Sunday’s Wisdom #229: Responsibility: Despair and Hope

“A deed, once done, cannot be undone. But perhaps it may yet be mitigated.”
– Dinobot, Beast Wars
Season 2, Episode 9, “Code of Hero”

In the entire extended franchise of the Transformers, Dinobot is my favorite character. I think it’s because of… well, everything he does. As both the “bad boy” and the honorable warrior, he is a relatively complex character. Where most characters are purely one thing or another, one ideal or one idea, he is always at least two. This gives him a fascinating depth which can be explored, and it is, but as he himself explores it, there emerges a hidden danger: conflicting ideals.

It is easy to say what one would do based upon one ideal, but it gets significantly harder when there are two, or more, to consider. I wonder if that is not one of the root causes of human conflict, both within oneself and among communities. But I stray a bit from the point. Returning to it:

Dinobot makes a mistake.

He is plagued with questions and burdens and confusions, resulting in temporarily misplaced priorities, all of which drive him towards a tremendous, terrible, costly… mistake.

That is what he is talking about in this quote, and, like Dinobot himself, it has two parts to it: despair and hope.

We all make mistakes. Usually, they’re not so bad as Dinobot’s, but sometimes they’re every bit as bad or even worse. We all know the regret that follows after, the crushing guilt and overwhelming shame. It’s a crippling agony, and one that we often cannot see ourselves free of. We wish, so much, so hard, so many times, that we could go back, just go back and do it differently! But we can’t.

A deed, once done, cannot be undone.

But Dinobot does something that many of us fail at: he owns his mistake. The despair of his mistake drives him towards the hope of redemption, the two being opposite sides of the same coin: responsibility. Thus, he accepts responsibility in full, without letting it shatter him. He does not wallow in guilt, he pushes through it.

To that end, he takes steps to remedy a bad situation he is partially to blame for. He may not be able to undo the past, but the fallout of his mistake may yet be addressed. He takes the initiative, and finds the opportunity, and he does not hesitate to do what needs doing.

He even gives his life for it, both fixing his mistake, and saving lives.

He dies in battle, and he dies in peace, redeemed. Two ideas, bridged yet again.

There is something about that which has stayed with me ever since the first time I watched Beast Wars, as a kid. I understood less of what was happening back then, but I knew that a noble soul had died to right his wrongs and protect the innocent. I think that was the first I started thinking about what it is that soldiers and such do, risking and sometimes losing their lives for the sake of others.

That would be another reason he’s my favorite Transformer: everything his example taught me.

I’m still learning from his story, it seems, including what it means to face one’s mistakes head-on. They can’t simply be “fixed,” and that way lies madness. But maybe, just maybe, if one is amazingly lucky and absolutely willing, one can stop the cascading fallout in its tracks.

Here’s hoping we can all find that hope.

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