Superman vs. Batman vs. Spider-Man

The Superhero as Mirror of the Soul

“Excuse me, while I geek-out on you,” as Dean would say.  This essay is for a chosen few, but chances are, if you’re still reading, you’re one of them.

This is not a classic fistfight between the three most popular superheroes.  The outcome of that would be obvious.  Batman would win, because he would wait until Superman had trashed Spidey (see attribute #1, below), then he’d wail on Superman with Wayne Enterprise’s stash of kryptonite (attribute #2).  Neither is this a match-up of DC vs. Marvel.  I won’t even go there. 

My question: which of these superheroes is a better reflection of human nature?

Superman

To say that Superman is invincible and powerful would be an understatement.  He’s practically omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.  He is also all-loving.  He refuses to kill his archenemy because, well, everyone deserves a fifth chance.  The man has no dark side, and not so much as a character flaw, unless you count his decision to be nerdy at his day job or the fact that he is simply too good.  Superman doesn’t remind me of me, he reminds me of Jesus.  Did I mention that he’s an alien?  Sorry, Man of Steel, I like you but you are not like me.

 

Batman

Batman is the opposite of Superman on almost every level.  He is completely devoid of any super power.  However, he is made super by two attributes (see application above).  Attribute #1: Batman is possessed of the “will to power” (Nietzsche).  He ruthless and occasionally psycho in his drive to do whatever it takes to accomplish his goals.  He has embraced his dark side.  Attribute #2: Bruce Wayne is obscenely rich and can purchase whatever technology and training necessary to kick maximum ass.  Sorry, Dark Knight, but I’m too poor, too soft, and too sane to walk in your shoes.

 

Spiderman

Enter Spider-man.  He’s not very super.  His personality is all wrong.  Sure he has the powers, but he occasionally loses them in a fit of insecurity and self-doubt (Spider-Man 2).  Or he attempts to augment them by embracing evil powers from outer-space (Spider-Man 3).  He is in love, but he consistently fails to do what it takes to woo, win, and keep Mary Jane.  He might succeed for a time, but he immediately botches it in the next movie.  He ends up killing most of the bad guys he faces, but it’s usually on accident.  The first one wasn’t, but that has haunted him ever since.  He has unique gifts, which he is uncertain how to use and often neglects, but gifts nonetheless.  He is a man at variance with himself, darkness and light conflicting within him.  Peter Parker reminds me of me.

 

In conclusion, Tarantino’s thoughts on superheroes, spoken through Bill in Kill Bill Vol. 2:  “Batman is actually Bruce Wayne, Spider-Man is actually Peter Parker. When that character wakes up in the morning, he’s Peter Parker. He has to put on a costume to become Spider-Man. And it is in that characteristic Superman stands alone. Superman didn’t become Superman. Superman was born Superman. When Superman wakes up in the morning, he’s Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent. His outfit with the big red “S”, that’s the blanket he was wrapped in as a baby when the Kents found him. Those are his clothes. What Kent wears – the glasses, the business suit – that’s the costume. That’s the costume Superman wears to blend in with us. Clark Kent is how Superman views us. And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent? He’s weak… he’s unsure of himself… he’s a coward. Clark Kent is Superman’s critique on the whole human race.”

 

Clark Kent is the image of Peter Parker.  And they wonder why everyone loves Spider-man!

 

Learning to Be

Stillness vs. The “American Dream”

“Greed is good for the economy,” Reagan said, and it was true.  So we rushed to our jobs, to sign up for overtime, to buy bigger houses and bigger toys for our shrinking lives.  No time.  No energy.  No passion for people.

So I poured myself out for others.  But I still found myself rushing from activity to activity, running myself dry.  A life of service can be just as draining and self-defeating as a life for self.

My soul has begun its slow rebellion.  This is a battle I will be fighting for the rest of my life.  I am doing less, resting more, and listening: to others, to God, and to myself.  “In godliness and contentment is great gain,” said Paul.  I had forgotten how much so until reading about Taoism and Winnie the Pooh (*paraphrase from Benjamin Hoff’s The Tao of Pooh, quoting Milne’s original):

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”          

“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh.  “What do you say?”

“I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?”

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.  “It’s the same thing.”

All of the adventure, joy, beauty, and life that we seek are right under our noses.  God, give us the eyes to see it, and the hearts to embrace it!

 

Pooh and Piglet

 

Lean with Envy

Why Do You Work Out?

“The grass is always greener on the other side,” and nowhere is that clearer than at the gym.  Mirrors on every side, we look at each other.  Then we eye ourselves with self-lust and self-loathing. 

Self-lust: “Look at me!  Man, I’m a hottie, but if only I had just one more ripple,” his eyes speak into his own.

More sane, but no less sad, self-loathing: thin people trying to become bigger, big people trying to become thinner.  And saddest of all: thin people trying to become thinner, slowly killing themselves.

Not everyone works out.  My friends who don’t all wish 1) that they looked like they did and 2) that it wasn’t a “should.”  But now that most of us have desk jobs, a “should” it will remain. 

Few of us can honestly say:  “I enjoy my body the way it is.  I’m going to celebrate it by running, jumping, lifting heavy objects, throwing miscellaneous projectiles, etc., just because those are wonderful things to do.”

Our culture tells us that a perfect body is the product of exercise, and that body is the goal.  That is a trap.  There is no perfect body.  A healthy desire to exercise is the product of a healthy mind and spirit.  A healthier body is simply a side-effect of your enjoying what is already good in yourself and in the world around you.

Exercise is good, but our motivations for exercise are fraught with self-rejection and self-deception.  What we do might appear beneficial but, as always, our motives demand deep scrutiny.

The Terror of the Blank Page

Creative [Self-]Destruction

I sit paralyzed by the page I am about to write. It could be my best work… if I would just think harder, get more sleep, and drink more Ovaltine™. But its already too late, I know, distracted, sleepless, drinkless. Then I realize: I can either be a writer or a perfectionist, not both. To be the one is to destroy the other. The writer destroys gladly!

Published in: on June 28, 2007 at 3:41 am  Leave a Comment  

The Radiant Abyss

Hope of Heaven After the Holocaust?

In The Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis follows a bus-load of “tourists” from hell as they visit heaven.  En route, they cross “the radiant abyss” between the netherworld and the shining world above.

In her poem “Choir of the Rescued,” Holocaust-survivor Nelly Sachs invites us to understand the aftermath of hell-on-earth: 

We the rescued, / from whose hollow limbs Death has already cut his flutes, / to whose longings Death has already set his sickle – / our bodies still bemoan the aftermath / with their maimed music.

We the rescued / ever yet the nooses hang turned for our throats / before us in the blue air – / ever yet the hour glass fills with our dripping blood.

We the rescued / ever yet the worms of fear eat at us. / Our star is buried in the dust.

 

We the rescued / beg you: / show us slowly your sun. / Lead us one step at a time from star to star. / Let us quietly learn to live again. / Otherwise the song of a bird, / the filling of a bucket at a well / could unleash our ill-sealed ache / and wash us away….

(translation mine (c) 2007)

We live in the abyss between heaven and hell, after the Holocaust but before the Day of Justice.  Some days I remember, gripped by the tension in my shoulders and the pressure in my skull.  I see the darkness all around me and despair.  I hear the dogs barking and I can feel myself ready to wash away.

  

But the Radiance shines through the darkness, wakes my soul, reminds me to sing.  The sun shines on my face, the flowers greet me in my path, and the trees bow to shelter me.  Maybe they have been there all along and I’ve been too busy to notice.  I loosen my stride, flex my feet, and prepare to meet my Lord in the air.

Published in: on June 26, 2007 at 2:32 am  Leave a Comment  

Why Do We Love?

To love is to lose.  Yet I love anyway.  Why?  Because love is always worth the risk, the frustration, and the pain.  Love makes me whole.

 

How am I able to love?   I love because I have been loved.  The more I feel love, the more I love.  The more I realize love, more I love.  The more I receive love, the more I give love.  The burden is on me, who know I am loved, to love those who do not know that they have been loved! 

 

How am I to live out that love?  In blatant defiance of what makes me happy and in earnest pursuit of what makes me whole.  Love is not about me doing what I want, but about me sacrificing myself in order to do what I know is right.  True love has everything to do with justice, social and otherwise.  May it be done, though the heavens fall!

 

Love is the why and the how.  But what is love? 

Published in: on June 25, 2007 at 5:41 pm  Comments (2)  

Sunset over the Al-Hambra

Into the wind

above the haze

to the top

of the highest hill

every green and red

stretched to silver grey

over the palace

where my grandfathers’ ghosts

still walk

vying

with each other

for

the light

 

Published in: on June 24, 2007 at 10:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

Shabby-what???

“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” What is true in physics is equally true in cultural trends. Hippies in the 1960s gave way to yuppies in the 1980s. Just when it seems that ‘metrosexual’ will be the term to define our decade, its archrival is already knocking at the door: shabbysexual.

Quick review for those out of touch with pop culture: a ‘metrosexual’ is a man who is in touch with his feminine side. This has little to do with sex, gay or otherwise, and everything to do with style. The metro male wears tight shirts and likes to go shopping. He puts lots of gel in his hair and sees nothing wrong with getting his nails done. In short, he is super-trendy and very, very clean. For that, he is to be commended.

But equally commendable is the choice of the shabbysexual. Why? Because he is in touch with the man within – the caveman within. He bathes little, rarely shaves, and never, ever irons. Not only does he not make his bed, he doesn’t own sheets because he sleeps in a sleeping bag on top of his mattress. Why? Because he feels like it. No shiny veneer here, folks. Just raw, unkempt authenticity.

The best part: you can be shabby for free. Are you already shabby? Be proud and stand up! Don’t let anyone tell you to change your shabby ways! You don’t have to go shopping. You don’t have to make your bed. You may need a shower, but you do not need your nails done. Who knows? Shabbysexuals may be the new hippies. Only time will tell.

nolte

Published in: on June 24, 2007 at 3:30 am  Comments (2)  

What’s in a Name?

Some names we choose.  Others choose us.  “Faithfool” was a bit of both.  It’s a play on my last name: Faithful.  This is my last name by birth.  I could have choosen to either embrace it or reject it; ignoring it was not an option.  I chose to embrace.  The reasons for that become clear in the stories that I tell.

But why “fool”?  There is something inherently foolish about faith: I put trust in someOne whom I have never seen, whose existence I cannot prove.   To the lover of pure reason, this is madness, for my life is ruled by the Unprovable.   To the non-commital soul, too, this is needless folly, for have committed myself to someOne, to the exclusion of all others.

Yet, true men of knowledgde realize their own finiteness.   Human reason recognizes its own limitations.  Whether by theory, by imagination, or by faith, we must all grasp beyond.  We all put faith in something, don’t we?  Where do you put yours?

And those who have embarked on their spiritual journey can all agree that their search is, foremost, one for Home.  Is one home as good as any other?  How can we know?

Perhaps faith is the wisest foolishness of all.

I know that I am finite and learning.  Whatever your wisdom or foolishness, I look forward to learning with you and from you.  Our spiritual journey is as much about listening as it is about Home.

Published in: on June 22, 2007 at 4:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Love vs. Entropy

Things fall apart.  They always do.  “If you break it, then you buy it,” was the rule.  But, now that I own a house, I know that the opposite is also true: if you buy it, you will break it.  Every move I make, every breath I take, I break an air conditioning condenser or a sump pump or something else I didn’t even know was breakable.  Last weekend, I decided to wash my car in my very own driveway.  As soon as the first splash of water hit the front windshield, the whole thing split, two graceful cracks undulating from the middle of the top down to both of the two bottom corners.  Hot glass plus cold water equals expensive.

 

I searched my heart and looked at the ones I love.  Being close to someone always leads to pain.  Always.  But why?  We are all human: insecure, flawed, and driven by what makes me happy.  The problem is that what makes me happy is often at odds with what makes you happy.  Conflict.  A falling out.  Divorce.  And even if what makes you happy is making me happy, both of us could be damaged in the process, as you become a passive prisoner of repressed longings and I become a narcissistic tyrant.  Codependence.  Passive-aggressive.  Spoiled little brats.  I think of Michael Corleone slowly destroying everyone he truly loved.  Cursed entropy of the soul! 

 

Published in: on June 21, 2007 at 11:11 pm  Comments (3)