I work on the comics side sometimes (www.itisacircle.com) and this means an awareness of superheroes. So here’s a question to kick off today’s amble into philosophy. Why is it, in comics, that when a person discovers they have superpowers, the only response to that is to don a kinky outfit and beat up criminals? “God has given me a gift and I shall use it to fight crime.”
There are a great deal of wrongs and injustices out there that have nothing to do with crime. Often it’s the flaws in our legal systems that cause the greatest injustices of all. Most of us will never rub shoulders with super villains either.
In part it’s about storytelling, about easy action and a certain kind of un-complex heroism that has nothing to do with reality at all.
But ask yourself this: If you discovered you had a superpower, would you take it as meaning that you HAD to do something productive with it? Would you feel morally obliged to get out there and fight crime, or some other focal point for wrongdoing? And whatever your answer is, why is that so?
If we look at ourselves in the right way, most of us have some trait that sets us apart. We might not be able to melt metal by glaring at it, or leap buildings in a single bound, but we all have something. I have a knack for putting emotions into words. I’ve found this is tremendously powerful for helping people get to grips with bad experiences. Words are power, sense making, reclaiming control. Many people find talking about emotion hard. This is not a candidate for cape wearing bad-guy-kicking career options. But should I be doing something with it that puts it to use?
How many talents do any of us have? Abilities that lie unexplored, or under developed. Skills we know we have, but do not use much. Are we doing everything we could be? And should we be doing everything we could be? Does having innate ability, in any field, create an obligation to use it? I suspect most people would not consider that it does.
The superhero archetype is an interesting one because it offers us the notion that innate gifts are meaningful. In a superhero world, being blessed with a talent means being obliged to get out and use it for good, or perhaps choosing to be the bad guy instead. It doesn’t mean squandering it, ignoring it or otherwise letting it slip away. If we took our own abilities more seriously, might we not see them the same way? If you can make someone laugh, you might save their life, literally. Everything we do well enriches our own lives and other peoples. We don’t tend to see these small gifts and acts as important, much less heroic, but I think we should. If we view ourselves, each and every one of us as in some way special, empowered, meant for greater things, sent to this world on a mission to make better… what might we do then? It’s not about waking up one morning and finding you can see through the walls, (ah, how I shall foil those criminals now!) it’s about seeing the value of what we have, and not being afraid to get out there and make something of it.
Wear your cape, literally or figuratively as you see fit.