Beyond Strength Itself

All those years I had to be strong. Stronger than strong, in fact. I sought invincibility and nothing else would suffice. I couldn’t break, not for one second. The endless war raged and there was no escaping it.

But somewhere and somehow I knew that the strength that I sought was too absolute.

There was a day I was walking around in my room, thinking on these things – no, feeling these things – and suddenly a great vision appeared before me, etched in steel and fire. Give me everything that you are, it seemed to say. If you wish to become more than you are, give up all your strength, all your power, and I will take it and burn you away.

I didn’t know what to do. I had fought and struggled for so long as it wasn’t enough? I’ve done all this work and there was still more? Oh spirits, what more would you ask of me? What more could I possibly give? But I stretched out my hand and bowed my head and the contract was sealed. There were limits to even strength, and I had to go beyond them.

It was in and around this period that I played Super Robot Wars Alpha 3, which was a HUGE milestone in my life for more than one reason. I can’t talk about all the ways it affected me so I’ll just stick to one.

You know how my favorite series of games is SRW? In a series known for awesome attacks Jinrai (the SRW@3 version) is the awesomest attack ever in all the SRWs I have played (and I’ve played a lot of them) Meimei put it the best – when I first saw it is was like my heart stopped beating.

It was there during one of the worst periods. Mum was shouting almost every day outside my room about me wasting my life and just wanking away or something – I can’t remember the exact content. I had downloaded a video of the attack from a Japanese file-sharing service (this was before Youtube) and I must have watched it about 30 times during that day, again and again and again. It was like I was trying to engrave it on my soul.

Jinrai…Divine Lightning. It would even appear in therapy. I think it was around this time that I FINALLY began talking about games and anime during my sessions with Florence. I should have done so earlier because I didn’t trust her enough and frankly I was kind of embarrassed. A lesson to learn I guess.

Sometime in my mid-twenties we were doing inner child work and Florence led me to a point where she was talking about my parents and the adults in my life and she said “how dare they treat him that way? How dare they?” Crimson lightning tore through the sky and smashed into the ground. A figure arose from the ashes, eyes burning with determination.

It was…me. I had never appeared in my subconscious before. There were dreams in which I saw myself, of course. A traveler wandering through a wasteland (a recurrent dream during my teenage years) a gang member – and the very first time I saw my adult self in therapy – a swordsman dressed all in black with kind eyes. But they had never looked like me before. I knew they were me, of course – separate parts of your consciousness and all that – but they never looked like me. This was me, dressed in my usual attire of shorts, T-shirt and slippers. But his strength was more than I ever had.

I can still remember what he/I said. This child is under my protection. You can do nothing to hurt him, not while I am here.

I began to cry. I think that was one of the first times I cried in therapy. Over the years I would cry a lot more (sometimes almost every session for a period of a year) but it was a landmark.

A couple of years after that was SRWOG2. Perhaps not as significant as Alpha 3 but important in its own way. I was particular taken by the story of Folka Albark, forced to fight against his own culture and way of life because it was wrong. Everyone he knew told him endless battle and strife was normal, even desirable, but something in himself told him it was anything but.

I still remember his lines in the final battle of the game – that he would go beyond the zenith of carnage itself, to where his brother awaited him. Ah, big brother, that term again. And then he struck. Shinhamougekireppa did not have the same impact as Jinrai – it was a different power altogether.

Watching the twin dragons twist, writhe and uncoil, their lightning flaring, crackling and finally soaring into the sky, I felt something inside me give. The strength that I previously had sought was too absolute and left no room for weakness. But there was a greater strength that was born from compassion and love and not just the desire to win or prevail. The energy to conquer could be used to surpass the limits of the soul itself.

Given the date of the game I would have been about…twenty or so? This would have come at the tail end of the PS2 era. But that’s not really important. What was important was that I had evolved to another level that once I had only dreamed about.

Without completely realizing it I had begun to move on from that fixation with power and victory. What was previously only strength had started to become everything else.

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