The Spirit and Its Forms: Contemporary Mythologies at the Interstice


Star Wars Marvel crossover by Generation Tech
All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages.

William Shakespeare, As You Like It


When Jeffrey Dean Morgan is not helping his two sons, Sam and Dean, fight demons from the netherworld and avenge the death of his wife, as John Winchester in Supernatural, you can find him in the apocalyptic epic The Walking Dead, as the redeemed villain Negan. Similarly, Danai Gurira wields swords and spears in two worlds, as Michonne in The Walking Dead and Okoye of Wakanda, alongside the Black Panther and the other superheroes in Marvel's universe.


The ability of an actor to cross timeless boundaries between mythologies ought to be a surreal experience, definitively for the actor him or herself, but also for the audience who is witnessing a rupture in the fourth dimension separating the worlds of these mythologies and the hidden mythology animating our world. This is a metaphysical blending, signaling a deep spiritual awareness of the power of film specifically and art generally, as translators from what is unseen within and around us into expressive dramas of suffering and redemption.


This also happens to be one area where Shakespeare transcended the perfection of his own craft of play writing to become an observer and confidant for life in all its secrets, mystique and messiness. Alongside the quote above, which eloquently captures this crossing over between mythologies we see in today's popular culture, Shakespeare also reveals in The Tempest a vivid witnessing of theater and how it pays homage to the intimate relationship between our physical and spiritual existences:

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, As I foretold you, were all spirits and Are melted into air, into thin air: And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces, The solemn temples, the great globe itself, Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff As dreams are made on, and our little life Is rounded with a sleep.

William Shakespeare, The Tempest


In such brilliant lines, Shakespeare welcomes us into his own vision of reality, in which the 'great globe itself', where his own plays were performed, takes off the dress of rehearsals to reveal 'a pageant faded'. In this way, a stage where a temporary play of scenes and acts takes place, faces the same fate as those performances that took place across the contours and corners of its wooden body.


This is also, essentially, an homage to our dreams, both those we see while asleep and those that give meaning to our lives: our ambitions and hopes. Shakespeare and the actors in every age alike, inform us that the separation we have erected in our consciousness between these two types of dreams, as fantasy and reality respectively, is not only arbitrary, but may even be an inversion of the actual state of affairs. This is not only evident in the excerpt above by Shakespeare: "We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep," but also in the saying attributed to the cousin of the Prophet Muhammad (S), Ali b. Abi Talib (RA), who said: "People are asleep. When they die, they will be attentive."


When we contemplate the presence of Jeffrey Dean Morgan or Danai Gurira in two realms of mythology, or imagine a confrontation between Marvel's Ironman and Star Wars' Darth Vader, portrayed in the picture above, or the possibility that captain Jean Luc Picard and the crew of the USS Enterprise may find themselves, somehow someway, face to face with the evil galactic empire, in a galaxy far far away, we are imagining story lines that bring us, inwardly and outwardly, to life. This is because, like captain Picard describes, this meeting at the interstices is what gives us purpose, "to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before!"



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