Pain is direct feedback from his immediate environment about what his body can and can not do.
Batman has the presence of mind to be aware of pain, while not being overwhelmed by his physical pain sensations.
The suffering that comes with physical pain Batman transcends by refusing to let the signals of physical pain overwhelm his consciousness. He refuses to let his mind and judgement be clouded by physical pain.
He still feels every bit of the pain, but he does not let that physical signal that travels along his nervous system into his brain turn into mental/psychological suffering because he does not mistake the experience he is having (pain) for who he is (Batman).
Batman accepts that physical pain and injuries are part of his mission. He is not bothered by injuries, other than that they slow him down or prevent him from completing a task.
In one way of looking at Batman’s behavior, Batman abuses his body by pushing it too hard. Another way of looking at his behavior is that Batman refuses to let physical limitations prevent him from accomplishing a task in his war on crime.
Of course there are limits even to what Batman can endure and some types of pain and injury will cause immediate dysfunction and render Batman incapable of doing anything other than calling for help or retreating to heal before coming up with a new plan, tactic or strategy.
We too should know the Bat-Wisdom of when to ask for help, when to retreat, and when to heal and recover.
There are times in life to listen to the signal of pain, and back off from what we are doing – like at the gym or during sport – if we experience an injury, the smart thing is to stop what we are doing, rest, get treatment and use active recovery.
But then there are times when we must push past pain signals and ignore what our body is telling us. We must act in SPITE of pain. We must not let our body run our mind.
We must choose without any external signals to know when to push past limits, and when to respect them. Either way requires a conscious intelligent decision, rather than blind reaction.
For example you wake up and your house is on fire. You children are asleep and you must get them out or they will die.
Your body is screaming at you from the pain of inhaling smoke fumes, you may get burnt during the process or injured by debris or tripping on objects. The door handle burns your hand when you touch it, but if you do not open it you will die.
If you fail to transcend pain, your kids will die.
These are the times to rule our body with an iron fist and ignore the signals to simply get out of the house and live.
The greater perceived potential pain of death and loss helps to us to look past the immediate physical pain and very real present danger.
These are the times to be like Batman, to transcend ordinary circumstances and find our inner hero who will preserve the life of his children and family at all costs, even if it means sacrificing his own.
While we may have to perform a heroic act perhaps once in a lifetime, Batman goes out night after night and does his job, he fulfills his calling to simply “Be Batman”.
Pushing past pain just to kick a ball harder, or lift a weight heavier serves no higher purpose. They are ultimately selfish goals.
It may feel subjectively great, even euphoric to break one of our own athletic records in the moment, but what is more valuable?
Beating some personal record, experiencing a moment of euphoria that may come at the cost of months of rehab after we abuse our bodies – or the saving of a human life?
We must know our own strengths and limitations in life, and we must equally know when to gently move through them gently and respectfully, and when to break down walls like Batman in the Batmobile busting through police blockades and barriers – not just because we can, but because it serves a higher purpose.
Batman knows his priorities. He doesn’t doubt himself, or his mission.
He doesn’t care about setting athletic records or lifting a heavy weight for the sake of it.
Batman’s training is ALWAYS practical. That heavy weight lifted in the gym translates into lifting a heavy fallen beam during a fire that has pinned some poor soul to the ground, and will be dead in a matter of moments.
That gymnastic leap, tuck and roll means he can dive through a window, his cape, cowl and gloves protecting him from serious cuts from the glass.
Those brutal training scenarios where he deprives himself of food, water and yes, even oxygen means that Batman has mentally prepared himself for all eventualities, and has a plan for how to beat every impossible scenario he can conceive of. Batman has a rich mental bank of scenarios and escape plans for every type of situation.
While he plans and prepares, Batman must remain focused in the present moment. Ever alert to opportunity and new possibilities emerging that he had not yet anticipated.
While Batman is a master planner and strategist, he is also an expert at off the cuff spontaneous creative simple solutions to difficult problems. He is the MacGyver of the Superhero world. Batman is a master in the fine art of masculine improvisation.
Give Batman a box of matches, a watch and a toothpick with some gum, and he will escape from an impossible trap, build an airplane or defuse a nuclear bomb before he has even had breakfast all while he is bleeding to death with a concussion and a dislocated shoulder.
There’s still something about the character [Macgyver] that strongly resonates. And that resonance actually goes a lot deeper than pop culture; it in fact points to an universal archetype of manliness, and a trait of masculinity that has been valued and celebrated across times and cultures: improvisation. – Brett and Kate McKay / Artofmanliness.com
Whether doing the impossible, or making the extraordinary part of his daily routine, Batman applies personal excellence to all he does in life. He transcends pain not as a masochist, but because his job demands it. He can’t afford to fall to pieces going into a burning building to pull someone out any more than a real life fireman can.
Batman can’t afford to get sloppy and let his physical sensations and emotions overwhelm his decisions on the street any more than a real life cop can. Fear and hesitation in the field can mean death comes sooner than rather than later. However the right kind of fear also can keep us alive. It takes training to trust your instincts under high stress situations, and you know Batman has trained himself for exactly that.
While it is impossible to literally be Batman, we can all learn a little from Batman that we can apply in our daily lives. Batman did not turn into a Superhero, urban vigilante and Champion of Justice overnight – he got there through gradual slow training, making mistakes, experimenting with his own life. He made 1000’s of mistakes on his way to greatness. And he will make a 1000 more mistakes as he continues to evolve as a human being.
The Art of Batmanliness then involves not only transcending pain, but knowing your limits.
It means knowing when to push forward and break down barriers, and when to retreat and lick your wounds, growing stronger with each new stimulus, with each new piece of feedback that life gives you. And being like Batman also means that every time life knocks you on your ass you have the bravery to stand back up and fight on or retreat and replan your approach to your mission.
The man who gets knocked down and stays down beats himself.
The man who gets up no matter what is impossible to beat.
I’ve always said Rocky was semi-autobiographical. Having grown up in the streets, I knew a million down and outers. I knew what they ate, where they worked, how they thought.
Most of all, I understood their broken dreams. I’m a guy who basically had to build himself from scratch.
Many men who are now strong and confident were once weak and timid.
The way to build self-confidence, strength of character and physical strength is slowly.
Brick by brick, piece by piece.
Every day of every year you add a little at a time.
Until one day the person you were is no more.
From old timers like Charles Atlas, John Wayne and Jack Lalanne to modern day self-made men like that “wolf guy” from True Blood Joe Manganiello, Ah-Nuld Schwarzenegger, Sly Stallone and of course Bruce Wayne who would become the Batman, they are self made men who chose to develop themselves and their abilities.
These self made champions did not settle for what life handed them, but chose to mold their own destiny.
Because of birth complications, Stallone suffered from a severed nerve in his face that left him with partial paralysis in parts of his face, giving him his trademark droopy faced snarl, and at times slurred sounding speech.
As kid, Stallone was teased by his peers and he didn’t like it one bit. His role models included Superboy, Steeve Reeves (a bodybuilder an on screen “Hercules” and of course his parents. His father was a physically robust hard working man and his mother opened one of the first Women’s gyms in Washington, DC in 1954.
Mom started exercising with her father (who knew Charles Atlas) when she was very young, and grew up hitting a punching bag and tossing around a medicine ball – Sylvester Stallone, from his book “Sly Moves”
Stallone struggled for years to become an actor, working all sorts of dead end jobs just to get by. That his breakout film Rocky was such a hit was in his own words “a million to one shot“. Stallone wrote the story of Rocky himself, and eventually succeeded in selling it to a studio with himself attached to star in the film, despite not being a bankable name.
To pull off that sort of magic you need unrelenting determination, belief in yourself, dogged persistence, a “can do” attitude that never quits and yes, ENORMOUS self-confidence. If you can’t convince yourself of how important you and your dreams are, then you don’t have a chance in hell of convincing anyone else in this world how important you are.
Joe Manganiello used to be a timid skinny geek who grew up to be “that werewolf guy” on True Blood. Joe Manganiello became even more popular with his co-starring roles in Magic Mike and its sequel Magic Mike XXL. Joe has also released his own fitness and training/bodybuilding book and has hosted an episode of WWE Monday Night Raw with Hulk Hogan and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Joe defied cultural stereotypes by being both a genuine Geek and simultaneously an athlete as he grew up. What he learned along the way, is that you have to want to change and find that place in yourself, that reason to better yourself. He admits that alcohol was problem for him for a while, that is long behind him now, and he also gave up cigarettes, which were hurting his conditioning and level of fitness and health.
It’s not about what you can get away with, it’s about becoming the best you can possibly can be. It’s not about the exterior. The aesthetics wind up becoming a bi-product of this internal work. It’s more about motivating and being the best person you can be, and as a result your body will transform. It’s not about vanity it’s about evolving as a person. – Joe Manganiello on his workout ethos / GQ Magazine Online UK
John Wayne was born Marion Mitchell Morrison, a name he didn’t much care for. Some local firemen he would pass on the way to school gave him the nickname “Duke” and that name stuck around long enough for the boy to become a man and a screen legend beloved in America and around the world.
The good Duke rode off into sunsets and into our hearts as the model of hard work, integrity, kindness, dignity, strength, pride, self-confidence and self-reliance. John Wayne tried a bit of everything as he grew up. He was an athlete, and involved in 101 extra curricular activities through school and college. John Wayne was not afraid to try many different things, he was not afraid to fail and try new things.
Duke Morrison started as not just an extra but an all rounder on film sets, pitching in and getting involved with anything he could. John Ford took an interest in the young man, and eventually after a decade of B-Westerns Ford put Wayne in the film that would become his breakout role and a genuine Western classic – Stagecoach.
But John Wayne did not become a living legend overnight. He worked, harder than most other actors, and he built himself from who he was – Marion Mitchell Morrison, into who he became – America’s most beloved screen Cowboy The Duke one step at a time.
Captain America is the fantasy of every skinny kid who wants to grow up big and strong. While Steve Rogers gained tremendous muscle and power from the super soldier process and seemingly did not have to work for his strength, he still had to train himself in combat. Steve Rogers the man possessed tremendous willpower, kindness, bravery and self-confidence before he ever became Captain America.
In stories where Cap lost his powers, Steve Rogers the man still showed the same courage, will power, determination and resilience that is at the heart of Captain America.
Steve Roger’s bravery, heart, guts, integrity and character did not come from the super soldier process, they were there to begin with. He built those qualities brick by brick. A lesser man would not have been chosen for the Super Soldier program.
Steve Rogers is every skinny kid in America who wants to grow into a “real” man. While muscles and an athletic physique are naturally desirable (and a worthwhile pursuit) being a “real” man is every bit as much about developing character, confidence and the courage of ones convictions – and that is something that every person can develop in themselves if they choose to. The Sentinel of Liberty may have been gifted genetic enhancements by science, but the man and his self-confidence and belief had to be built up brick by brick.
Bruce Wayne could have lived a soft and cushy life of comfort, he could have given up on himself and on life after the brutal murder of his parents before his eyes when he was as child. Instead he remade himself into a modern day urban legend. A mountain of a man – he wills himself to be the best detective, and crime fighter in the world and he puts in the hard work to become what he imagined he wanted to be.
Bruce Wayne remade himself piece by piece, step by step, brick by brick until the timid terrorised child was no more. In his place was a man of iron will, courage, determination, passion and devotion to his never ending war on crime. Batman’s desire to stop criminals and serve the needs of others knows no limits. He knowingly fights an impossible battle he can not ever win.
Bruce Wayne fights a never ending war on crime in his persona as Batman. He stops the maniacs and the mob that are beyond the reach of ordinary cops. As Bruce Wayne – businessman and philanthropist – Wayne invests in the community, social programs and more to not only fight the symptoms of crime, but build a better future, a better Gotham by addressing the true needs of the people he serves.
As Batman he punches crime in the face, and he will not stop. EVER. Everyday Batman rededicates himself to his cause, he renews his vows to war on crime and terrorise the underworld the way they terrorised him as a child.
Being Batman means making sacrifices, it means giving up on luxuries and soft living, it means utter and total dedication to ones cause with little time for the “normal” activities of life. In this sense Batman is somewhat of a Zealot, he is fanatical in his training, in his application of intelligence, to being the best version of himself he can be.
Batman proves that man who CAN make a difference, that an individual can stand up for the common good, to crime and corruption, one man can say “ENOUGH” to the insanity of crime the mob and corrupt cops and “YES” to Justice.
The transformation from scared child to unrelenting crime fighting machine did not happen over night for Batman. He trained himself in various arts step by step. As his skills and abilities grew, so did his confidence. Bruce Wayne built self-confidence brick by brick, one piece at a time.
If we choose to, we can do build the same type of self-confidence in our own lives. We can build confidence through real world experience, and we don’t have to suffer through some horrific tragedy to inspire us to be the strongest version of ourselves.
One day you wake up and the person you were is no more.
The transformation from a timid child to a confident man is total. People you meet in life feel your immediate presence. They feel your firm handshake, your warm smile, your good posture, physical strength and strength of character. You radiate charm, confidence and sincerity. The kind of confidence that Batman / Bruce Wayne has that you just can’t fake.
This type of transformation is not easy it takes time, and it takes a lot of effort. Above all it takes the will to try, to experiment with new behaviors and new learning. And it takes a consistent effort day by day that never wavers.
It takes a consistent and even effort day by day to reach new heights and stop making excuses for living a mediocre life. To stop justifying why you can’t do something and simply believe in yourself and in your plan. Whatever your goals in life may be, you move towards them one step at a time and live the life you intend.
Building Self-Confidence is one of the most important things any man or woman will ever do. I am a man so I tend to use the male pronoun in my writing. But male and female, young or old can take the same lessons and apply them. Confidence is not the domain of any one individual or group.
You don’t have to be a weight lifter or athlete or Batman to develop self-confidence, but it doesn’t hurt.
What does matter is that you cultivate your body and your mind. Neglect either and your total self-confidence will never be what it could be.
Neglect any part of yourself and that weakness will show through to every person you meet without ever saying a world.
A confident person carries themselves with a spring in their step. They know that life is on their side, and they spring out of bed with something to look forward to each day. The man of true self-confidence is always learning and growing and challenging himself as a human being, and continually pushes past artificial self imposed limits.
Those who have no confidence in themselves and their own abilities can never convince others of their worth. The confident man gets the job or makes the sale or accomplishes the task he set himself not through inflating his sense of self, but by honestly expressing himself and daily taking action towards his dreams and goals.
People who live without self-confidence in their actions remain in patterns of self-defeating behavior that will sabotage their efforts for a lifetime.
Any “confidence” they project will be false and worthless, a man (or woman) of real confidence, strength and integrity is unshakable, their will is absolute.
Real self-confidence expects nothing, and gives everything.
Confidence, sincerity, passion, enthusiasm and honesty are the values that will thrust an individual in the direction of their dreams like an unstoppable force of nature, like the unstoppable Batman who just keep moving forward no matter what. These are the values epitomised by characters like Superman, Batman, Captain America, Wonder Woman and other great timeless heroic characters.
When faced with difficulties and challenges in life, the confident self-assured person facces them knowingly and willingly, knowing that struggle and challenge are the proving grounds of life. We are never saddled with a challenge or difficulty in life without also the ability to also overcome that challenge, to use that struggle as fuel to grow into a more evolved and well rounded person.
Real self-confidence comes not from any external source, but from the power within our own hearts and minds. Confidence is not dependent on being an athlete or physical culturist, those are just examples – Christopher Reeve for example was still a vital confident and outspoken man after he lost the use of most of his body. Christopher Reeve continued to be an inspiring real life hero after his career as the worlds best on screen Superman.
Chris Reeve’s books Still Me and Nothing is Impossible memoirs are testaments to hard work, determination, strength of character, strength of will and unbeatable confidence.
The man who can be beat is the man who gives up on himself and his dreams.
The man who never gives up, can never truly be beaten. It is one of the reasons we love Batman. It is why Christopher Reeve in real life is just as inspiring as his persona of Superman.
The confident man who takes a hard road day by day. He builds himself one brick at a time.
His efforts are ceaseless and untiring.
There is no great secret to being this kind of person, other than choosing to be who you already imagine yourself to be in your heart of hearts.
To find our way out of the confusion of doubt, insecurity, and indecision the simplest way is to look for good role models and emulate them. To find people who have already done what we seek to achieve and see HOW they went about their accomplishments. We model those who have come before us who have done great things so that we too may be great.
Batman learned from the example of The Shadow and Zorro, forerunners who helped to inspire him in his quest for Justice and War on Crime.
It is up to your seek out your own role models and find out how they became good at what they do. Confidence comes with practicing our abilities, talents and skills and applying them daily in the art of living.
The confident man is the man who chooses to be confident. Who experiments with his own life. Who tries new things and instead of beating himself up when he fails, learns from his failures and moves on. The confident man is too busy celebrating and mentally reliving his victories in his mind, creating powerful emotional associations that help him build on his successes.
No matter how big or small his victories and successes the man of confidence keeps a record of his greatest mental movies and he reviews them regularly. He may do so daily or weekly. The confident man sees failure not as failure but as essential feedback in the ongoing process of self-actualization. He builds on his successes and learns from his failures.
The man of true confidence sees and experiences failure as a great benefit to his way of being. Those who have not failed in life, can never truly succeed for they have not dared to go to places where they must to become who life is asking them to be.
Where there is pain there is growth, where there is struggle and resistance comes new learning and transcending of ones circumstance. The strongest sword is forged is the hottest fire. The strongest most confident individual is not the man with the cushy life of soft living luxury and excess, but the man with the difficult life who makes the best of it and accepts his challenges with gratitude. Knowing that every action, every plan that does not work is driving him closer to his goals, closer to the plans and actions that DO work out.
The pain young Bruce Wayne went through when his parents were shot right before his eyes was horrific. But as horrible as that event was, Bruce would not become Batman without that defining moment. From his tragedy came great strength. From his tragedy came the fire of passion and pain that would eventually forge young Bruce Wayne into the living weapon that is Batman. From that one tragic moment was born the fire in Bruce Wayne’s heart that always burns.
In that moment of unspeakable tragedy, the seeds were sown that would eventually transform Bruce Wayne from an ordinary mortal into a modern myth – the Batman. An unrelenting one man army who never stops in his crusade to terrorise and dismantle Gotham’s underworld.
Batman is a metaphor for the alchemy of our own soul. He symbolises how to integrate and transform our darkest impulses and direct them toward our highest good.
A man of confidence is not infallible. He may have doubts and make mistakes. We are all human.
The difference is the CAN DO confident man gets off his ass and takes action every day.
the “can’t won’t don’t” man refuses to lift a finger to help himself, does nothing and justifies his every vice when he should instead be building virtues.
The can do man relives mental movies of all his successes and greatest joys in life daily.
The failure man relives mental movies of all his greatest failures and excuses and wonders why he feels miserable.
The can do attitude man and the failure attitude man – Which one will YOU be?
As babies we learn to crawl, then walk, then run.
It is hard for a baby to crawl.
It is hard for a baby to even lift its heavy head.
But without that challenge, the babies leg and torso muscles would never grow strong enough to for it to be able to walk at all. A baby lifting its head gets one hell of a workout. From resistance comes strength and growth.
No resistance = no strength, no growth
Christopher Reeve after his paralysis inducing horse riding accident instead of becoming a weaker broken man, became a man stronger in mind and spirit. How did he find that inner strength? It may be different for each person, but we all have to reach down into out very depths and find our own motivation, our own mission in life. Chris made his mission helping others through being a spinal cord research advocate, as well as his work with various charities and organisations around rehabilitation and stem cell research.
His body may have become weaker after his accident, but his mind became stronger. As a man he radiated the same confidence and charm he had before he had his accident. Proving that you don’t need to a bodybuilder or athlete to be confident in who you are. Self-confidence comes from authentically being who you already are, owning every strength and every flaw, not making excuses or trying to justify your existence to anyone for any reason.
If there is something you don’t know how to do, rather than faking your way through life like a con-man in a B-movie, instead learn the skills you need to become confident at your chosen task or responsibility.
You build on your strengths, and while you don’t ignore your weaknesses, you don’t let them hold you back.
Celebrate, build on and yes – mentally relive your greatest successes in vivid detail, but learn also from your failures, and vow to be a little better tomorrow than you were yesterday.
Men such as Jack Lalanne and Joe Manganiello who were once weak in mind and body humbled themselves and learned what they needed to do to transform into the men they imagined themselves to be.
Bruce Wayne imagined himself as highly trained and capable in his mind, then he went out in the world and became what he had already imagined himself to be.
Joe Manganiello imagined himself as big, confident and strong – and found a way.
Steve Rogers imagined being the man he wanted to be in his mind first, before it happened in reality.
Jack Lalanne, American fitness pioneer – and one of the fittest and strongest men that ever walked the planet – was once a skinny kid who ate “mostly junk food” and knew nothing about Nutrition or Strength Training. That kid grew up to open some of the earliest gymnasiums in America and promote healthy lifestyles and healthy foods all over the world for decades. What was Jack’s secret?
He IMAGINED who he wanted to be in his mind first. Jack Lalanne saw Paul Bragg on stage and knew he wanted to be healthy and strong like his role model. Jack may not have known how to become like Paul Bragg, but he knew it was possible, and he found a way to better himself through emulating his role model.
A young Sly Stallone looked up to Steve Reeves and saw what was possible.
A young Arnold Schwarzenegger looked up to and emulated Reg Park, and saw “what was possible”.
What did these men all have in common? They had the burning desire to better themselves, to be more than they were. They had the passion and determination to find a way, BEFORE they knew how to grow confident and strong. They could see in others what was possible.
Most importantly they had to admit the POSSIBILITY into their own minds that they too could better themselves, they had to get past their own self-imposed doubts, insecurities and thoughts like “I can’t do it”.
These men of confidence and will power all had to dig down and find a way to believe in themselves and in their dreams, and you too need to find that place in yourself if you truly want to better yourself.
These men of confidence and determination had to beat lousy doubt riddled thinking into the ground with a hammer. When thoughts of lack and failure once again entered their minds, they beat back those thoughts once again. They fed their mind over and over again with thoughts of confidence, bravery, strength, success and examples of those who had gone before them.
They hypnotised themselves again and again into knowing that they could succeed at their hearts desire. They showed the unrelenting determination and persistence of the Batman who has no place for doubt and insecurity in his mind.
How did Bruce Wayne transform himself from timid child to a mountain of a man? He imagined he was already who he wished to be in his heart of hearts. He then practiced daily over and over being that person, until he was that person. He mentally rehearsed becoming the best most strongest version of himself he could imagine, and built himself into that man day by day, step by step, brick by brick.
Bruce Wayne burst through the barrier of cultural indoctrination and well meaning others who tell us what we “can’t do” in life, and who encourage us to “set limits”, “don’t overdo it” and never do anything truly worthwhile.
Bruce Wayne went to that place where all great men and women must go. Into the very fire of their own being, into the very depths of their psyche. Into the depths of their own heart and soul, and emerged a stronger man. Reborn, with a mission and a purpose. To “BE BATMAN”.
We first build the best version of ourselves in our own mind through imagination – then find a way to create that version of ourselves in the exterior world.
The Batman knows his own mind, his own values and he is confident in and at peace with who he is and what he stands for. While he is tormented by the death of his parents, time and again he reaches deep down into his own psyche and finds a way to rise above his circumstances in life. While he may lose his edge and sometimes his sanity in the comic books, Batman always comes home to who he is. He always comes back to his core mission, and to being the best Batman he can be.
Despite Batman’s numerous failures he keeps trying. He keeps moving forward atoning for his mistakes by renewed unwavering dedication to his war on crime.
Batman’s terrible childhood tragedy could have destroyed him but instead it made him stronger.
Something in that young Bruce Wayne emerged the day his parents died that would later develop into the character we know as Batman. A deep vital feeling that he would leave the world a different place than when he entered it.
One night after months of training his various capacities, in an introspective moment sitting in his fathers chair, Bruce Wayne looks out the window and sees a bat. A moment of inspiration strikes him. He decides to become a self-invented myth. To strike fear into the hearts of “superstitious and cowardly” criminals, to wage a one man war on crime that never ends.
Batman choose to go beyond his own self-imposed limitations, he choose to rise. He choose to reinvent himself. Batman did not just reinvent himself once time. He reinvents himself daily.
While as children we are dependent on others to help us build self-confidence, as adults we must take responsibility for our own sense of self-worth and confidence. If we don’t treat ourselves right, how can we expect others to?
However we feel internally is what we project to others in social situations. The man who feels love and respect for himself loves and respects other people. But the man who feels miserable and worthless inside feels that others are also miserable and worthless. He is incapable of seeing another’s world view.
As adults we can consciously seek out healthy environments to develop all types of skills. We can find clubs, groups, teams etc to be a part of where we practice something we enjoy, and get positive accurate feedback and criticism from others who care about us and want us to succeed not only in life, but in being who we already are.
The man who fears genuine criticism is afraid of change and afraid of growth. To become out best self we must get accurate feedback from trusted sources. We are free to embrace or ignore the feedback from others. But if we consistently get the same message from trusted sources, then there is a fair chance we have a habit or character flaw that needs addressing.
The bullish unthinking idiot continues down a path of self-destruction blindly, the wise man knows he is also an ignorant fool but seeks to improve himself daily.
The wise man considers others people’s point of view but ultimately he is the judge of his actions. Only he knows his true motivations and intentions. Only he can decide what changes may be necessary, what skills he may be lacking, what direction to evolve in next.
I will learn to stand upon my feet and express myself in clear, concise, and simple language, and to speak with force and enthusiasm, in a matter that will carry conviction. I will cause others to become interested in me, because I will first become interested in them. I will eliminate selfishness and develop in its place the spirit of service. – Napoleon Hill
The fire of pain and suffering is not meant to drag us down to make us drown a thousand small deaths. Suffering is there to motivate us to go beyond our personal story and drama, suffering is there as feedback in life that motivates us to better ourselves, to grow, to evolve – not to hold us back.
Men and women of great self-confidence share various traits. They don’t get lost in the “story of suffering” and their personal life dramas. They choose to rise above it.
They tend to have a more accurate view of themselves and their abilities, no matter what other people tell them.
A confident person knows that their own opinion of themselves is a million times more important than any other person’s opinion about them.
They know that are worthy, that they matter, that they have a unique and essential place in the universe.
They know and feel this in every cell in their bodies, in every bone and muscle, in every atom, in every thought, feeling and emotion.
Their essential worth as a human being of the confident man is never in doubt. No matter what troubles doubts or insecurities they may encounter in life, the man of self-confidence knows he has a right to live and express himself and feels himself to be neither superior nor inferior to any other human being on this planet. Regardless of social standing, wealth, status or privilege.
The self-confident man knows he is here for a reason, and he is too busy getting on with his life’s mission to be wasting time indulging in anything other than that. He has no time for naysayers, nor the doubting Thomas’ of the world.
Like Batman we each have our own unique purpose in life, it is up to us find out what that is, to choose our own purpose and live it.
We test ourselves daily in trying out new things, in being unafraid to be who we already are, our unique self.
Being confident in who you are doesn’t mean throwing away all your bad habits and trying to live some impossibly perfect life – that road is a short path to misery. Being confident and at peace with who you are simply means accepting yourself exactly as you are RIGHT NOW in this moment, not in some imaginary future that never arrives.
It means that if you have things you are not happy with in your own character you take steps to do something about that, but you still have to accept yourself where you are right now and not beat yourself up – the world will do that for you.
Being confident means being at peace with your flaws and your strengths and not being caught up in the game of believing you are better or worse than any other person. you acknowledge where you are at in life, and continue to grow and improve in whatever way suits you best. Every person has a right to love and accept themselves exactly as they are.
Push back the mask and Bruce Wayne seems lost and unsure. Slip it on and he becomes someone else, more confident in action, more definitive in deed. On the inside maybe Bruce Wayne is not that much removed from a little boy who lost his parents so very long ago. But Batman—the guy Bruce becomes when he’s in costume—can’t afford to express doubts or insecurity. His mask doesn’t just hide his features: it helps define them. – Paul Asay – God on the Streets of Gotham
Being confident doesn’t mean being a jerk to people and never apologising for anything. It does mean that we work on ourselves daily, beating our bad-habits into submission like Batman beating up some punk in an alley. Not to live to please others but to live an authentic life. A life where we don’t accept mediocrity, excuses and laziness as an excuse for living an unsatisfying life.
We each live the life we choose, and if we don’t like the life we have chosen so far, at ANY time we can reinvent ourselves like Batman did and live a new life. The thing is what you do in life doesn’t matter all that much. The events of your life don’t matter a whole lot, but how you process them and whay you do with them in your own mind DOES matter. Will the events of your life as an excuse to be miserable or as excuse to transcend who you were yesterday?
Being truly confident means that we stand up not only for our own rights, but those of others. The sane man, the confident man admits to his failings and mistakes, but doesn’t let his flaws hold him back, doesn’t use his mistakes or character flaws as excuses for not living the life he intends to live.
What does matter is the energy and attention you bring to what you do.
What does matter is the concentration and focus you bring to your daily tasks in life.
What matters is that you are at peace with who you are and what you stand for. Even when surrounded by people who question your motivations and character, even while you serve the needs others and taking care of them, even when you don’t agree with them. Even when your Bat-Family is telling you to go in one direction, and you defiantly insist on marching in another direction.
At times Batman becomes unbalanced and his Bat-Family plead with him to stop being so self-destructive. Sometimes Batman is right and goes his own path. Sometimes he is dead wrong – be he still goes his own way.
Batman’s will is absolute – even when he is absolutely wrong. Batman follows a course of action to its conclusion. His friends such as Alfred Pennywoth, Jim Gordon and his Bat-Family will still be there after the crisis has passed to support him. Even when Batman truly goes off the deep end they still support him, and sometimes that means they walk away and leave Batman alone until his bout of madness has passed.
What can we learn from Batman?
That it is better to do something wrong with total conviction, than do something right in a half-arsed way.
You learn more by trusting your own instincts that constantly readjusting you values and actions to suit other people. Even when you are wrong, you are wrong with integrity. You can pause and examine your own actions and make changes. You can make mistakes with the awareness of how you will do something differently next time.
Better to make conscious mistakes than unconscious successes.
That is how Batman never truly fails. Whether Batman succeeds or fails he throws himself at life 100%, never doubting himself or his abilities. But when Batman does make mistakes, he later has the introspection and conscious attention to admit them first to himself, then to others. Batman takes actions to correct his bad habits as much as possible.
But life is unpredictable, and we can not afford to drift through life living on auto pilot. We must pay attention not only to what we do but WHY we do it, and when we veer off course – have the wisdom to correct our course in life and the courage to seek help from others when we are unable to do this for ourselves.
There is a difference between beating your self-defeating habits, and being manipulated by others into believing something is a flaw that may actually be a strength.
We must cultivate the wisdom to question our own actions and the effect they may have on others. But not in the middle of when we have already embarked down a particular road. If we are constantly doing U-turns in life, constantly starting new projects and never finishing anything, then we don’t get to that place of satisfaction of having completed and seen the full consequences of our choices.
Leaders who question themselves openly in front of their group sow seeds of doubt with disastrous consequences in those who follow them.
A leader such as Batman must act with total confidence and faith in himself even when he is full of doubts about his chosen course of action, lest the doubt spread to those he leads.
Only after we have made our choices can we in retrospect look back and say we made a bad choice. It is impossible to know the full repercussions of any of our choices in life. We must act and decide with limited information, and not be crippled by doubt and indecision. Rarely is making no choice at all, or hiding from our responsibilities better than making a conscious decision, even if it is later seen as a bad decision.
Our confidence grows the more the more we come to know who we are and what we are about. The more we express ourselves openly and honestly. The more we know our own mind and don’t apologise for who we are and what we stand for, the more we settle into ourselves.
If we want to become like Batman it means owning our faults and flaws, but not using them as excuses to hold us back. Like Batman we become confident beings by living life the best way we know how. We work daily to banish the demons of doubt, insecurity and self-loathing from our mind. We become who we intend to be by accepting ourselves as we already are, while making strides to daily better ourselves. We ask others not to adapt to our bad habits, but accept that we are all beautifully flawed in totally unique ways.
True self-confidence is not about dominating others, getting ahead, being successful in worldly terms or proving anything to anybody. True self-confidence comes from within and is not based on external values.
My will to do springs from the knowledge that I CAN DO. I’m only being natural, for there is no fear or doubt inside my mind. – Bruce Lee
True self-confidence is about inner integrity, about knowing your place in the world, what you are about, what you are for and living that daily. When one lives a life of honest integrity where nothing is forced, nothing is faked, confidence naturally flows from who we are and what we stand for. There is no need for motivational courses and endless marketing tricks, props or supports that elicit temporary euphoria but do not enact real lasting change in the individual’s psyche or daily habits.
To be confident in who we are and how we apply ourselves to our daily tasks may mean starting from scratch, building ourselves up brick by brick. Perhaps we are an expert at kung-fu or sewing or swimming. But then we try Formula-1 racing or building a house or something as simple as mowing a lawn for the first time – and we are back at square one, like a little baby finding its way in the world.
Building our confidence brick by brick means being humble, learning from those who already know that which we wish to learn, and modelling “what works”. The more we immerse ourselves in high quality knowledge, principles, and hands on practical experience, the faster we grow and learn. The more we act on our learning, try, test and fail, hypothesise and try again, the more feedback we get and the faster our confidence, skill and ability grows.
Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better. – Samuel Beckett
True self-confidence then is not about fooling others, but is based on genuine experience in living.
Anyone can “fake” being confident. A man may walk, talk and act “tough”, but the moment he steps into the ring with a professional boxer, wrestler or MMA champ, all that false confidence and bravado goes straight out the window.
The man who learns day by day a little at a time, always making subtle improvements and further distinctions grows in confidence slowly but assuredly. Batman is the man who is forever learning and growing, but like his progenitor Sherlock Holmes he limits his learning to what is relevant to his war on crime.
The man who is unafraid to express who he is and what he stands for daily grows more confident than the man who never lifts a finger to help himself or others. Who never stands up for himself or others, and never expresses his most heartfelt desires or takes any steps towards their manifestation.
Life is action, life is motion.
The universe demands conscious aware people. Life demands that we stand up and pay attention to who we are, and honestly express ourselves. If we never act, we never fail. If we never fail, we never truly succeed at anything. If we never try we never learn from our failures, we never learn to fail better.
Without resistance, without feedback, there is nothing to gauge our efforts against.
Without resistance there is no impetus to grow, no demonstrated lack of ability that causes us to self-assess our own abilities and find them lacking.
To be good at something, to be confident at something, or to be merely confident in who we are, happy in our skin is one and the same thing.
There is no “practice” in life, therefore every day in life is “practice”.
There is no true “winning” or “losing” in life, merely perception. Therefore all we have is our daily lives and how we feel about who we are.
Batman is the man who is daily practicing his skills and talents. He is always prepared, ever alert to opportunity and takes action not in haste, but after careful consideration of the numerous tactical options available to him. Batman focuses his efforts like a laser beam concentrated and unbroken in his intensity.
He treats every rehearsal, every practice element in building his skills as the “real thing”, therefore when faced with true danger he remains calm and detached from the situation. Batman relies on his highly conditioned physical reflexes, his vast knowledge of escape artistry and perhaps his greatest asset – his infinitely flexible mind.
The Batman remains flexible and adaptable in any situation. Able to turn the odds in his favour or pull a victory out of a seemingly impossible situation. His art is that of infinite adaptability and pliability. He is present in the moment, and able to respond in exactly the right way in exactly the right moment, using his calculated precise tactics to the maximum effect.
Give Batman a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and he will move the world.
In a battle with Batman if you give him an inch, he will take a mile. Batman is so confident, strong and adaptable in his abilities that he can take whatever his adversaries throw at him and use it against them. He uses his iron-will and mental abilities to be five steps ahead of any opponent.
What does self-willed mean? Does it mean “having a will of one’s own?” The human herd instinct demands adaptation and subordination, but for his highest honor man elects not the meek, the pusillanimous, the supine, but precisely the self-willed man, the heroes.
– Bruce Lee
What actions we take to change how we feel on any given day give us new opportunities to develop self-confidence. We take action and we get feedback. Whether we succeed or fail in our task we have the satisfaction of knowing that we gave it everything we had. We have the peace of mind that follows living life with integrity.
The man who always has the support of his family, friends and peers may feel confident. The man whom finds himself without tragedy or struggle may feel confident. The man who feels that all things in life come easily to him may also feel confident.
But no man knows true self-confidence who has not also known pain, struggle and defeat.
No man knows true confidence who has not known adversity, hopelessness and been to his lowest of lows.
Batman has been down in the very gutters of his mind time and again. Batman has been at his absolute lowest and he always finds a way to bounce back. He finds a reason to continue, he has the need to RISE like the phoenix. Reinventing himself time and again, turning struggle and adversity into indomitable strength and resilience.
When a man has experienced every kind of horror and rises up, pulls himself back from the depths of despair and desperation, like Rocky, Bond or Batman – he has applied all he learned to bettering himself in every conceivable way. Then he can claim to possess true self-knowledge and self-confidence that is unshakable, that is unknowable to anyone other than him.
People directed by external events and circumstances are unconscious creators, they refuse to be the agent of change. They refuse to be the authors of their own life story.
To these outer directed people, inner directed confident individuals who take their cues not from the world out there, but their own heart and mind in here such as Batman – life is somewhat of a mystery.
But to any who would confidently claim their own self, who would stand up and be who they already are, who express themselves openly and honestly, and boldly march forward – the world makes way for such people.
Living not from a sense of entitlement, but a knowing that life has the meaning and depth that you give to it, that you invest in yourself and in those you love and are responsible for.
The Batman is a man who has explored the depths of his own psyche. He has explored pleasure and pain, he knows true suffering and true joy. He lives as a mountain of a man, unshakable in his convictions.
The Batman lives his life on purpose with total confidence in his abilities and total conviction of his purpose.
Batman knows his actions matter, that he matters and that his confidence in his trained abilities is total and uncompromising.
Faced with impossible situations, deadly encounters, poisons, death traps, ferocious foes and allies alike, The Batman pauses for a breath, savors the moment, for all of this “drama” out here is merely a warm up, merely a respite from his own intense training.
Whatever his enemies put him through, whatever tortures they may dream up to “break” the Batman, he has already willingly put himself through far worse by his own hand.
The Batman know that daily life is mere practice. Every little step Batman takes is feedback, it may destroy him or fuel his greatness. The stuff of life is there for us to experience and use as fuel to transform our own lives. We may not have control over many of the events of our lives, but we always have the ability to choose out attitude to life.
Batman’s confidence is total, he acts like it all matters, but in his heart he knows whatever difference he makes in the world will be insignificant and small, he knows that can not rid the world of crime permanently.
But that doesn’t matter.
Batman throws himself time and again into impossible situations no matter the danger, no matter the risk, no matter if it means today he dines in hell, HE NEVER STOPS.
Batman fights the impossible fight. Batman accomplishes five impossible things before breakfast while we sleep. Why? Because he’s Batman. That is what he does. But also because he chooses to do the impossible. Batman will not accept ordinary limitations saddled on him by society.
Batman dedicates himself to a cause that is unwinnable that will never end, that can only bring pain and misery. He sees all this and laughs, for it is good to struggle. It is good to have a boulder to carry or roll up a mountain every day. For struggle and resistance gives us something to push against, it is how he grow in self-confidence and real world abilities. Struggle and resistance are how we build true strength and iron will. Not through soft living, but through sheer will power and determination.
The Batman struggles and he is grateful for it, how else would he test his limits. How else would he transcend himself.
The Batman rededicates himself to his cause daily. His training never ends. His practice never ends. His determination never ends. His courage, determination and strength of character never end. His life may be defined by one moment of suffering, but suffering to Batman is only another type of knowledge, another of life’s experiences to live and transcend. To feel deeply, passionately and intimately in full awareness, yet not be bound by his suffering.
In a way, however horrible the circumstances that lead Bruce Wayne to becoming Batman, he is grateful because every experience he has endured has made him into the best Batman he can possibly be. Into the man who dedicates himself in service to a higher good, to serving the people of Gotham as their Guardian and eternal protector.
Some train and live and grow weak in the best of conditions.
Some people – like the Batman – forge hearts of iron and minds of steel in the worst possible conditions. They thrive under adversity. The Batman doesn’t shrink away from adversity and challenge in life, he rises like the immortal phoenix, time and again reinventing himself and meeting life’s challenges head on with total confidence, courage, passion and conviction.
He commands body and mind to do his bidding, no matter the external circumstances of his life.
Men of confidence bring their best self forward. Their true self emerges in the white hot fire of pain, difficulty and suffering. They see it all and rise above it, refusing to give an inch, refusing to be a victim, to give up and go home, to crawl away and die somewhere in a corner.
Like Batman, men of confidence have fire in their belly and grit in their eye.
Whether they stand alone or with others, they are naked and unashamed in the world, and they would have it no other way.
Destiny waits for no man.
But destiny will bend and serve those who call it master.
Destiny will serve those whom command themselves to be in alignment with life.
Faced with the choice of being a coward who sinks into mediocrity or being a confident man like Batman who rises – which will you choose?
As for my choice? It’s the same choice I make every day. The one that fills me with determination to face life head on whatever comes my way.
Things we want to keep in the past and would rather our friends not know about us.
But Batman is better than us, right? He’s a master of martial arts, criminology, a a world class detective and apparently a real jack-ass.
It’s time to rifle through Batman’s dirty laundry and shake some skeletons out of the closet and see what turns up.
Here is a list of the Dark Knight’s embarrassingly bad habits, some of which he has managed to beat.
Let’s count down 5 of Batman’s most ill-advised habits, and I’m sure you can suggest a few Bad Batman Habits in the comments.
#5 BATMAN’S CHAIN SMOKING HABIT
In the modern comics Batman is in tip top shape. But it was not always that way. In his earliest appearances he was constantly smoking a tobacco pipe, fitting in time to solve murder cases when we was bored, nor too busy smoking.
Batman / Bruce Wayne loved a good puff back in the day.
Sometimes when he was not busy smoking he would even consider solving a case or two. Because he had “nothing else to do”.
#4 BATMAN USES GUNS
It is no secret that Batman used guns in his first year as a masked dual identity avenger. But that was swiftly changed when the DC staff realized how much kids loved batman – they did away with the guns. Modern Batman has also used guns sometimes, usually getting retconned away at the blink of a batarang.
I love the scene where Batman shoots at some explosives as a distraction.
“Well here goes. I hope I don’t get blown up.”
Way to use your that brain of yours Batman. IDIOT!
#3 BATMAN KEEPS KILLING PEOPLE
The cavalier attitude of Batman in his first year as the Dark Knight Detective resulted in significant incidental deaths. Knocking people out of high rise window, off platforms in chemical factories, swinging into a dudes neck with his foot resulting in a broken neck, not to mention hanging one of Hugo Strange’s Monster Men in Batman#1.
In Detective Comics #27 Batman shoves a man over a railing into an acid tank.
In Detective Comics #30 Batman swings toward a bad guy with his head out a window, his foot directly colliding with the unfortunate mans neck. A sickening *snap* highlights the Batman’s brutal treatment of this criminal.
If you thought that was bad, it gets worse. In the back up story in Batman #1 (the same issue where Robin debuts) Batman hangs one of Hugo Strange’s Monster Men.
On the previous page he fires a mounted machine gun at the bad guys van, commenting
“Much as I hate to take human life, I’m afraid this time it’s necessary!”
If you thought that Batman executing a criminal was bad, it gets worse…
In Detective Comics #39, Batman pushes a giant idol onto a whole mess of bad guys with no remorse, and no good for reason for doing it in the first place.
Unlike in the video games, these guys are not just resting their eyes for a really long time.
#2 BATMAN IS A DRUG ADDICT
In Legends of the Dark Knight #16-20 Batman gets hooked on the super steroid drug Venom (the same drug that villain Bane would take years later).
After failing to save the life of a young girl trapped underwater by a giant boulder, Batman is convinced he needs to get stronger. Failing to surpass his limits in weight lifting, he turns to a new designer drug from a madman chemist who is out to build his own mindless insane Super Soldiers, and he wants to recruit Batman. (Yeah he’s also the villain SHERLOCK, way to use that Bat-Brain of yours again World’s Best Detective!)
The Dark Knight eventually triumphs, but not before becoming a deranged addict, sending Alfred packing and refusing to read the newspaper.
Batman goes to his dealer and also disrespects Alfred. I have not included the panel where he beats up a young kid and threatens to rips his head off. No, I’m not joking.
An overly aggressive and out of balance Bruce sends his trusty Butler and friend Alfred packing
Legends of the Dark Knight #18,1991 has the infamous cover of a strung out Bruce Wayne. In this issue he comes to his senses and has Alfred lock him in the Batcave for a month in a self-imposed detox.
And in the next issue after Batman kicks his habit he fights a shark on one of my favourite Batman covers of all time.
Proving to kids that they don’t need drugs to fight crime or beat up innocent sea creatures!
#1 BATMAN IS BATBALLS CRAZY
In World Finest Comics #153, 1965 Batman becomes convinced that Superman killed his father, slaps Robin for DARING to question his insane crusade to get Superman, and teams up with Lex Luthor (after revealing he is secretly Bruce Wayne/Batman) to finally take down Superman.
Well it was.
The story was part of DC’s line of “Imaginary Stories”. Whatever the hell that meant. Stories that were made up for comic books that never really happened. You know, like every comic book story ever.
Wait a minute, are not ALL comic books stories made up stories?
Who can say what really happened, what was an imaginary story, hallucination or dream sequence? The writers? The readers? Does anyone really care?
It’s a pointless discussion, as all superhero comics are imaginary stories. But fans actually argue about this kind of nonsense all the time in internet forums, podcasts etc. I’ve never done it… as far as you know.
Anyway, take a look at the images for yourself and see how crazy Batman was in this story.
Batman is convinced Superman killed his dad! He must get revenge, but not before he vandalizes a giant picture of Superman – the fiend!
Why he bothered to get a near life sized portrait of Superman to scratch up with a knife when he could have been busy getting revenge on his friend I don’t know. But Bruce Wayne is crazy and has loads of money, so he’ll probably write it off come tax time.
While it is highly unlikely Batman will use any of the bizarre tactics from World’s Finest #153 in Batman V Superman, the idea that he just might makes me laugh.
“I’ll end Superman’s career forever”
Yells an angry Batman to a picture of his parents on the wall.
Yeah, yelling at pictures will get the job done Bats, you nutcase!
Then Batman *slaps* Robin for daring to question his totally bonkers ideas about Superman.
Of course then he hypnotizes Robin (*cough* brain washes) to make him forget their conversation before dashing off like a lunatic to shoot Superman with an air rifle on the next page.
Remember, Batman was NOT on drugs in this story kids, that was a different story.
Batman puts his sniper skills to the test, tagging Superman with a radioactive tracer round.
Later in the story, Batman knocks out Superman with a Kryptonite Batarang, (as you do for good friends) putting a quick end to the former World’s Finest team. It’s dopey but still kind of cool.
During the story Batman reveals his secret identity to Luthor, and teams up with him. The story ends with Batman accidentally finding out (through not using his famous detective skills whatsoever) that Lex Luthor was the one who really killed his father. DOH!
So what bad habits do you feel Batman needs to give up? I look forward to reading your comments.
A hero at best can only reflect our cultural values.
A hero reflects the way we want to see ourselves.
Or how we imagine the best version of ourselves to be.
A hero represents our collective dreams and imagination. Heroes are wish fulfillment fantasies while also being ciphers for projecting the best version of ourselves into the future.
The hero archetype occurs in diverse cultures around the world.
America is home to (and the innovator of) two unique versions of the hero archetype – the silver screen Cowboy and the comic book Superhero.
I love Western films and I can’t get enough of Superhero comic books, so let’s talk a little about heroic archetypes, in this case the definitive Cowboy and the Superhero – Superman and John Wayne.
A hero can choose their actions and live their values, but can only be truly called a hero by an observer. To call oneself a hero means basically nothing, it is more a label other people apply to the hero. The hero simply is.
Modern fictional heroes tend to lean more towards pacifism than historical heroes. But we have no shortage of the soldier/killer hero type of character. Old time Greek heroes from myths and legends thought nothing of killing monsters or their fellow man in the name of their quest, or if the Gods asked them in return for special favors.Modern heroes like Superman resort to violence as a last resort, and try to avoid killing any living thing unless absolutely necessary.
To some people this non-violence is the evolution of the hero archetype in alignment with modern human values, to other people not killing a clear and present threat is just naive. There is no right or wrong answer here, merely differences of opinion and cultural values.
The shadow side of a hero becomes an imperialist, conqueror or being of power who imposes his (or her) will on another, regardless of circumstance. The hero in shadow becomes a self-righteous person unable to stop being the hero, and who is not really a person concerned with serving the genuine needs of others, but with serving their own needs, and enforcing their will on others as they believe they are morally right to do so. The hero as villain may become a benevolent dictator or world conqueror / self appointed ruler.
Superman is the definitive Superhero. He’s a little old fashioned, he sticks up for the little guy and he visits his parents perhaps a little too often. He believes in looking after each other, and he believes in America.
He’s the big blue boy scout, the angel on your shoulder that tells you to avoid doing bad deeds, America’s conscience.
He’s the guy who blah blah blah blah and he……..ZZZZZZZ…..
……..SORRY! I fell asleep there for a moment.
So yeah Superman is a little vanilla, a little boring. At least according to some people. I get it, Superman is not what you would call edgy or cool or extreme like Batman.
But frankly I love Superman. I’ve been reading a a fair amount of classic and modern Superman stories lately, and the more I read the more I love the character. While Batman is my favourite literary character, I can’t think of him without thinking of Superman, they are like Spiritual brothers, forever entwined.
Yes, it’s Superman–strange visitor from another planet who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Superman–defender of law and order, champion of equal rights, valiant, courageous fighter against the forces of hate and prejudice, who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never-ending battle for truth and justice. – Adventures of Superman radio serial, 1940-1951 (thanks to the CBR Comic Book Legends Revealed column for the quote text)
When I think of these semi-mythic timeless pop-cultural icons I am reminded of classical greek myths and legends.
The Avengers are an awesome team, but the JLA are like modern day Gods!
If Superman represents all that is good about America, then Batman is America’s dark underbelly, repressed feelings, ideas and values. Batman is America’s Shadow self that it doesn’t want to acknowledge. I think Grant Morrison sums them up wonderfully in his Supergods book:
“Superman was of the day; Batman was of the night and the shadows. Superman was rational, Apollonian; Batman was Dionysian” writes Grant Morrison in Supergods. This fascinating new hero was horned like the Devil, and most at home in darkness; a terrifying, demonic presence who worked on the side of the angels. – Alex Wainer quoting Grant Morrison in Soul of the Dark Knight: Batman as Mythic Figure in Comics and Film
I tend to think of Superman like Helios and Apollo, Greek mythic figures associated with the sun. Morrison refers to Superman as the “Sungod from Smallville” – after all, Superman is a living solar battery. The more solar energy he stores, the stronger and healthier he is, and the less solar radiation he has stored the weaker he gets. Take away the yellow sun and Superman’s powers fade away until he becomes basically mortal and human.
Superman’s values may be old fashioned but they still have relevance in today’s world. In a healthy creative cycle somebody creates something – let’s say in this case the fictional character Superman.
The character becomes popular, and then that popularity declines. Along with the decline in popularity (but not always) comes experimentation, irrelevance, revision, revamp, relaunch, deconstructionism, post modernism, and eventually a return to the original version via Holism. What was old becomes new again, what was no longer in style comes back in style. The classic version of a character re-emerges, now more fully defined, and thoroughly explored after going through the creative literary cycle.
From Superman’s humble origins as a champion of the underclasses, the poor, and the disenfranchised to a tool of wartime propaganda and later a corporate icon, to his evolution into a protector of the planet earth from threats both alien and terrestrial, Superman is as Seinfeld calls him “the guy”.
Superman is the original, the best, the definition of what a Superhero is, or could hope to be.
Despite his metamorphosis from modern day Moses and Samson into a sort of Space Jesus – Superman is still “the guy”. He’s the gold standard all other superheroes are compared to. He is the living inspiration to generations of fictional heroes in the DC Universe, and he’s an inspiration to a few of us here in the real world too. He may be old fashioned like your Grandfather – but he’s also loving, kind, and lives to serve others.
One of my all time favourite Superman stories that best represents Superman’s values and what he stands for is the tabloid sized Peace on Earth story by Paul Dini and Alex Ross. Superman: Peace on Earth is a great snap shot of the values that Superman embodies, while also showing the limitations of the Sungod from Smallville.
The painted photo-realistic art by Alex Ross in Peace of Earth is based on human models. The base model Ross transforms into a fictional character, with accurate anatomy and lighting that bring his stories to glorious life.
Peace on Earth deals with some possible real world ramifications to Superman forcing change on human beings. Despite the realist art style, the book still feels like a mythic tale of a near immortal sun god who walks among us, and painfully realises despite his immense power he has some very human limitations.
What Superman comes to realise is that you can help people all you like, but ultimately they have to want to help themselves. People have to want to learn and act on that choice themselves, otherwise your efforts can just make people dependent on your “help”, and will perhaps do nothing to evolve in their own way. This kind of help can even set humanity back by making them dependent on a savior figure, instead of choosing to evolve and think for themselves.
Superman: “I can only tell you what I believe, Diana. humankind has to be allowed to climb to its own destiny. We can’t carry them there.” Flash: “But that’s what she’s saying. What’s the point? Why should they need us at all?” Superman: “To catch them if they fall.”
The welfare of Earth and all its people will always be my primary concern. But if there is a solution of hunger, it must be one that comes from the compassionate heart of man and extends outward toward his fellow man. There’s an old saying: ‘Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach him to fish and he eats for a lifetime.’ That simple message asks humankind to nurture with knowledge, to reach out to those in need and inspire others to do the same. That is life’s greatest necessity and its most precious gift. – Superman : Peace on Earth
Okay we will come back to Superman later, but now let’s talk about John Wayne, the all American cowboy hero. John Wayne was an actor, the most famous screen cowboy that ever was, and in many ways, John Wayne IS America.
Or at least he was.
John Wayne stood for the old guard of America, or more specifically pre-Vietnam and pre-civil rights America where the American dream rapidly became the American nightmare. There were cowboys before John Wayne, but during his reign as a Hollywood leading man, John Wayne became the definitive film cowboy, he defined the cowboy archetype and any cowboys who rode the dusty trails in his wake are forever eclipsed by The Duke.
While John Wayne had some controversial, perhaps backwards and conservative views, even his critics admit that he was one hell of a man, who almost never said a bad word (at least publicly) about anyone. Despite his unpopular views during the rapidly changing culture of the post World War II years, and the death of the Western as a film genre in the modern era, John Wayne remains a much loved figure of film culture and Americana.
Wayne’s on screen characters were consistently men of good moral character, who stood up to bullies and outlaws. Wayne had a no nonsense way of speaking his mind both on and off the silver screen. John Wayne was a man’s man. He was big, strong, kind and he spoke his mind. One of his most well known movie maxims “A man’s got to do, what a man’s got to do”.
Wayne’s on screen persona was one of quiet dignity, strength and good moral character. While off screen he spent most of his time involved in the production of his next project, away from his family, and he never went to war.
He was the only person I could think of at the time who could personify great strength and determination without talking much. That sounds easy, perhaps. But it’s not. Either you have it or you don’t.
-John Ford on casting Wayne in Stagecoach
Some of Wayne’s critics felt that John Wayne was a hypocrite for appearing in jingoistic war films, while not going to war himself. At the time, many leading men in Hollywood did go to war. Men such as Jimmy Stewart, Clark Gable and Lee Marvin. Some critics would say there was a disconnect from Wayne’s on screen persona to who he actually was. Despite this seeming hypocrisy, Wayne was still considered a hero by soldiers and civilians alike.
With other leading men away during the war, Wayne had very little competition for lead roles. His career had earlier bombed when he first had the opportunity to be a leading man in The Big Trail (1930), only to be sent back to B-Westerns for the better part of a decade. Had John Wayne gone to war, it likely would have been the death of his career, if not his actual death. Wayne would most likely be remembered as just another struggling actor in B Westerns, or more than likely not remembered at all. Wayne forged an enduring partnership and friendship with director John Ford. Ford believed in John Wayne and insisted on casting him in Stagecoach (1939), the film that made John Wayne’s career.
Whatever went on off screen, it seemed that John Wayne was fated to become one of America’s most beloved leading men. Personally I feel glad that he never went to war to potentially die a pointless death, as his on screen persona would go on to define the role of the American Cowboy hero for decades. You could say John Wayne had a destiny to be exactly who he intended to be in this life, and nothing in this world was going to change that.
While the Cowboy archetype in the negative aspect is one of potential oppression of the Native American people by Colonials, the Cowboy myth in the positive aspect also stands for determination, self-reliance, hard work, honesty and integrity. In short the mythic Cowboy film archetype is also a symbol of the rugged individualism, “can do” attitude and self-determination of America, and is tied to the birth of the American dream.
I feel we can all learn a little something from John Wayne, as a on screen example of heroism and determination in the face of adversity, an example of a man of moral character and strong values. Wayne was human of course, and he had his flaws as all of us do.
Whether ranch hand, settler, farmer, bounty hunter or sheriff, the Cowboy archetype has many facets and permutations. The Cowboy as sheriff or Lawman becomes the modern day urban cop. Industrious settlers became captains of industry. The farmer Cowboy fulfills the typical american dream of marriage, children, property and prosperity born of hard industrious labor and a “can do” attitude.
Modern cowboys still exist in certain parts of America of course, and the general attitude of “Cowboy” is one that America is often labelled with as a whole in a derogatory sense, particularly in reference to America’s never ending invasions and wars in third world countries.
The cowboy archetype never truly died and is alive and well in some modern fictional characters such as Pete Perkins (Tommy Lee Jones) in The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) in Justified, and Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor) in Longmire.
Even John Wayne’s critics had a hard time when they met him in person, finding him an opinionated, strong, likable, intelligent, charismatic and reasonable man.
What John Wayne stands for today, is the archetype of the rugged individual, the man’s man. This classical male archetype that has all but disappeared from our cinema screens in recent decades with the rise of the “sensitive” man and the metrosexual dilution of typically old world male values in mainstream cinema culture.
From the 1960s-2000 we have seen the death of the manly moral Cowboy hero, and the rise of the anti-hero, the amoral bloodthirsty action hero, and the new age metrosexual hero such as Neo in The Matrix (a thin loner computer nerd who becomes an enlightened Superman figure). We’ve seen our heroes and manly men deconstructed, pulled apart, vilified, called redundant, sexist and old-fashioned. Even James Bond was not immune to the rise of culture clash, and changing gender roles at home and in the workplace.
While films like the James Bond series attempted to remain socially relevant by aping changes in cultural values, instead the films merely adopted a horrendously bad politically correct style that left Bond effectively castrated, a shell of his former self. Not until the reinvention of Bond as Daniel Craig in Casino Royale (2006) did Bond get his balls and machismo back.
Post year 2000 we have seen the rise of the comic book superhero film, and not so much a return to the old fashioned potentially racist, sexist misogynist Cowboy heroism, as a further evolution and re invigoration of the hero and heroine archetype. Moral heroes likes Captain America and Superman are back on the big screen where they belong, and what was once old is new again. Thankfully a stand alone Wonder Woman film is finally making its way to the big screen, 70+ years overdue, the tireless icon of the super-heroine, the adopted feminist icon and all around amazing Goddess will hopefully get the cinematic treatment she deserves, standing as a rightful equal next to the JLA in “mans’ world”.
Old fashioned hero vales may be synonymous with bigotry, but they need not be. We can enjoy heroes without them being sexist killers, racists and colonials. Male heroes can have charisma, charm, balls and machismo, without being cookie sexist stereotypes who put women down. Female heroines can be empowered strong Women in their own right, without just being a reaction to male heroes, or serving as convenient plot devices.
The superhero archetype may have been born in a patriarchal world, but there is no reason for superheroes to remain tethered to outdated and irrelevant paradigms.
A hero or heroine need not be anything other than what they choose to be.
The power of the hero and superhero archetype is not locked into the past, but remains progressive and ever-expanding. A hero need not be implicitly be a killer, enforcer of empire, or the “might makes right” attitude.
Many classical and contemporary heroes have been exactly that. But the further evolution of the hero and superhero archetype is not dependent on reinforcing limiting cultural values of the oppression of any individual or group. The hero and heroine archetype does not have to continue to be one of sexism, violence and death, it has far more potential as an archetype of higher values, compassion, co-operation and service to humanity.
With popular comic book heroes we get our puritan moral characters such as Superman and Captain America, our dark, cynical and conflicted characters such as Wolverine, Batman and The Punisher, alongside more middle of the road moral characters such as Spider-Man, and monsters such as the half-human/vampire Blade and the genetic atomic monster The Incredible Hulk. The hero-ism and moral values of these characters varies, each can be said to emphasise a different aspect of the human psyche, allowing for playful healthy expression of our higher values and darker desires in safe context.
The over dominance of male-centric hero characters and plots reflects an unbalanced patriarchal society while simultaneously showing our fear of embracing the feminine aspects of our psyche, both in men and women.
Superhero cinema embraces and draws upon all other genres at its leisure. Action movies, horror, science fiction, drama, fantasy, existentialism, comedy, western. Any and all filmic tropes are up for grabs. The Wild Bunch or The Dirty Dozen can become the Suicide Squad. The Magnificent Seven or Ocean’s 11 can become The Avengers.
The further evolution and integration of basic human values in Superhero Cinema is up to the new generation of writers and film makers. Will they continue down the outmoded path of sexist colonial male heroes with women sidelined as femme fatales, kung-fu divas and other ridiculous stereotypes? Or perhaps dare to evolve themselves and their world by writing strong independent female heroines? In my opinion we need more Joss Whedon’s and Angelina Jolie’s in the world. We need to hear the authentic voice of the feminine at all levels of society, particularly in superhero cinema.
Getting back to Superman (you didn’t seriously think I was done did you?) – Superman’s story is the ultimate immigrant story. As a character he is timeless and universal. While born on Krypton and adopted by Ma an Pa Kent on Earth, Superman is truly a citizen of the world, an advocate along with Wonder Woman for world peace, and a tireless champion of Justice, Freedom and Truth.
The famous phrase “Truth, Justice and the American Way” was not part of the original incarnation of Superman, the “American Way” part was added later during World War Two, most famously it was adopted by the George Reeves Superman TV show, and then became part of Superman lore.
Truth and Justice can be said to be ideals that can apply in any nation, but “The American Way” makes Superman into an imperialist, an enforcer of American culture and values. Fans and some writers would argue he has outgrown that status, and has become more like modern world mythology. Superman today then belongs not only to America, but to the world. The character even renounced his US Citizenship in Action Comics #900, however it is unknown whether that story by David S. Goyer was canon, or merely a one off experiment.
As a non-American, I agree with the decision of Superman. He is more than an American. He is a symbol of peace, justice and humanity. He is no more the puppet toy of one country.
-An anonymous internet fan on Superman renouncing his US Citizenship in Action Comics #900
Revisionist and post-modern Superhero stories such as Watchmen, Miracle Man, Dark Knight Returns, Superman: Red Son, The Authority and Irredeemable show the potential negative side of the Superman archetype. These stories show a Superman figure as a potential tool of empire, as an iron fisted tyrant, an otherworldly alien threat (the eternal outsider or “other” who threatens the status quo), and as an mentally ill evil alien God of near limitless power.
While these stories are entertaining and brilliant in their own right, their place in the canon of Superhero stories is part of a larger cycle. Creation, Innovation, Experimentation, Deconstructionism, Post-Modernism and eventual metamorphosis back to Holism (the reintegration of the various deconstructed story parts and themes that often resembles the very first version of character) means that even stories not about Superman, ultimately help to define who and what Superman IS, by showing us what he is NOT.
In a similar fashion, the Batman “Knightfall” story gave the world a Batman it did not want, and clearly demonstrated that Batman (as an idea) was not broken, and was not in need of fixing. Similarly, Superman is not “broken” or irrelevant. The Man of Steel’s stories are as strong and relevant as the authors ability to write engaging fiction.
Superman stories are as emotionally resonant and deeply meaningful as a writer allows them to be.
The values Superman stands for are not just old fashioned and irrelevant so much as timeless and subject to innovation that ultimately brings the character full circle back to his earliest incarnation. Superman (and Batman) can withstand endless revisionism and retconning because they are such strong well defined characters to begin with, yet with room to project something of ourselves onto the characters so that we can also relate to them.
One writer who has struck a chord with modern fans is Jeph Loeb. Loeb has been a writer for the big and little screens, and comic books for several decades. Jeph Loeb knows characterisation and plot like the back of his hand. More than that, he knows how to reinvent a character for a new audience, or reinterpret a character to bring them back in line with their core values that were present all along. What was old and boring becomes fresh and new again in the hands of a talented writer such as Jeph Loeb.
The earliest version of Superman was a man of the people, and for the people. While modern Superman battles crooks, super-criminals and space aliens on a weekly basis, he still rescues cats from trees, saves damsels in distress and helps out the common man and woman however he can. Superman never truly ceased being a man of the people, he just took on more responsibility than anyone could rightly ever ask him to. He transcended and included his earlier stories, he continues to be the champion and inspirational figure he always was and will be, while evolving beyond a simple minded moralistic crusader of Truth, Justice and the American Way.
Modern Superman is smart and capable. While the sungod from Smallville walks among us, no less a man than a God, he is still flawed and deeply human. He makes mistakes and questions his actions like any sane person would do. Modern Superman is more complex, more intelligent, stronger and most importantly more human than his earliest incarnation.
Superman is in a sense the best of us, or one potential version of what we collectively imagine the best version of ourselves to be. He is a man from Smallville, a farmer, a keen eyed reporter, and a living deity of near limitless power. To some he is Hercules and Samson, to others he is baby Moses floating down the Nile river, to others he is a messianic Christ like figure who suffers for our ill-informed choices, and never complains as all he has for us is Love, tolerance and peace – no matter how badly we treat him.
Superman can take it, because now and forever, he is “the guy”. The cloth, the mold from which all Superheroes are cut and defined. The all American square jaw, the courage of his convictions, his kindness and generosity, his tireless service to his fellow man and calm demeanor are what define Superman and make him the person we aspire to be. His humble upbringing on a farm in Smallville and very down to earth old fashioned parents inform who Superman is. Superman is basically the most moral character ever created in Superhero fiction.
Superman sets the bar of human values and achievement high. While we may never reach the same heights as the Sungod from Smallville who can lift mountains and see microscopic bacteria and macroscopic worlds and galaxies in outer space beyond our limited vision, he knows that we will try to do our best and he will be there to catch us when we fall.
Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! (“Look! Up in the sky!” “It’s a bird!” “It’s a plane!” “It’s Superman!”)… Yes, it’s Superman … strange visitor from another planet, who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men! Superman … who can change the course of mighty rivers, bend steel in his bare hands, and who, disguised as Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way! And now, another exciting episode, in The Adventures of Superman!
Dreams save us. Dreams lift us up and transform us. And on my soul, I swear…until my dream of a world where dignity, honor and justice becomes the reality we all share–I’ll never stop fighting. Ever. – Superman in Action Comics #775
John Wayne was more than one of Hollywood’s most famous and most successful actors – he was, and still is, an icon and a symbol of American itself. Wayne projected dignity, integrity, and strength in all his films, even when his characters were flawed.
– Scott Eyman, author of John Wayne: The Life and Legend
When I think of the best qualities of America, I think of a nation that has embraced immigrants and diversity, a nation of unlimited opportunity, a nation of freedom of expression, a nation free from the tyranny of Kings, Lords and Royal Families who considered themselves divinely appointed rulers and whose rule was absolute and unquestionable.
While those are all fine ideals, the dark underbelly of America is corruption at the highest levels eating the heart of America like a flesh eating virus that will eventually kill its host.
I am ashamed at the alarmingly high rate of incarcerated African Americans, the relentless irresponsible spending of the War Machine disguised as “Liberty”, and the propaganda that America has enemies it must fight, or foreign nations it must liberate. I am ashamed that the once proud and free America has allowed itself to be taken over by greedy corporations and mega-banks who control much of the country, and have far more power, money and influence than the Government.
It is easy to hike up taxes when there is a war on, or some other fear inducing national crisis to be milked for all its worth. America is a strange nation that makes peace by dropping bombs and shooting bullets, but I question whether those actions are in the best interests of the American people. Home of the brave and free, or home of the unintentionally enslaved?
I think of archaic horrendous policies like Rendition and turning back the clock on human and civil rights with Guantanomo Bay. Sadly America has made itself a world leader that coerces other countries through trade agreements to “play ball” or else.
To see America as all shiny red and blue superheroes, rainbows and lollipops is to live in a dangerously delusional and naive fantasy world. The worlds of American movies and fantasy paint a different story. They tell us the story of how America used to be, or at least how America imagined itself to be at its best and how it wants to be seen on the world stage. But that America does not exist any more, and you have to wonder at this point if it ever did.
By contrast seeing America as all cocaine cowboys, mercenaries, and corrupt governments run by shadow corporations is also only a partial truth. The larger almost incomprehensible truth I suspect is somewhere in the middle, and of course I am using extreme examples to make a point.
Every country has its best self and its worst self.
What I like about American culture is the spirit of independence within the heart of Americans. I love the “can do” attitude and the will to work to better themselves.
It pains me to see that spirit being undermined by a country being divided amongst itself, rather than united. The endless “justified” wars and manufactured over inflated crises that keep people too poor and afraid to do anything to help themselves. The rampant pollution and environmental devastation and corruption at every level that keeps people too sick, stuck in survival mode and afraid to really stand up to the corporate overlords as a collective of free thinking individuals.
I love the values that Superman and John Wayne represent, and the America that exists in popular fiction. But was that America ever real, did it ever exist, or was it merely an unrealised dream? I have no idea. The unparalleled prosperity America knew in the post World War II era was in part because the factories and exports of competing nations had been bombed to hell. Once they recovered, life was not so sweet and easy for the average Joe and Jane.
A cynical view of Supes and the Duke sees them as conservative puppets of the establishment – but the values I identify with these two icons more than any other are those of hard work, self-reliance, self-confidence, courage and kindness. But are those values rewarded in modern America or are people trying to get ahead in a rigged game? Are people really enjoying the fruits of their labor, or are they finding that Government does whatever the hell it wants to do, no matter what opinions and choices the people voice.
What happens when you work hard to get ahead, live an honest life but then the Government decides to take your house away anyway in the name of “progress” and urban expansion? What happens when people fight a war of independence, only to succumb to a virtual dictatorship or at best an Oligarchy from a shadow Government that publicly talks about making changes for the better, while privately locking up and torturing anyone they like without trial after publicly calling them a “terrorist” and throwing away the key?
Is it because we collectively LET it happen through not standing up to the authorities who are supposed to represent the will of the people? When did the servants become the masters? When did the officials elected to represent the American people decide to kick out the owners of the house, and change from servants into ego-driven dictators? When did the American Dream turn into the American Nightmare?
I love what the Heart and Spirit of America stands for, but does that America still exist?
Despite all this, I believe that the Heart, Spirit and Soul of the American people is strong, and one day soon, big changes will take place. The dinosaurs who dictate to the people of America are dying a slow, painful and long overdue death.
Their life support machines are failing, their life insurance policies will not be cashed, a new energy, a new blood is being born onto the planet who will be the final extinction of the “Greed is Good” mantra that has ruled America in recent decades.
Superman and John Wayne are icons and symbols of America itself. In many ways they ARE America.
They represent the best and worst of the nation. They represent freedom and independence, but they also represent the might makes right attitude. To be a hero, you gotta make someone else into the villain, and America loves to invent new villains every week so they have someone to fight or liberate.
Their is a danger in the hero archetype that those who see themselves as heroes will enforce their will unquestioningly. Hitler believed himself to be a hero for the German people. He’s no hero in my book. If he were alive and I met him today, I’d punch him in the face for sure no matter what the consequences. America loves to see itself as Cowboys and Superheroes on the world stage, but the danger in that view is that somebody has to become the villain, otherwise the hero just does not exist.. Somebody else has to be “wrong” to make America “right”, hence the constant invention of new enemies and perceived threats.
However what I love about Superman and John Wayne is that they are both men of character and principle. It’s easy to be soft and lazy, it’s easy to drop out, not care or be cynical. It takes a tough and emotionally strong person to give a damn, to have the courage of their convictions, to not be swayed by the crowd of popular opinion.
The true test of ones convictions is when we stick to our principles during the hardest times in our lives.
It is easy to have principles and values when there is nothing that challenges those values. The true test of character is when we face struggle and opposition and we just keep on marching forward, enduring the unendurable, being true to our word, our actions flowing from our principles without hesitation or second guessing.
The danger here of course is that we may be wrong. Might does not make right in my view.
But right or wrong, our actions speak louder than words. There is no greater coward than a person who refuses to engage with the world, or take any kind of action at all. The man (or woman) who acts and is proven wrong still commands greater respect then the man who fails to act at all. Having tried and failed, those who act have the choice to modify their actions, and learn from their mistakes. Those too full of fear, doubt and the mental virus of self-loathing fail to act, and thus fail to learn or to truly live life in all of its complexity.
Having never risked anything, never gained, never lost, the person of inaction can be said never to have lived at all.
Cowboys and Superheroes are more than anything, men of action.
Dynamic figures of bold confidence who command our attention and inspire with their acts of valor, heroism and bravery. More than their physical achievements, they inspire by example, through being living examples of abstract principles, ideas and values. John Wayne is America. Superman is America.
We should emulate the archetypal hero’s core values if we want to better ourselves. We can enjoy heroes and heroines as entertainment, but we should not act out the violence of the Hero, Superhero and the Cowboy. Let the fictional characters act out the violence we feel in our hearts so that we need not enact that violence in the real world. To be like our heroes also means acknowledging and finding a healthy outlet for the darker aspects of our own nature, rather than repressing those impulses.
America for better or worse is a nation of achievers and people who take action. Despite rampant corruption in business and government at the heart of America is a “CAN DO” attitude. I can’t say the same about the UK, Australia and New Zealand. If you succeed in America or dare to dream, people encourage you. While in countries like my adopted homeland of Australia, people tend to shoot down your dreams and ask you to “be realistic”. Basically code for “Be mediocre like me, go nowhere, do nothing, attempt nothing, be nothing“.
I’d like to see more people taking action from their heart of hearts, and not just thinking of short term goals, but what is good for us as individuals and as an intelligent evolving species on this planet.
What I love about America is that it embodies more than any other nation on the planet, the idea of:
I CAN AND I WILL, I DO AND I DARE
Superman and John Wayne are men of action, men of myth and legend. Men of moral character, men who live their values in every breath and step they take and embody the kind of self-confidence, dignity and pride that can not be faked.
And that is what I love about America, those eternal values that will never die in my view, no matter what corruption festers in the background undermining the hearts and souls of the honest hard working American people.
There is power in the hero and superhero archetype, but whatever power it holds is only what we give to it, and what we allow to manifest within ourselves as we live our lives, and live our core values.
Superman is not just an alien with extraordinary abilities, far above mortal men… he cares for us. He radiates decency and integrity, it’s not just the powers that makes him a great man, it is because he is Clark Kent. He, the All-American country boy from the Heartland. Clark Jerome Kent is too integral to the mythos and grandieur that is Superman. That rocket could have been choosen to have landed anywhere, at any time, even fleshed out for decades. Could it–would it have been the same? Perhaps, but I am thankful such curiosities are left to Elseworlds. The Kent’s wholesome upbringing they raised Kal-El with is what makes Superman a gentle being filled with warmth, kindness, and innocence. An adopted son of man and Earth with honest values and a big heart.
What is true is that we humans cannot shrink the Universe or its God down to something we can see and understand. We, to understand, must expand our ways of understanding to infinite and eternal expanses. -Bob Laughlin, Denver, USA
In the modern world our mythologies and legends have been deconstructed.
Our cultural stories have been torn apart, dismantled, analysed to death and seen through the eyes of post-modernism and a rational scientific mind.
Our religions, spiritual and wisdom traditions have been endlessly studied, analysed and pulled apart.
At the end of it all we have culturally dismissed most, if not all of it as irrelevant or at least the childish beliefs of primitive societies. While the inherent corruption and power of cult like societies that steal people’s money while keeping them stupid has diminished, we have also lost some important benefits along the way.
Few people in the modern world consider mysticism a genuine spiritual path, yet most if not all religious founders had some sort of mystical experience of love and unity, the watering down of that experience then becomes all sorts of nonsense beliefs and practices by people who don’t understand what was attempting to be communicated by the founder who had the direct experience of a higher reality. This is generalising of course, as religions, belief systems and political messages are added to, redacted and promoted or neglected according to who is in power, and what cultural story is being massaged into an easily digestible group of beliefs.
We have thrown out our myths and fables, which served as communal ways of transmitting not only important life lessons, but basic survival skills while warning us of genuine dangers such as predatory animals and the danger of wandering into the wilderness away from our tribe or group where death was a constant threat. Our cultural stories are infinitely adaptable to any belief system and we tell stories to small children, and it becomes part of their ongoing education.
As adults stories entertain us but also can be used to convey important life lessons. At no point do we cease individually or collectively growing and learning. Life is growth. Of course we can choose to remain stupid and not learn, nobody is forcing us. We may have moved on from the fundamentalist mythic-literal interpretation of events in world religions, we may dismiss myths and fables as silly stories from a primitive world view. However, if we deconstruct our cultural stories, this in no way fulfills our genuine need that was at least partly satisfied by those stories.
Our need for cultural values passed on through oral traditions, our need for wisdom, a sense of belonging, our place in the world, our unique personal story, and the mass story of our tribe, town, city, nation or world story. This article then is about stories and myths, our need of them, how they fail to meet our needs and how we live in constantly changing times where our mass cultural stories and fictional stories are all up for grabs. Our mass and local culture is being rewritten, re-interpreted, re-invented. As deconstructionism and reductionism have served their purposes, the inevitable move then is back to Holism, to arrive at the place where we have always been. Let us say for example you take a modern car / automobile and you pull it apart. You take every piece of it and completely dismantle it, label every piece carefully, you look carefully at all the parts, see the functions they have and can accurately tell someone everything you have learned from taking the car apart, you have learned all you possibly can from this process. Now, suppose you have to be on the other side of town within the next hour. What use is the car to you in this disassembled state?
We still have need of a vehicle to take us to our intended destination.
We have dismantled our cultural myths, we have dismantled our religions (although some still choose to be part of them). We have dismantled and studied the ways of life of hundreds of generations who proceeded our time on this earth. We feel that we are above all of that primitive stuff, we feel that we are above – rather than a part of – Nature. That somehow the religion of Science will fix everything, that there are experts somewhere who have it all figured out. We still have the same needs as human beings that led to those myths, religions, spiritual and wisdom traditions and cultural stories being formed in the first place.
We may currently be living in the techno-inspired future of Tron, The Matrix and The Terminator, but we are still running around in hunter gather bodies primed for action and reaction to immediate physical threats. Our intellect has grown in leaps in bounds while we have lost touch with our “primitive” bodies, the modern workspace and educational arenas see us ill-equipped to handle adrenaline and nor-adrenaline dumps into our blood stream to in response to threats both imaginary and real. Modern man then is cut off his at the head, disconnected from his body. We stand on the verge of reintegrating our lost stories and values, our lost ways of being. But where we are at present is a place of fear and uncertainty that can lead to inaction where action is required.
We are then the hunter gatherers who have evolved to greater intelligence and sophisticated culture and domination of the natural world, but have yet to evolve our world views. Like a caterpillar mid transformation, the promise of the butterfly is yet to appear, and some traditionalists want to remain caterpillars, while progressives argue that we are already butterflies. From my perspective I would say we are collectively like Neo in The Matrix, some of us have taken the “reality” pill, while others are as yet undecided, but the future of humanity demands that we both grow up and wake up to ourselves and our world. To remain ignorant is a luxury none of us can afford if we want to survive as species. What we have not done in the modern world is create a new world myth, world religion or world spirituality to replace what we have pulled apart. We are a culture and world obsessed with technology, but we have yet to reconcile our hunter gatherer roots with our techno space age ambitions. No true synthesis of belief system that incorporates our previous ways, meets out genuine needs and integrates with our modern and post-modern technological world view has yet appeared. What we are left with is endless yearning for something undefinable, something just out of reach.
We don’t quite know what that something IS but we know we have the capacity to fulfill any wish or desire we may entertain. The cycle of satisfaction and completion escapes us when we are lost in frivolous pursuits and neglect the essentials of life. We lack a communal world story to match out current living at a world-centric level. Our problems are no longer just local, but global. But our religions and spiritual traditions have remained in the cultural dark ages while our every day reality has blasted off to the the moon and back.
Old time religions where never intended to handle world-centric concerns. It’s like asking a Ford Model T to outperform a V8 Supercar, Formula 1 or Nascar in a race, that old Ford vehicle was NEVER intended for such a task, and is completely incapable of fulfilling that purpose. Our technological progress have outpaced out spiritual progress as a species and few today are capable of even defining what Spirituality even means, instead being lost in petty arguments about whose version of the Truth is more “true”.
Some have tried to synthesize a new world view based on the old world views, but so far attempts at world religions, world spirituality and/or belief systems have failed. And some people would say good, we don’t need it, we are no longer primitives running around with stone and wooden idols making human sacrifices to some god in the hopes that our crops will grow and that we will be successful in slaughtering our enemies/neighbors/friends whose hearts we have literally ripped out while atop our glorious citadels. We have taken the old ways, pulled them apart, claim we understand them and they are redundant in our new scientific world view (Science being the default world religion of today).
There is a clear and present danger in assuming we know everything there is to be known.
That kind of arrogant erroneous thinking led to limited beliefs like the world being flat and that the earth was the center of the known Universe. When some new information comes along that proves how clueless we are as a species, we tend to try and categorise and apply it within old world paradigms. But that is like trying to play a DVD or Blu-Ray disc on a record player, not only does it not work, the technologies are fundamentally incompatible. Retrofitting new world experiences into old world paradigms is a recipe for disaster, if not mass voluntary suicide through ignorance.
Progress through the Sciences is generally met with resistance, ridicule and denial, often one grave at a time. As the old guard dies off, new ideas and theories gain the opportunity to flourish or flounder among younger generations who eventually grow up and replace the old guard completely. When new ideas are suggested, we often view them through the filter of our old world beliefs. But we just metaphorically threw out most of our old ideas, or rejected them as irrelevant back in the beginning of this article – so where does that leave us?
We live in a cultural, religious, scientific and spiritual ghetto.
Where does that leave us? It leaves us with the story of “no story”. It leaves us thinking hey, we are pretty smart, we don’t need all that old cultural junk from pre-modern times, it just held us back, we’re marching boldly forward into the future baby! But what if some of those old ideas and traditions actually held something quite valuable, that we did not recognise. What if amongst the noise of wars, persecution, assassinations, executions and genocide of the old world in the name of the most holy, or whatever King or dictator was flavor of the month – we lost something of our unique cultural story and perspective?
What if we overlooked some very fundamental needs that were addressed through life lessons and fables by those old world stories? What if there were deeper meanings to those stories we learned as children that we would neither understand nor comprehend understand until we were adults and seriously inquire into our inner and outer universe? Another perspective at being at a place of “no story”, is that we are in metaphorical terms at a point of “zero” or infinity. At the point of zero, everything is possible.
Eventually we will have a new cultural mass story, but first our old ways have died like the Dinosaurs, the hazard of moving to zero point is that we lose our traditions and gradual incremental growth oriented changes. Good cultural stories, be they scientific, religious or purely poetic or mythic are like a Trojan Horse. Outwardly they appear as one benign and perhaps beautiful form, while inside they contain something potentially more powerful that may help or harm us. Good stories may act as catalysts, as information that interacts with out unique consciousness to unleash our innate potentials by reminding us of who we are and the life we intended to live before we got distracted by the ‘noise’ of the world. Good stories exist on multiple levels that can speak to different ages and generations. Good stories can have every day simplistic meanings in union with deeper symbolic meanings, every element then becomes essential and we should consciously aim to understand the literal AND symbolic meanings of good stories, we should aim to understand both the simple and the complex in life, valuing both interpretations equally. How we learn and evolve is partly through increasing our simultaneous parallel perspectives on life. The more contrasting and complementary points of view we are able to hold within our own minds at one time the greater our mental model of reality and life becomes. The cyclic journey of our lives appears to be a circle, but from a different perspective the unique story arcs of our individual lives is more akin to a spiral that seemingly overlaps with a return to the resonant themes and motivation of our lives, this spiral then is a growth of our selves in time as we overlap previous versions of ourselves. Sometimes when we seem to be at the end of something in life, we are truly starting from zero with new perspectives. Regression seems to be a step backwards, but our inner and outer journey in life is a series of spirals that bring us full circle through our path of learning with ever deepening meaning and an expanding perspective. A big part of that learning in today’s world is learning not only our own cultural history and traditions, but the history, traditions and ways of life of other cultures. We are only capable of thinking within the dominant paradigms we grew up with in our own culture and passively absorbed as children. While we learn from our mass and individual history, a key point is not to be enslaved to any idea that does not serve our needs for the sake of “tradition”.
Tradition is fundamentally the passing on of daily habit through ritualised repeated behaviors for people who have no access to written records, or are under the rule of an oppressive leader. Tradition and ritual preserve cultural wisdom across all fields, as well as the deeper subtle fields of the inner universe (your own mind), soliciting both beneficial inner states and outward physical action. If we want to expand our personal realities and intelligence then there is a need to learn the ways of people from cultures different than the culture we grew up in, not just their outer actions but how they elicit their inner subjective states, their fundamental relationship to how they perceive the world – while remaining committed to your own learning, expansion of love and not being a slave to any ideas or limited philosophies that oppress humanity along the way.
To transcend and include, but not be held back by anyone or anything. Our devaluation of wisdom traditions and ways of the old world has lead us to feel collectively lost and alone in an existential void, and we try so hard to fill that void with drugs, bad relationships, food, sex, entertainment, or anything else, but it is never enough and does not truly satisfy us. Anything to offer a brief reprieve from that emptiness that we so desperately need to be satisfied, and which can easily be satisfied once we identify that which is essential in life, that which is real and timeless. We collectively lost sight of our traditions as they became more and more perverted through the willful destruction of libraries, perversions of sacred teachings by rulers who seek to control the masses, genocides, wars, gaps in the passing down of traditions, or that good old standby – mad power mongers and super-villain like rulers with iron fists who tear down culture and tradition in the name of their own inflated ego or anti-life philosophy. Think Dr. Doom, Thanos, Darkseid, Stalin, Hitler etc. To destroy the will and heart of a people, you take away their culture, you take away, destroy or pervert their personal story. You break the will and the Spirit of people be denying them their basic freedoms and sowing seeds of doubt and mistrust in their own minds about who they fundamentally are in their heart of hearts.
I don’t have the answers, just an inquiring mind that never rests – and I do not suggest you look for the answer to life’s biggest questions in a Hollywood movie. But, in the existential wasteland we live in contributed to by deconstructionism and a post-modern rational scientific world view there now exists a vacuum, and nature abhors a vacuum. Something will come along to fill it, it may be good or bad, but what that something is we do not know.
The future arrives one day at a time, and it is not all hover boards, DeLorean’s and sports almanacs. Part of what has stepped into that existential void we currently live in is modern superhero cinema. It is only one contender, one idea in the ring, and it is not the only idea out there. Superhero cinema in no way replaces or meets our actual needs in life, and I do not mean to suggest it does. Superhero cinema does not replace genuine Spirituality or man’s search for for or relationship with God in any way.
I believe that Superhero cinema can be inspiring, uplifting, but also remind us of own potential for greatness, and inspire us to live out not only our grandest dreams, but to co-operate with others, to be considerate and be of service however we can in life.
When I watch the old Star Trek shows, I see a human race that bickers and fights amongst itself, but I see a human race that is ultimately united in their mission and purpose. Good science fiction, fantasy and superhero stories can help to remind us that we are one human race, one big family, and the sooner we learn that lesson, the more can co-operate and work together creatively instead of inventing new ways to slaughter each other. I love when fiction reminds us of that possibility. For to manifest out hearts desire we must first see that desire as possible, we must imagine a future grander than any Star Trek like utopia where humanity functions as a healthy whole organism, as symbiotic organisms that live with the earth and its many species rather than as parasites or viruses who attack their host. The hero archetype and myth is as old as time itself, the particular superhero evolution of the hero archetype is just another spin on a timeless tale. Whether the hero/heroine and superhero/superheroine archetype is one that ultimately serves us or holds us back as a species, as a culture is really up to us. Where we place our values, what we invest our time and efforts in ultimately determines the direction of our lives.
The Hero’s Journey of Joseph Campbell is a fascinating, deep, insightful and meaningful work. However that work comments on the past, on what is and has been. As valuable as it is, it only a beginning. It can only tell us where we have been, and not where we are going. The Hero’s journey is one of common tropes across different cultures in different times identified within a patriarchal paradigm that displaces female power by necessity. Whether we continue to define the Heroine and Superheroine in male terms, as reactions to male power, rather than finding the authentic voice of feminine power and strength within women and men as we live today, and incorporate that into our stories and new mythologies is up to us. The re-emergence of the suppressed divine Goddess within all of us is long overdue. Living as we currently do is psychologically unbalanced for both sexes, how and when we address that issue is up to us as individuals and as communities. Men need to be able to express their emotions and follow their intuition, Women need to be able to stand up as self-confident empowered individuals and equals, and not as merely reactions to perceived male power.
Each of us must do the hard inner work of acknowledging and allowing healthy expression of the male and female aspects of the psyche within each of us. Collectively we must work to embody our deepest values in the outer world as free thinking and feeling men and women. Perhaps it is time on this planet for the artificial battle of the sexes to come to an end, and instead be replaced by a genuine equality and co-operation that we have never known in modern times. It is up to us to create, model and live that way of being, and to refuse to back away from the challenge.
We should not remain prisoners of the past, or outmoded ways of living, merely because what is new and different may at first be frightening and strange to us. Life is change and motion, evolution and growth whether we want it to be or not. We can resist the flow of life, or move along with the beat of the evolutionary impulse within our hearts.
So within the existing cultural and explicitly sexist paradigm of the Patriarchy we currently live in, I feel several significant films have come along that attempt to address our unmet need for myth, meaning and story in our lives. I am not saying that they satisfy our genuine needs, or that movies should ever take the place of genuine wisdom – just that one offshoot of the never ending evolution of story telling has appeared in a popular format that speaks to the masses.
Inspiring films are a complement to, rather than a replacement of our other activities in life. However, while good, these films also fail to integrate feminine energy, to integrate authentic feminine voice and power, despite however seemingly progressive some of them may be. Storytelling, like most other arts has become so commercialized that we barely recognise its roots and origins. The films that we find satisfying not only as pure entertainment and escapism, all have deeper philosophical meanings layered within their narrative structure.
The films I feel that best meet this criteria for putting an emphasis on myth and magic, on Science and Spirit – and this is not a complete list, just well known films that fit the bill that I happen to like a lot – are Star Wars (1977), Superman (1978), Rocky (1976), The Matrix (1999), X-Men (2000) Spider-Man (2002), Batman Begins (2005) The Dark Knight (2008) and The Avengers (2012). I could have chosen others, but these films were seen by enough people that even those who have never seen them have at least heard of the characters, and all of these films feature archetypal heroic stories. Part of the appeal of modern hero and superhero cinema is the very primal, fundamental way in which the films attempt to address our need for stories, myths and cultural narrative. Whether Rocky, Batman or the Avengers, superhero cinema is a celebration of old world traditional values (but not Dogma) wrapped up in a shiny new package. Superhero cinema tells the timeless tale of heroes and heroines rising and triumphing over adversity, growing in wisdom and knowledge to meet life’s challenges, and offering their unique gifts in service to the world – rather than sinking away into depression and feelings of powerlessness. What constitutes the core values of a Hero or Superhero, what makes them a hero in the old world sense is the quest, facing adversity, victory etc. A hero in our modern context in my view however is not so much about any particular quest.
The hero I most often think of and admire is Batman. His quest is ordinary and never ending.
He can never win, his quest will never finish, he can never win, it is by definition impossible. Yet he fulfills his duty anyway, not because of any external rewards, not for any magical swords or fair maidens or the love of the people. Batman gives his gifts selflessly, because there is a genuine need for him in Gotham City. But more than that, Batman is simply who Bruce Wayne is. Batman is Bruce Wayne’s calling in life, it is his mission, sole purpose and primary focus in life to be Batman, along with everything that represents.
As an avatar of darkness and shadows, Batman makes the unknown known, he makes the unconscious conscious, shedding light on the ugliest parts of humanity that we refuse to see, acknowledge or integrate.
Batman is a metaphor for the alchemy of our mind and soul, of how to integrate and transform our darkest impulses and direct them towards our highest good.
What I love about Batman, or Spider-Man or the Avengers is that they knowingly face certain death and impossible situations, yet they boldly march forward, because being a hero is what is in their DNA, it defines who they are. Heroes in my mind are selfless individuals who serve the needs of others not just out of a sense of duty or responsibility, but because they genuinely care about the welfare of others.
They are heroes not just because they choose to be, but because they don’t know how NOT to be Heroes, they don’t know how to shut off their humanity or to suppress their feelings, so instead they must be who they are. The heroic movies may focus on spectacle and action, but the heart of a hero is forged in the crucible of testing their values against adversity while not compromising themselves. A hero then is one who serves others and lives by their core values, their own moral code and not by the laws of the nation, and is not motivated by external forces. A hero follows what is in their heart, what they know to be true, and a true hero does what they do out of love for humanity, out of love for life. This article is a long one and I I have plenty more to say on this topic, so I’ve broken it up into two parts – stay tuned for PART#2, where I will discuss the themes and the cool bits of each of the films I just mentioned in detail. I’ll be talking about Rocky and Batman, X-Men and other great characters. Stick around, you’ll be glad you did!