I’m currently reading “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay” by Michael Chabon. The book is set in New York during the late 1930s and ’40s – the Golden Age of comic books – and the titular heroes of the novel are budding comic book creators.
In an early scene they are discussing a potential hero for their own story: Should he fly? Should he be super-strong? Should he be invisible? (A little hard to draw that one, perhaps, but anyway…) Various combinations of superpowers are discussed, until Clay, the writer, has a sudden moment of revelation:
It’s not the what, it’s the why.
The character will not be interesting because of what crazy super-power that they give him, or even because of how he uses that remarkable talent. Readers will be far more interested in why he chooses to act in that way. Why does Batman not just lounge about in his luxurious mansion, but instead go out at night and battle against the criminal underworld? Those are the questions that drive the story and the readers’ interest in the character.
As with art, so too with life.
All people have the capacity for selfishness and for self-sacrifice, for nobility and for malice, for good and for evil. But why do we choose to act in one way or another?
I believe that all people are created in God’s image, and I therefore strive to love them as children of God. I often fail, but that’s the why. If I take care of someone who’s sick, if I feed someone who’s hungry, if I donate my time and energy to trying to show others some of God’s love in action, that’s why I do it. Because I want to be obedient to the God who created me and gave me life.
What’s your “why”?