What gets you out of the bed in the morning?
For Logan in The Wolverine, that's a hard question. The one-time X-Man has seen better days. He's still riddled with guilt and despair over the events of X3: The Last Stand, when he was forced to kill his love, Jean Grey. His immortality has become a wearisome burden. Now the guy lives in a cave, away from everything he could love or hate or feel anything about at all.
What gets Logan out of bed? Maybe his nightmares are the only thing.
But one evening, he meets Yukio, a bright-haired girl from Japan who wants Logan to renew acquaintances with Yashida, a man Logan saved in Nagasaki during World War II. Logan agrees to see the dying man, but when he walks into Yashida's high-tech sick room, it almost feels as though the old man is sorry for Logan. Yashida calls him a "Ronin," a samurai without a master. His life is empty, without meaning, Yashida suggests. He has, perhaps, literally outlived his usefulness.
I've always appreciated, but never loved, the X-Men movies. In some ways, they feel the most comic-booky of all the major superhero franchises out there, and I'm not familiar enough with the source materials to unreservedly embrace these Marvel-ous mutants.
But I liked The Wolverine (albeit not without reservation). It's one of the best movies in the extended franchise. And while part of that may be because of the storyline (Wolverine stops healing!) or cool bullet train fight scene, I think I'm also attracted to the flick because of the question at the core of it: What gets you out of bed?
It's a question I've asked myself at times. I suspect all of us have. There are days where life just feels a little rote and even pointless—like an old-school videogame where you can't save and, whenever you die, you wind up at the very beginning. You wind up trudging through levels you’ve already done to earn rewards that don’t much matter and, eventually, you ask yourself, what’s the point?
I don't have those moments often. but I do have them.
And while Logan and I couldn't be less alike (though someday I may try to grow wicked-cool sideburns), we did find the same answer to this bothersome question—or, perhaps more fairly, two: People and purpose. And both neatly intertwine.
After his strange encounter with Yashida, Logan meets his beautiful granddaughter, Mariko. And it’s not long before he realizes that lots of folks want her dead. Now, Logan may not be the warmest guy you’ll meet, but he’s always had a thing for protecting people. And so he swings into action, protecting Mariko as best as he can.
But here’s the thing: Logan has been infected with mortality. His wounds don’t heal instantly like they used to. And after one bloody shootout, Logan faints—and Mariko has to whisk him off to get him patched up.
“I never needed this before,” he says to someone after he’s been neatly bandaged.
“What,” the woman responds. “Help?”
We all could use a little help, even in those moments we pretend to be immortal or invulnerable. We need people around us. It’s funny—when I’m in a blue or foul mood, I don’t often search out people. But when I find them in spite of myself, or when they find me, they very often make my day. They ratchet down my loose thoughts and give me a better perspective on everything.
Through Mariko, Logan rediscovers his purpose. It’s not that he’s just touched by Mariko’s care. It’s not just that he winds up caring for her, too, and shows that he would do pert near anything to save her. It’s that, through his service and care for her, Logan realizes that he’s at his happiest when he’s doing that for other people, too. His mutated genetics didn’t just create a fearsome freak of nature. Something in his soul was branded with the policeman’s motto: To protect and serve. And before the credits roll, he leaves to protect and serve some other folks, as well.
He is a Ronin no more. He has a master: his purpose. And he is happier for it.
The Wolverine touches on a lot of themes that I talked about in God on the Streets of Gotham. Logan, Bruce Wayne, you and me are at our happiest when we’re doing what we’re meant to do. We’re all built for something. We’re made to work. By extension, we’re made to serve. Ultimately, of course, we serve God—but that often manifests itself here on earth by doing what we can for others.
When I ask myself that question, Why should I get out of bed today, the answer is deceptively simple: people and purpose. I have work to do. I have friends and family to support—and who very often support me when I need it.
And sometimes, even when I’m in a funk, I find that if I concentrate on people and purpose my heavy mood slips off my shoulders like a satin cloth. And I feel God’s joy running through my veins again.