When I was a freshman in high school, I found myself at a drama competition, stage managing a show. This happened because I had auditioned for a part in the show and was not cast because somehow word had spread to my drama teacher that I was the tidy, organized, punctual sort who could do things like run rehearsals and call lighting cues.
But that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that, while walking through the auditorium of the school hosting the competition, I saw something odd.
Sitting in the middle of one of the aisles, looking thoroughly and nonsensically out of place, was a single AA Energizer battery.
I picked it up and, equally nonsensically, decided that this random artifact was now my Lucky Battery. Not even in the sense that it somehow stored luck. Just that it was a battery that happened to be, in and of itself, lucky.
I put the battery in my pocket and went about the preparations for the show. Turned out the luck was surprisingly potent. The show I was managing was a comedy, which do not endear themselves to high school drama competition judges. This is because said judges are looking for Tragedy and Real Acting, not a chuckle.
Somehow, though, our little slapdash comedy managed to beat out the insufferable drama about high school kids fucking at summer camp. That felt pretty damn good. And to some degree, I attributed it to my utterly unlikely new good luck charm.
I think that being a writer or any other creative sort—much like being a tabletop gamer—comes with a certain proclivity for magical thinking. It manifests differently in everybody. Maybe you have to use a specific fountain pen, or you need your flat white before you can even consider painting, or you need all your dice to be arranged with the highest number facing up during a game. Little rituals and quirks that, somehow, apparently, have an effect on the very fabric of the universe.
My quirk is a fondness for symbols. Well, I call them symbols. If you’re in an Inception-y mood, you could think of them as totems. Alternately, you could consider them fetishes—not the Freudian kind, the mystical kind.
But symbol, totem, fetish, icon, whatever, they serve as… Well, let me give you a few examples.
I have a key ring with a chibi version of Madoka Kaname on it, from the anime Puella Magi Madoka Magica. This is one of the few symbols I’ve got that actually serves a useful physical function, in that it helps keep my keys from going goddamned everywhere. But aside from that, it’s a reminder. It tells me to remember that one person with pure intentions, a good heart, and a halfway decent sense of foresight can make the world better for a whole lot of other people. That may not make much sense to those of you who haven’t seen Madoka, but those who have are probably nodding in understanding.
Another symbol, this one more recent: it was supposed to be on a necklace, but I’ve opted to hang a die-cast recreation of Ryuko Matoi’s Scissor Blade from Kill la Kill from my messenger bag. It was only by sheer luck that I chanced across this during a recent jaunt at the Oklahoma State Fair. It’s one of the things I love about fairs: there’s always one booth, somewhere, selling intensely nerdy shit.
I found the one magical booth, this time, and picked up the Scissor Blade. One of the recurring themes in Kill la Kill is that you can have all the strength and determination in the world, but you’ll be no match for anyone if you don’t have friends.
Friends are the people who let you be better than you are, and who sometimes know you more thoroughly than you know yourself. You’ve always got the edge, even in the riskiest adventures, when you have a crew of batshit crazy friends backing you up. And that’s what the Scissor Blade is intended to symbolize.
Finally, I have what I consider to be my ur-symbol: my Core Drill necklace from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann.
I purchased the Core Drill back in the fall of 2009, using funds from my first paycheck from my first for-realsies grown-up full-time non-temp job. Hardly a day has gone by since that I have not worn it. One of my friends, in point of fact, observed that I wear my Core Drill with the same diligence, regularity, and dedication that another person might wear a cross.
This is absolutely and unabashedly true. Gurren Lagann is probably the closest thing that I’ve got to religion, and the Core Drill reminds me of all the important lessons and ideas it brought home to me. The resilience of the human spirit. The importance of knowing yourself. The power of perseverance. The need to move forward, past obstacles, past loss, past anything that stands in the way of the future you’ve chosen. And, finally, how hope and change are endlessly intertwined.
We evolve, beyond the person that we were a minute before. Little by little, we advance with each turn. That’s how a drill works!
So… As far as I know, my habit of collecting symbols doesn’t hurt anybody. And I think that’s an important thing, when it comes to the kind of superstitions or spiritual needs of artsy types. You’re not allowed to hurt anybody, and you’re not allowed to hurt yourself. Everything beyond that, as goofy as it sounds, is fair game.
I can’t think of a solid way to end this series of rambling thoughts, so, instead, I’m going to just leave this video right here. It’s completely up to you whether you watch it or not, but I’d recommend it.
Because it’s totally awesome.