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How to absorb your enemies and be like Mega Man

Megaman-super-smash-bros
(Nintendo/Capcom)

There’s been a lot of Mega Man news lately, not least of which is the upcoming release of The Mega Man Legacy Collection  which collects remastered versions of Mega Man 1 to 6.

It’s clear that this character and mythos remains well in the public’s consciousness and I am thankful for it. The Mega Man game series is one of my personal all-time favorites, and it’s not just because of its exquisite design and gameplay which I consider to be the consummate ideal of what Pop Mythology writer Jess Kroll calls the ethos of beautiful simplicity in video games.

mega-man
(via feelgrafix.com)

Beyond its brilliant entertainment value, from the very first Mega Man title, and even as a dumb little middle schooler, the Mega Man games spoke deeply to me because of the lessons contained therein. These lessons incubated in my young, impressionable mind and ripened over time until finally, now, I believe that I am genuinely living them out.

While I had always wanted to write a post exploring those lessons, I ended up co-writing a song about it as well, resulting in Pop Mythology’s first prose and song fusion piece. And I am honored that the remarkable geek pop songwriter Meri Amber was the one to put music to my lyrics as part of her 50/90 songwriting venture (50/90 is basically an extended version of FAWM, the songwriting community I’ve raved so much about on this site).

Before I continue, let’s listen to the song (and if you like it be sure to check out Meri Amber’s official site, Twitter page, Facebook fan page and Google+ page!) Also, bonus points if you can spot which villains, besides Dr. Wily, are referenced in the lyrics.

“Mega You”

(music & performance: Meri Amber / lyrics: Pop Mythologist)

Lyrics:

This game we play has many adversities
Some are events, some are adversaries
They’ll burn you or leave your heart cold
They’ll cut you and leave you less bold

Some people you meet will be like snakes
They’ll get ahead whatever it takes
Setbacks will spin you like a tornado
But there’s a gift inside each foe, so

Listen to my master plan
You’re gonna be like Mega Man
And you won’t, and you won’t have to be so blue
If you become, oh, the Mega You
Oh oh oh ohh the Mega You
Oh oh oh ohh the Mega You
Oh oh oh ohh the Mega You
Oh oh oh ohh

For what you believe sometimes you must fight
Follow in the footsteps of Dr. Light
Beware of the Dr. Wilys out there
Who only care about their own welfare

Don’t become what you hate but study it
So that their tactics you can outwit
Absorb what’s good and reject what’s bad
And then fight fire with fire, yeah!

Listen to my master plan
You’re gonna be like Mega Man
And you won’t, and you won’t have to be so blue
If you become, oh, the Mega You
Oh oh oh ohh the Mega You
Oh oh oh ohh the Mega You

Learn from your enemy
Grow from adversity
Remember your lessons
Use them as your weapons
Learn from your enemy
Grow from adversity
Remember your lessons
Use them as your weapons, yeah eh-yeah!

Listen to my master plan
You’re gonna be like Mega Man
And you won’t, and you won’t have to be so blue
If you become, oh, the Mega You

Listen to my master plan
You’re gonna be like Mega Man
And you won’t, and you won’t have to be so blue
If you become, oh, the Mega You
Oh oh oh ohh the Mega You
Oh oh oh ohh the Mega You
Oh oh oh ohh the Mega You
Oh oh oh ohh the Mega You


Grow from adversity

The essence of the song’s message, as you can tell from the lyrics, is that adversities – whether they come in the form of people, events or protracted periods of our lives – contain hidden gifts. And these gifts in turn take many different forms: new knowledge, abilities, skills, insights. Just like how Mega Man is upgraded with a new power every time he overcomes an enemy. Or, to use the parlance of gamification, these challenges grant us “experience points” which we can then use in different ways depending on our goals and priorities.

The fact that adversities contain hidden gifts doesn’t mean that you’re supposed to feel happy and thrilled over whatever challenges you might be facing. If you subjectively find something in your life to be bad then go ahead and feel that it’s bad. Suffering is real and it sucks. The point isn’t Shiny Happy People holding hands; the point is it doesn’t have to be all bad, and if there’s a way to use the pain of an unavoidable situation in a redeemable way, you might as well. However, it does take extra effort and a conscious awareness that you are mining your pain for gold. It doesn’t just happen automatically. Pain and trauma, as we are all acutely aware, more often than not has a way of poisoning people’s disposition, even if they have naturally positive ones. So conscious intent and effort are both required.

(Capcom)
(Capcom)

Learn from your enemy

The next step is to study and analyze your “enemy,” just like the song says. And whether your enemy is a person, thing, or even just your own feelings, there will always be multiple angles, both literal and metaphorical, from which you can analyze it in order to take take away numerous positive things.  At the risk of coming across as someone who only talks about his illness all the time (I don’t, honest!), I’ll use it as an easy example since sickness is a relatively common experience that many can relate to in some form or another.

So starting with the non-figurative level, what gifts have I uncovered from years of struggling with Lyme disease and chronic fatigue syndrome? There are too many to do justice to in this article, but I’ll share a few. I’ve learned perseverance: I used to be one who gave up on things prematurely but no longer. I’ve learned patience:  in an age of instant gratification I know that just because what I want isn’t happening now doesn’t mean it will never happen. I’ve learned humility: I used to kind of see myself as a lone hero type who “saved” others but I now see myself as one who *serves* others, and moreover not a lone hero but part of a greater team. And you’ve heard of selfless giving? Well, I’ve learned selfless accepting: meaning I no longer let pride and ego get in the way (as much) when it comes to accepting help that I know I need but might have once rejected. I could go on and on with these examples.

I’ve also learned much on a figurative level. For instance, in order to fight this illness I’ve been forced to research it, and in my research I’ve become fascinated by the intelligence and strategic behavior of the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, borrelia burgdorferi. I kid you not when I say this thing is like something out of a sci-fi horror movie. Attack it with antibiotics and it morphs into a different form that evades that particular drug until your body becomes devastated by antibiotic overuse. It can burrow deeper and deeper into your tissue, hiding inside protective biofilm that prevents antibiotics from reaching it. It can go dormant and trick your body into thinking it is healed before it comes back again with a vengeance. No wonder borrelia is said to be one of the most evolvable bacteria discovered, and how do you fight something like that? By also evolving. So borrelia  has a penchant for transforming into something else to survive. Fine, then I too will become something else in order to survive borrelia. For instance, I will no longer be an overly humble and self-effacing person who accepts being sick as his lot. I will become one who does whatever it takes (barring hurting others) to get well. I will expand my self identity in order to make room for actions that I might not have considered before such as the radical acceptance of help from people, however uncomfortable that might be.

Remember your lessons, use them as your weapons

There’s far more depth and complexity to the example I’ve given but the point is just to give you a basic idea of what I mean by absorbing figurative lessons from your problems in addition to the non-figurative ones. It also points to one more step beyond simply analyzing your adversary’s tactics. Sometimes you may have to employ those very same tactics yourself to some degree. And if employing those tactics doesn’t sit well with your self-image of yourself, why, then maybe you need to expand your image of yourself. Sometimes, it might be warranted to “become” your enemy/problem in a sense, but in a way that isn’t hurtful to others (“absorb what’s good and reject what’s bad”). This, of course, is marvelously symbolized in the Mega Man games whenever our hero defeats one of the many villains that Dr. Wily throws at him (Snake Man, Cut Man, Fire Man, Ice Man, etc.) in that the villain’s power or weapon is now Mega Man’s to keep, only our hero uses it for good. He even turns these villainous weapons back upon the villains themselves (“fight fire with fire”). Likewise, I will turn the Lyme bacteria’s craftiness back upon itself: when it morphs into a different form, so too will I rotate different antibiotics to keep confusing it (“learn from your enemy”).

mega man villains
Mega Man becomes what is most suited to win the battle at hand. There is wisdom in this. (Capcom)

The way Mega Man, after absorbing his enemies, takes on their color when he uses their powers is also symbolic and beautiful. In fact, it gets to the very heart of the Pop Mythology mythical approach to the problems of life. When you are just little ol’ you (i.e. most people’s limited conceptions of themselves), you might feel powerless and unable to surmount a challenge. But when you are, say, Mega Man, or Han Solo or Imperator Furiosa, would you feel powerless then? Probably not. One solution, then, lies in the creative use of arguably the greatest ability humanity has ever cultivated: imagination. Use your imagination to become  Mega Man who, in turn, also becomes something else when the situation demands it (kinda poetic, isn’t it?). Adopt a creative identity larger than what you normally see yourself as and the pain of a life challenge can be turned into the sweetness of victory (“you won’t have to be so blue” – literally in Mega Man’s case).

I’ll leave you with a quote by one of my greatest personal heroes, Bruce Lee, who was so much more than just an entertainer and martial artist – he was a bona fide philosopher:

“You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water, my friend.”

He was using different words for a different context, but essentially the core of it is similar to what I have said here. So scroll back up, replay Meri Amber’s awesome song and imagine yourself as something greater than your small, everyday image of yourself. After defeating so many enemies, Mega Man eventually becomes a veritable army of one, able to contain more than just himself. Be like that, an army of one, able to do and be whatever is necessary, without hurting others, to emerge from your struggles victorious.

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About The Pop Mythologist

The Pop Mythologist
The Pop Mythologist is the founder and editor of PopMythology.com. He has been a staff writer for the nationally distributed magazine KoreAm , the online journal of pop culture criticism Pop Matters and has written freelance for various other publications and websites.