Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones April 1, 2012

Yeah, I know – two entertainment-themed posts in a little over a week is a bit much for somebody who says he doesn’t pay attention to popular culture. But there are exceptions, and “Game of Thrones” is one of them.

As with The Hunger Games, I haven’t read the books – most of my reading is non-fiction. But the promos for the HBO series looked good and I figured I’d give it a try. Although I was expecting more magic and less politics, I got hooked pretty quickly. I enjoyed last year’s first season and was parked in front of the TV for tonight’s second season premiere.

Any story is only as good as its characters and author George R. R. Martin has created some memorable ones. The characters I find myself drawn to all share one thing in common – they’re dealt some lousy hands, but they play them well.

Tyrion Lannister is born a dwarf in an environment that values physical strength. He uses his mind and his wit to stay alive. He told Jon Snow “a mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone.”

Daenerys Targaryen was essentially sold by her brother as a bride to Khal Drogo. She made the Khal love her, tried to save him from an infected wound and ended up hatching dragons in his funeral fire. The shy little girl is now a queen in her own right.

Arya Stark didn’t like the options a girl had in a patriarchical society. With the help of her brother and father, she acquired a sword and learned to fence. Now she’s headed for the Wall disguised as an orphan boy.

The world of “Game of Thrones” is harsh and unforgiving. It’s not a place you’d want to live, unless you like playing high-stakes politics for blood. But the characters are real – a few are good, a few are bad, and most are just trying to do what they have to do to get by. Some of them are doing that quite well.

Back here in the ordinary world, that’s a lesson we need to hear a little more often. We like to tell ourselves “you can be anything you want to be if you just want it badly enough.” I was never going to be a professional athlete, no matter how badly I wanted it (and trust me, as a young boy I wanted it badly) – I didn’t have the physical gifts. Most of us aren’t born rich, we aren’t geniuses, and we do things that turn out to be “bad choices” even though we didn’t realize they were choices when we did them.

But if we have a bit of wisdom, at some point we face reality. The mainstream world has told us we’re “not good enough” for them, but we realize their opinion has only the value we assign to it. We accept ourselves for who we are, what we are, and where we are. We stop worrying about what we don’t have, pick up our books, or our swords, or our dragon eggs and begin the process of making the most of what we do have.

With some hard work, cleverness and determination – and a bit of luck – we can turn that into something quite nice. And in the process, we can find true success: doing what we’re called to do while we do what we have to do.

Bring on the dragons!

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