Last night we talked about the resurrection stage of a story, which seemed fitting given the beginning of a new year. The resurrection in the hero’s journey is the climax of the story–the one last chance that the hero has to prove that all of the tests and ordeals he has been through on his journey has amounted to something. It’s a life or death moment for the hero. Ideally, a man or woman changed in profound and better ways.

It was my night to teach. I had three fears…one, the concept of resurrection/story climax would simply be too complex to explain well in two and a half hours…two, that we’d get side tracked by discussions of Jesus’ resurrection and other religious talk…three, that I’d simply have to say the word climax way too many times in front of a group of inmates, many of whom haven’t seen a woman in well over ten years.

But once again, these men surprised me.

Our opening question (each man says his name and answers a brief question at the beginning of each meeting) was simply to tell us what they each thought the resurrection stage of a story or life was about. A few answers:

“It is a test of the protagonist’s maturing. A test that the “new person” is actually real.”
“A new beginning.”
“Coming back as a new form.”
“Our release dates.”
“A reinvention of the self based on new experiences.”
“When you have discovered who you really are and can then finally move forward in a real way.”
“An emergence from a dramatic transformation–when you are changed both physically and metaphysically.”

What I had failed to account for in my preparation for class was that these men know all about waiting for a resurrection. For many of them their entire prison journey is an attempt to prepare for the day when they will step back out into the world and have to prove that they have changed–not only to themselves, but to the world at large. Prison is their ordeal. The climax of their story is their release date. Can he make it on the outside? One of the men said during our discussion, “You know, I used to worry that when I got out I’d have to catch up with other people, but what I’m realizing is that other people are going to have to catch up to me.” That’s because he’s done his work while he’s been down. He’s changed. And he knows full well that many of his friends…maybe even family…have not been working as hard on their own selves while he’s been away. He’s worked past them on his prison journey. He’s worked beyond who he was at the time of his arrest, he’s survived and he’s moving forward.

Certainly this is not the story of many men locked at WSR. Please don’t let me mistakenly give the impression that every inmate there is feverishly working to prepare themselves for a moment of resurrection. The men in our group acknowledge as much. Recitivism rates perhaps suggest as much (recitivism is of course more complex than whether or not an individual worked hard on improving himself while he was down). But our group consists of men who, if they have a release date, stand a chance of making it. When they step away from the prison for the first time that is their resurrection moment. The world will rush to test their resolve and demean their journey. If they can stand through that and not return to what was…then they’ve walked the journey, made it to the climax of this particular story of their lives. I wish that for the men in our group.

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