The Problem With Lester

Lester is a paradox. While he once was God of earth, he became human. In the process, he lost his presumed superhuman powers, yet retained his skill as a drummer. He lost his omniscience, but he was still plenty knowledgable.

When I was developing his character, I had to decide what he retained from his God days and what he lost. I also had to decide how conceited he remained about having been God. He really couldn’t tell too many people about it, and those he told were understandably skeptical. He had to have human failings, yet also possess admirable personality attributes and values.

In the end, I decided not to obsess too much about any of this, but just let Lester develop in his own way. I feel like I struck the right balance between his being puffed up with a sense of superiority and humbled by his powerlessness to influence humans to behave the way he thought they should.

Often a writer’s characters contain elements of their own personality. I certainly see some of myself in Lester, and those who know me well remark at our similarities. But I know that Lester and I have a lot more in common than even my friends see. I’m the kind of person who tends to stand off to the side in the privacy of my mind while simultaneously engaging with the people around me. I tend to always be evaluating, judging, thinking of what I can say or do to enhance the relationship and, maybe, the lives of the people I come in contact with.  I’m constantly trying to learn from the reactions and qualities of others how I might improve myself.

This is, of course, the way a therapist deals with patients, and I think having those traits naturally enhanced my ability to be helpful to people during the time I was practicing psychiatry. The problem for Lester as well as for me is that I tend to feel like the answers to the problems of the human race are obvious and should readily be agreed on by any intelligent person. Inside, I tend to think that if you have any brains, you will see that my take on things is right. Often, I had to stifle that feeling in my work because patients needed to find their own “truth,” not conform to my vision of who they should be.  I definitely have to stifle it as a “civilian,” because, if I didn’t, I’d soon find myself friendless. Accordingly, I try to keep it under control with Lester as well.

Lester, before he was banished to Earth as a human, reflected in many ways my private attitudes about our race and society.  I cringe at what I perceive as the stupidity of many people, how they are sucked in by our culture and the brainwashing we are continuously exposed to through the media and our institutions. I can’t help thinking that if we only stopped more often to think and to question, if we acted intelligently, ethically and with regard for the welfare of others as much as for our own, if we spent as much time trying to improve ourselves as we waste in mindless activities, we could so easily solve all the problems of the world. But I know that’s overly simplistic and, probably, unkind. I am glad Lester evolved into a more tolerant compassionate person as time went on, and I strive to follow his example.

Do readers detect the paradox of Lester that I have struggled with in writing his story? Let me know what you think.

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