Curiously, today’s article features an anime I dropped after episode one: Space Adventure Cobra. This is not to say that the anime is bad. After all, it has the distinction of being directed by Osamu Dezaki, famed for directing Astro Boy, Ashita no Joe I & II, The Rose of Versailles, and five Lupin III movies. But, I am not in the mood for a sci-fi version of Conan the Barbarian. You know, the tough, smart, strong hero who reaps fame, fortune, and the admiration of beautiful women wherever he goes. That can be fun, but I would rather read the adventures of Fafhrd and Mouser or of Conan the Barbarian. (I prefer fantasy over sci-fi any day of the week.)
Nevertheless, certain themes in episode one caught my eye. Cobra, our hero, has forgotten his identity and lives from paycheck to paycheck in a routine existence gobbled up by the little pleasures money can buy. However, this world has technology whereby one can dream pre-programmed adventures. Instead of seeing the dream Cobra asked for, he recalls instead his daring adventures as a space pirate. Still, it takes an old enemy’s attempt to assassinate him before he makes the connection that the figure in the dream is himself. Then, he returns to his glorious life as a pirate along with his trusty robotic sidekick.
How does this relate to life? Quite simply because we have three possible ends in life: earthly glory, heavenly glory, or to number among the timid and lukewarm who seek their own comfort. The third choice is very easy to make. We, like Cobra, can become enmeshed in our daily struggles and little pleasures and so never attain our true greatness. As the children of God, we are all called to greatness. Even people forgotten by the world may achieve awesome glory through the grace of God. Many hermits and religious in the Middle Ages were completely unknown until people discovered that the sick who visited their tombs became cured of their diseases, and so they were elevated to sainthood by popular acclaim. What do we know of the life of Saint Philomena’s life? But, God has graced her intercession with thousands of cures and conversions. The least in the world, as long as they remain with God, are often the most in God’s eyes: “But to whom shall I have respect, but to him that is poor and little, and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at my words?” (Isaiah 66:2) How simple it is to please God, and yet so many wear themselves out trying to please an indifferent world!
What does earthly glory and fame matter if one is damned? Human glory fades, especially in this age of five minute fame and ignorance of the past. Before, people thought it a duty to keep alive the memory of brave and noble men. Now, our contemporaries seem to think it a duty to consign them to ignominy! Better it is to be poor and unknown in this life and to be remembered by God for eternity than the opposite! Indeed, I should rather be Captain Joseph Fry than Attila, Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Louis XIV, or a host of other men who reaped the glory of the world but achieved no fame for their love of God and neighbor.
What brings Captain Joseph Fry, a figure none of you have heard of, to mind is that a newly discovered, sunken Confederate blockade runner may be his. I chanced upon his biography a couple of years ago and was impressed by Fry’s love of God, country, family, and fellow men. Despite his many virtues, wisdom, and humility, history only remembers him for his execution by Spanish authorities in the Virginius Affair of 1873. Shortly after his and his crew’s execution for trying to supply Cuban freedom fighters with arms, his last letters to family and friends were released to the newspapers, and journalists across America hailed him as an exemplar of American virtue, even as veterans of the Civil War, North and South, demanded that we go to war to avenge the deaths of so many Americans. But, Spain paid our government blood money, and the event was forgotten. (If you want to learn more about Fry, there exists a biography of him written by a friend of the family, Jean Mort Walker, and I have dedicated two articles to his life: here and here.)
Being forgotten by the world would not have upset Fry. He knew very well how fleeting the glory of this world is. In his last letter to his wife before being executed on November 5, 1873, he wrote this as one of his last wishes: “Tell [Our Lord] that the last act of my life will be a public profession of my faith and hope in Him of whom we need not be ashamed — and it is not honest to withhold that public acknowledgement from any false modesty or timidity. May God bless and save us all.” One can be sure that even now Fry is remembered and glorified by Him who matters most. How much worse to be those who have won great fame, yet heard those aweful words: “Amen, I say to you, I know you not.”