Epic. It may be one of the most overused, and therefore meaningless, words in our society today.
Epic movies. Epic novels. Epic music. Epic food. Epic churches. Epic concerts. Epic nights of epic fun.
Like awesome in an earlier decade, everything is now epic, and consequently, nothing is epic.
Best seller lists and movie previews and commercials and billboards and our newsfeed and–let’s be honest–our own timeline are filled with people trying to convince us that what they have to offer is epic. I wonder how many church plants in the last several years are called Epic Church, or have the word “epic” somewhere in their name or tag line. I wonder how many new movies, events, books, or albums have marketed themselves as being epic. As if naming something epic makes it so.
When I was a kid, Disney released all their classic films on VHS in those huge, plastic cases. It was so fun to add to the collection and have those bright cases lined up on the shelf, movies that had been in theaters when my parents were kids and had indeed been proven to be classics, enduring the test of time.
Then they started making more, and I got to go to the theater to see the new “classics.” And, for a while, it didn’t seem too far-fetched to call a brand-new movie a classic. Little Mermaid. Beauty and the Beast. Still populating the toy aisle today. Classics.
But wait. What about, well, The Hunchback of Notre Dame? Anyone remember Hercules? Introduced as classics, but… not so much. Hmm. Apparently, calling something a classic does not actually make it one.
If you have to tell me that what you have to offer is epic, it probably isn’t.
Things that are truly epic do not have to sell themselves. Things that are truly epic do not even have to be well-known.
And the biggest danger in all of this?
That which is truly epic gets lost in all the shouting about that which is merely mediocre.
Everyone will have different opinions about what is truly epic. I think of my granddaddy, married to his sweetheart for more than sixty years, spending the last nine months of his life in a recliner by her bed at the nursing home, going home only to sleep at night and then coming right back each morning, day after day until the day of his own hospital admission. And even then, though he was not conscious of it, he was moved right back to the same nursing home, two doors down from her. And for those last precious days, it was her turn to be wheeled down the hall each morning, returning to her own room only to sleep, then coming right back until she finally awoke one morning to be confronted with the fact that his bed was now empty.
That is epic.
Or my other grandfather. Working hard his entire life. Farmer. Carpenter. DIY expert when it was necessary, not just trendy. Provider. Faithful Christian, faithful husband, faithful father, faithful church member. Still working hard on the farm every day even in his 80’s. I called a few weeks ago, asked what he was doing, and he was getting ready to go install a new shower in the house my sister rents from him. Just my grandpa. In his 80’s. Installing a shower by himself.
That is epic.
To an extent, epic can be a matter of opinion. But you cannot argue with me when I say that out of everything that is proclaimed epic, or classic, or fill in the blank with the next overused adjective, only a small percentage is truly great.
I have no advice to give. No solutions for this phenomenon. Just these observations, and a little bit of sadness over the greatness that is bound to be absent in a society where mediocre is proclaimed to be epic. Because if mediocre is called epic, then soon no one will strive past mediocre at all.
And I’ll end with a quote from what is indeed, at least at my house, a Disney/Pixar classic, The Incredibles. The villain has a plot to give everyone a superpower. What could be wrong with that? Well, he’s jealous of those who have superpowers and wants to make them not-so-special, and he sees the truth I’m trying to communicate here: “When everyone is super, no one will be.”