The Eternal Story: Why Ancient Dramas and Modern Blockbusters Enchant Us

Photo by Tanja mamas

We see it everywhere, from the Rocky movie series to Shakespeare: the Greek play formula that makes movies work. But the reason it works so well is remarkable, reaching to the depth of our very existence.

The rain falls on the mountain peak, tumbles down the stream, and eventually into the ocean to evaporate once again into rain, and then returns to the mountain peak, continuing the cycle. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. That principle is everywhere, permeating all aspects of life. The sun rises and sets. The pendulum swings one way and back the other. The electron moves as a wave.

This cyclical trait is fundamental to our nature as human beings. Eastern mystics tell us that we incarnate or manifest from the one universal source of existence and then evolve through lifetimes. Eventually, we return to the universal source, with the full mastery of our self and our place in the universe. That culmination point is called the state of enlightenment.

Whether we intellectually accept that principle or not, we can still feel this process within our being. It is the irrepressible compulsion to move forward in life, to continue on a path that is unknowable and undefinable, yet with total commitment and dedication. It is our life’s breath.

The classic ancient Greek play format works so well because it embodies the nature of that cycle with which we all resonate so fully. In a nutshell, it expresses the quintessence of the theme of life. To experience it is to resonate with it, to love it, to know its truth, and feel its validity.

The Greek play format begins by defining the characters and in particular the main character. For example, Rocky Balboa: The Rocky story shows an individual coming into a worldly life and meeting the challenges it entails. It portrays the paramount struggle we all endure to actualize ourselves in the world, in an attempt to master our fate and find harmony between our inner being and the cosmos. It leads to an ultimate struggle, a climax. In the movie, Rocky Balboa came face to face with the heavyweight champion of the world. Whether or not he won was of secondary importance. Of greater importance was that he completed the cycle. He had to fulfill the quest of fully manifesting himself in the world and then return home. Though home was still home, it was completely different after all he had been through. He succeeded in mastering his self and found his rightful place in the world.

In short, the movie Rocky gives expression to the evolutionary scheme described by the ancient Seers. We are born, we go through trials and tribulations (perhaps through many lifetimes), until we return to our own Self. By going through that process, we are completely transformed, fulfilled, at peace, and one with all that is. The completion of the movie Rocky correlates on a small scale to what, on the larger scale of life, the ancient Seers referred to as enlightenment.

We can view all the different episodes in our life as portions of that classic play format. Our failures are just steps and challenges along the way, but we will never give up until we reach the goal. We can’t. We are compelled to move forward and go on with our lives until that resolution, that revelation, that completion is attained. Even though we may doubt the idea of this cycle, at the same time, our lives go on as a testament to it.

This classic play format is a cycle that shows itself throughout our life. It ranges from our mini cycles, such as the process of cooking a meal and sitting down to enjoy it, to striving to complete our life’s purpose. We love the ancient Greek format so much because it resonates with every fiber of our being.

Dr. Michael Mamas is the founder of The Center of Rational Spirituality, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the betterment of humanity through the integration of ancient spiritual wisdom with modern rational thought. From personal issues to global trends, Dr. Michael Mamas helps individuals and organizations develop a deeper understanding and more comprehensive outlook by providing a ‘bridge’ between the abstract and concrete, the Eastern and Western, and the ancient and modern. Dr. Michael Mamas has been teaching for 35 years (including in the U.S., India, Europe, and Canada) and writes on a variety of subjects on his blogs, and He is also a frequent contributor to and