Here’s a confession for you. I just read the The Twilight Saga Collection again for about the fifth time. I know, I know. I’m a sucker (pardon the pun) for a tale where love triumphs over seemingly insurmountable odds, with a heavy overlay of supernatural other worldliness. This time I thought I might stop at one book – Twilight – the first and in my opinion the best of the four books in the series. But no. Once into it I had to re-read the whole dang lot, wondering as I always do, what attracts me so much to the story of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen.
For those of you who slept through Twilight-mania in recent years here’s a quick rundown. Bella Swan is an ordinary, somewhat clumsy small town girl who doesn’t see herself as anything special in the looks or any other department . Edward Cullen is a pale-faced, mysterious fellow high school student who is (almost) fatally attracted to Bella and presents in every way like the boyfriend from heaven. There’s just one teeny, tiny problem – he’s a vampire, with a twist. Not wanting to be monsters Edward and his adopted family eschew human blood as their main source of sustenance in favour of animal blood, effectively making them vegetarian vampires.
On the fifth reading of Twilight I think I finally cracked why Bella and Edward’s story is so compelling for me. It’s about conscious choice. While I doubt Deepak Chopra had vampires in mind when he wrote about Karma or Cause and Effect, number three in the The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, Edward Cullen could be a poster boy for this law. The term Karma is pretty well known as the ‘reap what you sow’ concept. If you do something bad it eventually comes back to you, usually amplified. Chopra exhorts us to sow the seeds of our own and others’ happiness in the present to reap the benefits in the future. Sounds simple enough but how does one do that, exactly?
It all comes down to conscious choice-making. Slowing down enough to become conscious of them and exercising self discipline, every day, to stay conscious and make choices that work to the highest good of ourselves and those around us. That’s what I love about Edward Cullen (apart from the fact that he’s gorgeous, rich and a true gentleman despite that pesky vampire thing) – he could fall back on the Lady Gaga Born This Way excuse but he doesn’t. He makes a conscious choice not to be a monster. He doesn’t give into his base urges and he talks himself out of the instant gratification and ‘fulfillment-of-my- wants- right- now’ drive that’s all too pervasive in today’s world.
Over time, and with practice, Edward discovers that he’s expending less energy on the self discipline it takes not to bite Bella. This is the main tenet of the Scientific American’s 60-Second Mind podcast on ‘How to Gain Self-Control’ – like any skill, self-control requires practice.
Edward also knows the practice of willpower will make him, Bella and all those around them much happier in the long run. A recent Harvard Business Review blog by Tony Schwartz (author of Be Excellent at Anything) explores why we continually engage in self-destructive behaviours when our rational minds know this does us no good. Schwartz provides a monster tip on how to “co-opt the more primitive habit-forming regions of our brains, so that rather than reinforcing our negative impulses, they become the soil in which we build positive rituals that serve our long term interests”. That tip just happens to be slowing down long enough to notice our primal instincts and default reactions to our circumstances and the myriad of choices we are presented with each waking hour.
Funny that. Conscious choice-making is just what Chopra recommends in order to experience Law 3 – The Law of Karma or Cause and Effect. Now, before I make an ordinary, everyday choice like deciding whether to have another scoop of that ultra-chocolate ice cream or go for a brisk walk instead, I’m asking myself, “What would Edward Cullen do?”