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Quiz: Mulder and Scully vs. Lois and Clark in an easter egg hunt in Mordor. Who finds the most?

12.20.2009

Experience


We never really understand our own experience. Yet our experience is what defines us and what guides our decisions. And that's living. I learned that from Buffy.

Angel's experience is a conundrum (whose isn't?). He is a vampire--a monster who took great pleasure in torturing and inflicting pain on others. But he also has a soul--which means his own conscience tortures him with guilt for what he has done. And one Christmas, Angel's experience was almost his undoing.

Wracked with the suffering of those he killed, Angel decides to kill himself by standing on a hill, waiting for the sun to rise. But then Buffy finds him.

Buffy has had her own experience. But hers, like most of ours, is not nearly as cut-and-dry good-and-evil as Angel's. Hers is filled with nuance. She has a tendency to fall for guys who are likely to hurt her. Plus she has a calling: she is the Vampire Slayer. She never wanted to be the Slayer, and so her experience of living has been the tension between fate and free will, duty and liberty. Buffy's done some bad things, but she's mostly a good person. And she has come to talk some sense into Angel.

But Angel is just trying to make sense of his own experience. And he has a point.

"Am I thing worth saving? Am I a righteous man?" he cries.

Buffy doesn't buy it. She loves him and wants him to live. So she accuses him of being a coward for not fighting--for not dealing with the conundrum of his dual experience. Angel sees it another way: he thinks he IS dealing with that problem and solving it. He asks her to let him be strong.

But Buffy says: "Strong is fighting! It's hard, and it's painful, and it's every day. It's what we have to do. And we can do it together."

The real beauty of this moment is that even though Buffy and Angel's experiences are so wildly different, she sees herself in him. That's why she helps him. That's why we help each other. Because our experience is the same on some basic level. We understand and know what others need--we know this from our own experience. It's all we can offer to people in need. Our own experience. And even though we can never be sure, we can hope that we share something in common. And that it will be enough.

Buffy's right. The only way we can get through and make sense of our own experience is if we do it together.

From the University of Awesome, Prof. Sci-Fi wishes you Happy Holidays.

3 comments:

catherine said...

well-put, my friend. and thoughtful too. really neat to look at it from the "experience" angle, which is one i hadn't really thought of with this ep (it's an episode that always makes me tear up though). so it's great to see this examination of it. :)

Prof. Sci-Fi said...

Glad you enjoyed it. I'm not totally satisfied with how this ended up--might do some revisions for future readers who stumble upon the site. My main point, which may have been obscured, is that when we give advice (i.e. when we suggest to others how they ought to live their lives), we can only speak out of our own experience. And that assumes a big thing: that our experience and others' experience can mesh. That I can imagine and understand what they're going through because I might have gone through the same thing.

We're all family. I think maybe that's the point. Anyway, just glad you enjoyed it. Merry Christmas.

Mike

catherine said...

I totally got your main point. I think it's a good one and a valid one, but I think sometimes it's hard too. I mean sometimes it's hard for me to give people advice because I don't have a similar personal experience--I know other people who do (or have read about it in a book or something. However, it is big to assume that my experience and their experience can mesh--that's not always the case I think, but I think that's just how it is.

And yes, we're all family. See S5
"Family" :) Merry Christmas to you too!