The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Remember: "Rocky" lost

Thank you for all of the beautiful words of support. I am isolated here in Atlanta. But in another sense, I speak with thousands of my dearest friends, around the world, every day. And it makes all the difference in the world.

Back to the work. Work, when embraced by the heart, is salvation.


My work is writing. My bliss is teaching. Sometimes, they align, and that is when magic happens. I have a wonderful opportunity with this script, based on my early experiences in the martial arts, and the best man I've ever known. What a blessing it would be to me, my family, and the community of warriors who taught me to be a man, if I could bring this story to the screen. For every reason--career, family, and gratitude to those who healed my heart, I have to bring every skill I have to this task. To write it with all my heart. If it succeeds...great. If I do my best, but it never makes it to the least I did my very best. Which, in the final analysis, is all any of us can ever do.

Where to start? Well, I have to combine the lessons in the LIFEWRITING YEAR LONG program to find a way to write that melds with my life. And I have to remember the teaching of Joseph Campbell's HERO'S JOURNEY, or my own 101 PROGRAM, to get back in touch with that delicate balance we must maintain to not "merely" survive...but to grow and evolve.

In other words, I must begin in the same place where my characters must begin. There are the tasks that take us through life: dressing, eating, working, etc. That is the external--what others see. But to empower those actions, we must find a way to give meaning to each and every one of them. To have each of them be an expression of the core questions in life: who am I? What is true?

What is the theme of my work?

There is a wonderful moment in the movie "Rocky" where Rocky realizes that he cannot beat the world champion, Apollo Creed. That film rises above the level of a "sports" movie to being existential, and classic, with the following realization:

He can change the definition of success. It doesn't have to be beating the unbeatable man. It can be "merely" staying on his feet for fifteen rounds, something no one else has ever done with the champ.

At that moment, changing the locus of attention from the outer world ("winning" in the mind of the judges) to the inner world (surviving with honor) Rocky becomes not a fighter, but something more...a symbol for what we all feel. We cannot "win" every battle. In fact, we are destined to "lose" the greatest one we will ever face--if "winning" or "Losing" is defined by medals and trophies and public acclaim.

But in the end, if we have lived up to our own principles, if we have fulfilled our own dreams...we are winners, no matter what anyone else thinks. If the entire world cheers for the other man, but one person, one worthy heart, has opened to us--as Adrian's did to Rocky--then we have won the only victory worth a damn. We have won our lives, our greatest victory, by giving away our egos.

Let the world think what it will. We know. Deep inside, we always know.


I have to find a moral core that connects every action, every line of dialog. Just as we must all find a spiritual core to connect the pitifully short stream of days that make up this dream called life.

Find that, and no matter what others may think or do...

I win.


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