Dude, where’s my exoskeleton?

By Caitlin Kelly

Have you seen Elysium yet?

It’s the summer blockbuster starring Matt (swoon) Damon, (who worked out for four hours a day to get ripped for the part) and Jodie Foster, scary-mean in gray silk Armani and speaking excellent French.

The director, Nell Blomkamp, also did District Nine. His vision is dark, terrifying, sardonic.

An electrically powered exoskeleton suit curre...
An electrically powered exoskeleton suit currently in development by Tsukuba University of Japan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One detail I enjoyed was Damon’s exoskeleton, although I confess with no shame that during the gross, gory surgery scene when it’s attached to his body I covered my eyes. The sound effects were bad enough.

I kept muttering: “It’s just the Foley guy. It’s all post-production.”

But once he’s girded with his external hardware, he becomes seriously bad-ass, practically invincible.

Made me think how handy this would be.

We all have — and need — exoskeletons of one sort or another, something external that strengthens and fortifies us for the fight, whether yet another Monday morning or something much nastier and bigger.

Maybe it’s prayer.

Maybe it’s your granny’s wedding ring, worn on a necklace.

Maybe it’s your Dad’s handgun.

Maybe it’s your husband’s hugs.

Maybe it’s yoga.

Maybe it’s playing your cello/guitar/flute really loudly.

Maybe it’s a glance in the mirror at your newly-defined abs, or the curve of your pregnant belly.

Maybe it’s a small hand tucked into yours or a wet, black nose snuffling you awake at 5:30 a.m. to go for a walk, now.

I love, oh, how I love, this poem by Blake, set to music as the glorious hymn “Jerusalem” in 1916. We played it at our wedding:

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

What’s your exoskeleton?

What helps you stay strong when you are scared and feeling small?

35 thoughts on “Dude, where’s my exoskeleton?

  1. That is a pretty awesome suit in that photo (geek out!). I guess I have to go check out this flick, although I know I’m going to be squeamish during that gore-scene… ><;;

  2. Meditation helps me get through the day. Plenty of entertainment and sometimes just half hour in the kitchen cooking can really make my day. And of course, whenever something good happens with my writing career, that helps.

  3. The knowledge that I have an abstract purpose in my life. Accompanied with personal mantras like: “Do what’s right, no matter who opposes you. – Forget the faces and names of enemies, count them as teachers.” I realize it’s odd, but it helps me 🙂

  4. My exoskeleton is my home. I can watch through it’s eyes as the world gores by but can’t intrude.
    The exoskeleton pictured is awesome. I wonder if they could adapt them for hemiplegics or even quadriplegics to have a fuller life. If they could work from brain stimulation it would be a fantastic advance for medical science. xx Hugs xx

  5. What an interesting idea – I hadn’t thought about it that way. Since I have a theater background, I have always thought about it as my strong persona – doesn’t have all the answers, but knows how to figure it out.

      1. I have noticed recently that a person’s response to another is heavily dependent upon their past experiences and their own perceptions of the world. I usually try to look past a gruff exterior to see what else is there, but then feel perplexed when talking to a 3rd person that only looked at the gruff exterior.

      2. You are a compassionate and wise woman! People are very quick to skid off of someone’s crusty surface with no care or curiosity why they ended up like that.

        I recently — after a decade or so of friendly acquaintance — discovered that someone whose flashes of anger can be a little scary was the victim of a horrific crime when younger. That explained a lot.

      3. Well thanks, I see myself as deeply curious (and wishing for the benefit of the doubt from my fellows).  What an interesting and telling bit of history that you found out about your acquaintance.  

        Mister Rogers told a great story that basically said that we never know where another person is at and what brought them to that place.


      1. ty so much, i really try to reach out to my students with challenges of any sort, and see if i can connect in a way that may help them. i have always been fascinated by what makes one person more resilient than another, myself included. why some rise up renewed from the ashes and others are torn down by them.

      2. As I’m sure you know, there have been a few books on that exact topic.

        I’ve had many people (including my husband) tell me they would not have survived the family and career stresses I’ve put up with — although it looks like a white girl named Kelly who was privately educated couldn’t (hah) have had much. People who really know me and my story (as possibly with you) really get it.

      3. yes, and i am endlessly seeking out new research on this. like you, many who really get to know me are taken by surprise when they learn my whole story. i’m happy you have survived to thrive as well – beth

  6. Raw escapism. My imagination lets me be any place and any time I want. They don’t even need to be real times or places. So, when I need to unwind and remember that life isn’t so bad, just a few minutes to close my eyes and I’m wherever or whenever I like. Vacations in our heads are phenomenal, and they don’t necessarily require recreational drugs (just don’t tell my pothead friends from the early ’90s I said that…).

  7. Hi Caitlin! Intriguing question. For me, my personal exoskeleton is found in these 4 words, “I believe in you…” Having somebody in my corner, depending on me or believing in me, is all I need. Like you, I’m one of those with a twisty life path but have come out a survivor… thankfully!

    Having said that, after seeing Elysium this week, I am not sure how people do maintain hope in that kind of environment (swoon-worthy hunk hero or not!) That film raised a lot of questions for me. Interesting tie-in here! Thanks, as always.

  8. Part past experience, part knowing who I can truly rely upon, part knowing when to disengage from a situation. Past experience has given me the assurance that I am capable of doing whatever it takes to get through some fairly hideous situations without having to rely on other people. I can trust myself to cope with pretty much anything life throws at me. I have also invested time and energy in other people so that I have built my own network of friends I know I can trust to offer sensible advice and support if/when needed. My partner is also a good sounding board for any problems. Day to day, I have learned that it sometimes pays to walk away from things for a little while to gain perspective and (in some cases) to allow tempers to cool. To help me do this, I re-read already familiar books or watch certain movies as a form of escapism because I know that when I finish them, I will be in the right frame of mind to get up and deal with the problem, whatever that is. If I really need head space, I will go swimming, or go for a walk by myself.

  9. Pingback: our exoskeletons | key + arrow

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