Finding Ourselves Within Tradition - Pop Culture Espresso Shots

I recently binge-watched the ABC musical comedy, Galavant. The show begins when the show’s eponymous medieval knight’s ladylove, Madalena, is forced to marry the evil King Richard. As Sir Galavant rushes to her rescue, attempting to stop the wedding dramatically, Madalena tells the romantic Galavant that she actually is now choosing to marry Richard, largely because she desires to be wealthy, powerful, and live in a castle.

Distraught, Galavant turns to drink and becomes a has-been hero.

The story is thus about Galavant’s return to being a hero and his desire to win back the heart of Madalena and overthrow the King. Of course, I don’t want to give too much of it away as there is a lot of fun to be had, but I highly recommend it to anyone who might be amused by such thing.

The show itself is very clever. It is a lot of fun, heart-warming, and delightfully silly, full of dancing knights and the like. What is most enjoyable, however, is that this show has quite intentionally chosen to place itself within a long tradition of musicals and other knightly stories.

Without taking itself seriously (whatsoever), the show makes unapologetic references to all kinds of stories: West Side Story, Les Miserables, The Princess Bride, Lord of the Rings, and Game of Thrones to name only a few. By doing this, the show has no pretense at all about being some kind of unique story, unique offering to the world of television, musicals, or medieval lore.

But in so doing, it actually emerges triumphantly as an entirely original and marvelously enjoyable show. It borrows (and some times flat out steals) from other stories, but Galavant nonetheless succeeds not only as an entertaining way to spend half-an-hour, but also as another comedy, musical, and knightly tale.

As I reflected on this, I considered the ending of C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, in which he writes, “In literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”[1]

Here, in Galavant, this proved to be entirely true. Galavant not only didn’t seek to make itself unique, it intentionally paid homage to the other stories it was almost exactly like. In so doing, it showed itself to be entirely original.

I think this rings true with our lives as well. Unfortunately, we so often spend our energy trying to be unique individuals, trying to express ourselves or live authentically. We don’t want to be “fake,” so we go to extensive lengths in order to “live our own truth.”

Usually, this involves deciding what kind of person we want to be, and then doing the things that kind of person would do, and so:

We shop at Abercrombie.

We only eat organic.

We start CrossFit and then never stop talking about it.

Yet a great irony occurs here: that by trying to be unique we actually end up being just like everyone else. We are not truly being ourselves, we are buying ourselves from people who want to sell our selves to us.

In trying to find ourselves, we lose ourselves – I think Jesus may have said something like that (Matt. 16:25).

Rather, instead of just trying to express ourselves, trying to be unique and individual, if we saw ourselves as being placed within a larger tradition of saints and sinners, people who have been brought to new life in Christ, we would see that we, too, might find a way to newness of life.

This is why it’s amazing to note that there have been all kinds of saints: doctors, lawyers, warriors, teenagers, married, monks…really, the difference among the followers of Christ is far and wide, while those of us who pursue authenticity according to our own desires, according to what we think makes us original end up looking like carbon copies of one another.

We may feel that following Christ is “boring,” or something that we resist because we don’t want to be told what to do. But if we seek originality by our own judgments, we are still likely to fail to achieve uniqueness as we are simply being branded by companies that want our money.

If we follow Christ, however, if we lose ourselves by following Him, by throwing it all in and giving ourselves to the long tradition of those who have come before us, we may be utterly delighted when we discover that by giving ourselves away in service, we find who we really are: persons made to reveal the image of God uniquely.

And since I’ve tried over and over again to write a brilliant (original) conclusion to this and have continually failed, I’ll let C.S. Lewis close for me:

Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will really be yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.[2]

[1] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1980), p. 226.

[2] Ibid., p. 227.


Photo Credits: Depositphotos



Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, podcaster, and CrossFitter. Christian has his first MA from Azusa Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy and a second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.


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