The Marlowe Moment
Eric Renderking Fisk | August 10th, 2016
There's this phenomenon that I call "The Marlow Moment" - It's when you, the hero of your own story, figure out what's going on and what you have to do to fix the problem regardless of what everyone else is telling you.
For example - "The Big Sleep" - after Philip Marlowe settles the issue about Mr. Sternwood and his daughter being shaken down for gambling debts and blackmail over a specific picture taken; Marlowe is told to stop looking for Sean Reagan. But he only mildly curious about Sean Regan until people told him to stop. Then he figured... hmm, Maybe I should be more focused on Sean Regan.
The Marlowe Moment is what I call that epiphany when you're in some kind of a crisis and you figure out exactly what you have to do and you find the determination to get that done regardless of what other people tell you. You power through any obstacle or discouragement, and you find yourself hyper focused on getting this one thing done regardless of the danger to yourself.
One specific "Marlowe Moment" occurred after my wife was in a horrible car accident in 2008, she was rear-ended while trying to make a left turn on the street where we live by a driver who was speeding and texting at the same time.
It was that moment when I had to do some work beyond my wife's bedside. I had to find out about the insurance companies and how to make claims, how to get a replacement for the car that was totaled, what the other insurance company was obligated to do, and call my wife's supervisor at work and give him the bad news.
The worst call of all; telling the in-laws that their daughter was almost killed and still had a couple of fractured bones in her neck and the rest of the laundry list of injuries.
Granted, maybe "The Marlowe Moment" could be my way of putting a name on a specific type of obsession, but it's the kind of obsession that doesn't come often enough. Why?
There's something in The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell that he calls "the call to action," and it's exactly what you think it is simply by reading the name. It's self-explanatory; you - the hero of your own story - discover something needs to get done and you go do it. It's that moment when you discover your mission in life, or there's an injustice you must correct, or fill the gap in society.
Everyone needs a "Call To Action" moment.
It's a moment that I wish everyone would have because it's when you get to figure out who you really are and what you're capable of doing. When the going gets tough, which direction do you get going?
The Marlowe Moment isn't just about you. In a moment of tragedy or disaster, you also find out things about the people around you, too. In a moment of crisis, everyone is boiled down to their genuine stereotypes; who is the coward, the emotionally detached, the opportunists.
There are things people say about what they would actually do if there was a disaster, it’s easy to brag about what a tough guy you would be if Armageddon finally came and how you would resort to being some version of “Mad Max” or any other post-apocalyptic character you could remember. It’s easy to fantasize about someone would do in the event of some horror when you’re standing around the grill drinking beer or while sitting in a theater. It’s one thing to hope that you’re that kind of person who would do something besides panic.
When a catastrophe does happen, everyone is sorted into two groups; First are the people who actually take action and refuses to become a victim, the second group is all the people who lose all sense of control and panic or simply crumble into the fetal position while waiting to die.
Wouldn’t you want to figure out who you are before something really horrible happens or would you like a few, small tragic events to happen before “the big one?”
There are those ticks within The Marlowe Moment when we get some pushback, some kind of opposition from someone who either wants you to do things their way, takes over completely as part of their own power trip, or simply exploit the situation for their own profit. Hopefully, these are mere hurdles for you to jump over without losing your stride. Hopefully, if you’re like me and you’re really in “The Moment,” you’ll remain steadfast and refuse to allow anyone to deter you.
What would a story be without a protagonist? Without a genuine villain than we can’t determine how heroic the hero actually is. I could write an entire rant on how one should stand up to bullies and how to handle the heavies in our lives. In the context of “The Marlowe Moment” rant, it’s enough to say that you need to be prepared to stand these people down. As Bogart demonstrated in “The Big Sleep,” the cost of standing up to these evil clowns might be high but keeping your courage leads to keeping your integrity and eventually your soul.
And then when you finally figure out what kind of person you are - and you actually like that person who is the real you once the nonsense is taken away, it's addicting. One of the things I discovered about myself once I overcame this crisis during this significant “Marlowe Moment” is that I sought out to fix other aspects of my character that I didn’t like. To borrow another Raymond Chandler title, my motto for a time was “Trouble Is My Business” and I went out to settle some scores.
Discovering you the real you and discovering that you are actually "the hero" you always imagined you could be is the best narcotic. That is, surviving and striving during your “Marlowe Moment” is the best narcotic next to adrenaline.