“Whether or not you had parents, or a home, or any creature comforts, you had the blood of Zeus running through your veins. You could have done anything with your lives. Adversity is a tool. Push against it. Rise above it. You stooped beneath it.”
– Helen Atreidei, Tribe, by Jeremy Robinson
When Helen says this, she is speaking to one of the main protagonists of the story. He grew up on the streets, abandoned, unloved, and never properly understood. It was a rough, hard, lonely life, to be certain, where very little good happened for him. But he never did anything constructive about it. Quite the contrary, he was walking the road towards criminality, and all the devastating consequences that follow. Now he’s learned that it was possible, he could have had a different life. Someone, namely Helen, could have come swooping in and saved him, raised him up from squalor to the heights of wealth, where he’d never have to worry about the bare necessities. In the face of that, he’s a bit angry, but Helen points out that he had all the potential he needed to turn his life around himself, if only he had chosen to do so.
Now, in a story about demigods and such, Helen points to their divine, ancestral parent, Zeus. That is something which I both dislike and appreciate as I think about it.
On the one hand, most of us do not have literal gods in our mortal lineage. Indeed, most of us don’t know our ancestry very well to start with. That said, we might be surprised by our respective pedigrees. Sure, we’re normal, everyday people, but I imagine an astonishing number of us has the blood of kings and generals and heroes and all the other icons of our history, the movers and shakers who did great, notable things. It might not be Zeus, but it’s still amazing, everything we have to live up to.
On the other hand, I somewhat despise the entire notion that we need to have such royal blood in our veins in order to have the potential for great accomplishments. One may inherit legacies and gain the strength of purpose from one’s heritage, but one does not need to already have great things in one’s bloodline in order to do them. I mean, a noble house might be six centuries old, but that just means that it has a beginning, someone who was raised up from a more humble origin. Put another way, not everyone has noble blood in them, but even the greatest of kings is descended from cavemen who hunted and gathered their food. Clearly someone, somewhere along the line, did something greater than their ancestors had already done.
Martin Luther King Jr. learned of faith, leading, and loving from his father, but, Thomas Edison was not the son of inventors, nor was Albert Einstein the son of scientists.
Still, whether we have some sort of noble blood or not, it is among my dearest beliefs that we are all children of God. Each and every one of us has infinite potential, both for good and for evil.
But setting aside the matter of our parentage and how much of a role our DNA has in our potential, it remains incontrovertible that no one who ever did anything great did so easily. Accomplishment has always been preceded by the sweat, blood, and tears of hard work, sacrifice, and loss, but most of all, of perseverance. Bloodlines may be used by humans to try and create free passes, but they can never make one truly exempt from reality.
Hardship does not prevent accomplishment, it is the payment for such.
So, you have a young man who, as a child, was abandoned and unloved, locked in a fight for his survival against the entire world. …so what?
That young man could still, by his own choices, become a fine, upstanding man in his community. He could become a protector, a teacher, or a healer. He could become an artist, a storyteller, or a musician. He could become a builder of homes or of skyscrapers, a shepherd or a farmer, a manager or a corporate leader. Or he could become a liar, a thief, a murderer. It all depends on how he answers the hardships of his life.
He could be a descendant of kings or gods, the people we venerate for the great things they did, or he could be the latest son of a family that never rose above the dirt… and therefore is well-acquainted with enduring such.