is loaded with meaning and love and hope. It is the name of his deceased mother.
Fantasia is saved. This translates into the real world when elements (literal and figurative) of Fantasia follow Bastion into his world and give him the strength and courage to deal with his immediate issues (bullies) and find excitement and meaning in life again.
My point is (and we all know it because of that meme that is going around): don’t like Batman, be Batman. Or Superman. Or Rick from Casablanca, or Ted from Something About Mary, or any character of any story you have ever admired. You can’t be them exactly, of course, but you can be a personification of those traits you admire, and instead of a mythical world of fictional heroes, we can produce a real world full of numerous real heroes. It is all about translating what we believe to be meaningful into real world action, and staving off the Nothing.