My favourite version of Batman is the Denny O Neil / Neal Adams globe trotting James Bond inspired Batman of the 70’s…
My favourite Batman is the relentless Manhunter Paul Dini version in Batman the Animated Series…
My favourite Batman is the ass kicking one man army we get in the Arkham Asylum video games…
My favourite Batman is the uncompromising driven Batman we see in Chris Nolan’s Batman Begins…
Truthfully I have no “favourite” version of Batman.
In my mind I do, but he’s a composite of everything that has been in 70+ years, of comics, games, animation, TV, movies, art and more – and some things I add in my own imagination of my ideal Batman that reflect my own values. My ideal Batman is the archetype of Batman himself, the very IDEA of Batman is my favourite version.
A man is just flesh and blood and can be ignored or destroyed. But as a symbol… As a symbol, I can be incorruptible, everlasting – Bruce Wayne / Batman Begins
Batman is a clearly defined character, but he is also a cipher – he’s this template or archetype who is whatever we want him to be, he reflects our values today, and his characterization shifts over the decades to mirror our values.
In my mind and in my heart of hearts Batman is the guy who channels all his pain and anger and frustration into his war on crime, his life is one of service to a higher good that he probably doesn’t even comprehend or think about.
Batman will never solve / fix / end crime permanently. He knows it and we know it.
There are cops out there in the real world who do an amazing job. Sure there are bad eggs that we hear about in the media, but most cops are honest hard working stiffs doing the best they can to function in a corrupt system. They don’t expect to solve crime forever, and neither would we expect them to.
Expecting Batman to solve crime is unrealistic and well… a bit silly.
Do you expect a fireman to put out fires permanently?
Or do you expect them to turn up when the shit hits the fan and do everything in they can in their power to be of service?
Batman is like an emergency response unit. He turns up to whatever crisis he can, as often as he can, and then he moves on to the next crisis.
ALWAYS BE BATMAN!
BUT WHAT CAN ONE INDIVIDUAL DO?
Not solving crime forever is not some sort of failure on Batman’s part. His strength is standing up and saying;
“I’m one guy, look at the difference I make in the world, look at what ONE person can do who has a real mission in life”
It might seem like bullshit, but, well…
Gandhi was one person.
Martin Luther King was one person.
Einstein was one person.
THIS MOFO ABSOLUTELY WILL NOT STOP
Batman is an incredible example of relentless determination, of unrelenting fury and passion and pain channeled into a single cause with an unwavering laser-like focus and precision.
His commitment is total, he never gives up, and he absolutely will not stop doing the best he can, is his unique way to be of service to the world.
He’s not a saint, you could say he’s not even a hero if you like. But what he is an unrelenting force of nature, he’s all the dark and scary shit you don’t want to deal with in life manifested in a single wraith-like form . He’s all that and more, he doesn’t run from fear and pain, he is fear and pain. And as a manifestation of all our unconscious dark scary psychological stuff, he still ultimately is a servant for good.
If you don’t believe me, take a look at that white light that shines from his eyes. He may dress in shadow, but’s he here to help.
Batman’s greatest strength is not only that he does not give up on himself and others,not only that he stands up for his values and makes a difference in the world, but that he is an a living inspiration for others to do the same, to stand up for what they believe in and make a difference in the world.
I’ll leave you with some words of Bat-Wisdom from one of the wisest Bat-Brothers on the planet, Rabbi Cary Friedman, who sums up Batman better than I ever could:
“One of the most pervasive themes of Jewish religious tradition is the endless capacity for human greatness. Not surprisingly, this is a constant message of Batman comic books: How far does human potential extend? The Batman stories are unequivocally clear: to infinity. There is no limit.” – Cary A. Friedman, Wisdom from the Batcave
“This lesson about the endless capability of every human being is the single most important theme of Batman. It is this greatest of all truths that defines the essence of the Batman and accounts for his enduring appeal. The Batman, more than any other literary character, reminds us that every person has an infinite capacity for achievement.” – Cary A. Friedman, Wisdom from the Batcave
“A great rabbi used to say, “I never asked myself if I could do it. I only asked myself if it needed to be done.” In his relentless struggle against evil, the Batman never asks himself if he can do it; he asks only if it needs to be done” – Cary A. Friedman, Wisdom from the Batcave.
There is nothing in my life that I would go back and change, even the darkest moments. All the successes and greatest joys in my life are a result of the absolute worst things. Every missed opportunity is a blessing is disguise – Ronda Rousey
1.YOU CAN NEVER GO BACK TO YOUR OLD LIFE, BUT YOU CAN REINVENT YOURSELF AND KEEP MOVING FORWARD
With the painful loss of her home planet of Krypton, her whole way of life and everything she knew – it was the toughest event that Kara Zor-El ever faced. But the loss of Krypton was the gain of Kara’s new home on earth, her new earth foster family, her new super powers and becoming the selfless iconic hero Supergirl.
Kara would never have become Supergirl if not for the death of her parents, the same way Bruce Wayne would never have become Batman without the death of his parents, or Kara’s cousin Kal-El would never have become Superman.
Krypton’s loss was earth’s gain. Kara’s ordinary life was destroyed, and she was called to her destiny on earth. But it wasn’t easy. For years she hid her powers and who she was from all but her foster family. Eventually Kara embraced her new self – superpowers, being an alien outsider on a new world and became Supergirl. She embraced living the unique life that only Kara Zor-El could live.
I love pretty much everything about our Kara. She’s pretty, strong, kind, caring, helpful, adorable and becomes badass when she has to – Reddit User ‘Furan_Ring’
2.WHEN PEOPLE LOVE YOU – KEEP BEING A HERO WHEN PEOPLE HATE YOU – KEEP BEING A HERO
Don’t let other people’s perception of who you are and what you stand for shape your core values. Whether people love, hate or are indifferent to you, you must live the life only you know how to live, and live the principles, values and choices that makes the most sense to you right now.
We can’t predict the future, we don’t know what good or bad consequences will come of our actions, but we do know the values we live by, and if we are not happy with that, we can upgrade our values to better ones and develop new habits that serve us rather than hold us back.
Heroes choose their own values, mission and code of behavior to live by, they don’t wait for someone to tell them what to do and they don’t ask permission to be who they know they have to be.
There are times when people will love and support what you do. You can accept support from others, but don’t become dependent on that, instead welcome all who choose to help you, but be self-reliant and accept no excuses for living anything less than an authentic life.
There are times when people may hate you, or what you stand for. They may openly ciriticise you, or do it behind your back. You can waste you time and efforts trying to manage others people’s perception of you, or you can simply be indifferent to people’s ideas about you – good or bad.
Being free of the need for approval or criticism means you live life on your own terms. It doesn’t mean being rude and arrogant to people you disagree with or don’t like. It does mean affirming who you are and not letting people push you around, and being immune to other people’s ideas about who you are and what you should do with your life.
Instead you must choose your own way of life and maintain an inner light that never wavers. A hero’s inner light and belief in themselves stays lit through the darkest stormiest night and brightest day and is unchanging.
The world corrupts those who are easily corrupted, while those who stand firm in their belief in themselves are untouchable by any force in this world.
So whether people love you, or hate or are indifferent to you – keep living the life only you know how to live, keep being a hero or heroine in your own unique way.
3. SOME BATTLES WE MUST FIGHT ALONE, WHILE OTHERS WE HAVE TO ASK FOR THE HELP AND CO-OPERATION OF THOSE ON WHOM WE DEPEND
We all have things we must do for ourselves by ourselves each day, and then there are tasks in life that are beyond us and our current abilities, in these times we must ask for help. We all need co-operation in our lives if want to become greater than we were yesterday, and be excited about tomorrow.
We all need friends, family, associates and well wishers to co-operate with if we want to keep overcoming obstacles in our lives, or get projects done that are simply too big for one person, no matter how smart, strong, resilient or talented.
A heroine looks after her family and friends and all those whom depend on her. And she knows the people who truly value her will be there for her when she needs them. Co-operation allows us to get large projects done and things that would be impossible for one person to ever achieve. To be greater than we were yesterday and excited for tomorrow, we need to cultivate healthy relationships with friends, family and associates.
4. FAMILY IS NOT JUST BLOOD, BUT THE PEOPLE WHO SHOW UP IN YOUR LIFE
Family are the people who show up in your life who love you and support you unconditionally. We are all born with one type of family. Some people have families that love and support them. Other people have families that treat them poorly or even abuse them. Most of us find our experience lies somewhere in between the two extremes of unconditional love and outright abuse.
But along with our biological family, are the people who show up in our lives and love us, who support us, without anyone ever asking them to, and without being related by blood.
So whether blood relative or just someone who chooses to be part of your life, family is whoever shows up and loves you, whoever supports you in your choices even when they disagree with them. Loving someone only when they agree with you is not really love. The people who show up in our lives and support us no matter what choices we make are like rare jewels in this world – they are people to be treasured and appreciated.
As Kara is an alien outsider in this world, we too at times feel likes outsiders. We all need to find our own version of fitting in and belonging. To accomplish that we can either compromise who we are and try to “fit in” with other people and their values – or we can look for a tribe that already shares our common values, that accept us for who we are, rather than belittle us for what we are not and will never be. Those who truly love us and support us are our family every bit as much as our blood relatives.
5. BE YOURSELF – THE UNIQUE SELF THAT THE WORLD NEEDS YOU TO BE
Conformity means taking on others peoples values as more important than your own. It means taking on other peoples ideas about who you are, what you should do, and their own selfish opinions about how you should live your life. No other persons “opinion” about you, should ever be more important than your own opinion of yourself.
No other person has the right to choose your values for you, or try and live your life for you. You MUST choose your own values, go your own way and be uniquely you, you must BE YOURSELF because you simply can’t be anyone else. It’s just not possible.
Only you are uniquely qualified to know how to be the best version of yourself. The world demands and expects conformity, it expects well behaved polite automatons who don’t think for themselves. But doing that means not only compromising who you are, it means depriving the world of your unique talents and abilities.
The world demands conformity and mindless drones, but what it NEEDS is unique individuals who say “YES!” to life, people unafraid to express themselves, and live their unique lives as only they can.
The world needs people who accept themselves and know it is “okay” to be you, it is okay be different. It is okay be strange and flawed, to feel doubts, insecurity and vulnerability. To be vulnerable is to be human.
Our differences are what make us unique and often the source of hidden strengths.
People who live fearlessly are the ones ones who shape our future, they are often invisible leaders and trend-setters, they are paradigm busters and rebels, they refuse to be classified or labeled or held back by any kind of limiting belief. They also get scared and doubt themselves and have both spectacular successes and monumental failures in life.
They are our heroes and super-heroes. They are our family and our friends. They are our peer groups. They are YOU and me. Because no hero or heroine can accomplish anything worthwhile by themselves. We are in this life together.
Heroines and Heroes stand up for themselves and just as important – they stand up for those who are not able to stand up for themselves, for the people who have no voice in this world.
The greater our co-operation, the greater our capacity to love, the greater is our potential as everyday heroes and heroines – the kind the world needs to stand up for what they believe in and be heard with a unique voice and one of a kind perspective.
SUPERHEROES ARE AN INSPIRATION AND REMINDER OF THE GREATER OFTEN UNTAPPED POTENTIALS OF HUMANITY AND IN YOU
Superheroes are a reminder in our darkest times of our inherent potential for greatness.
As we grow from children to adults, we need role models to imprint on, who are usually our parents and people in our immediate environment. Sometimes those people are good role models, other times they are not.
When we are kids, superheroes are most appealing for their bright colors, and exciting action packed adventures. As we mature into teenagers and adults, superheroes are more appealing for their moral character and the way they challenge us to better ourselves. They are living inspiration, their dynamic exciting adventures allow us to see how our values play out in a story, and the consequences of our actions.
The moral development of Superheroes (or lack of) can inspire us to be better people. While characters like Captain America and Superman are reminders of the best qualities in humanity – courage, strength, resilience, compassion, hope, empathy etc characters like Wolverine or The Punisher – avatars of anger, vengeance and hatred are reminders of people and values we don’t want to aspire to.
EVERY KID AND ADULT NEEDS INSPIRATION BEYOND THEIR ORDINARY EVERYDAY LIFE
The stark contrast in values from say Superman to Batman to Wolverine or Wonder Woman challenges us with moral complexity. Reading these characters forces us to take some sort of view, to agree or disagree with their actions. Seeing them in action forces us to look at our own values and think “What would I do in that situation?”
Other inspirations from superheroes include physically weak children who like the strength of superheroes and grow up to be people who work to grow stronger both physically and mentally in their daily lives.
Some people are inspired by the Superheroes mission, purpose or creed and find their way in life goes a little smoother when they choose a purpose of their own.
Some people are inspired by the superhero ideal of selfless service to humanity, standing up for your values, or being a force of positive social change – which reflects real life heroes such as Mother Theresa, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King or the Dalai Lama – all of whom are tireless servants who work for a better tomorrow, whose lives are living examples and tributes of the values they embody, who work towards peace and lifting up those of us who are most vulnerable in a sometimes cruel and hostile world.
WE INVENTED SUPERHEROES TO REMIND US OF HOPE AND ALL THE BEST QUALITIES AND POTENTIALS OF HUMANITY
It’s no accident that Superman turned up around the time of Hitler being in power in Nazi Germany. For evil to exist in the world, there needs to be a counterbalance, and although Superman is a fictional character – Superman is far more important than Hitler will ever be.
And although he’s not real, Superman (and all other great archetypal superheroes) have inspired millions of people in the real world not only to have hope and courage, but to better themselves and stand up for their fellow human beings, and to live with purpose and gratitude. Taking responsibility for themselves, and those whom depend on them.
Superheroes are like lightning rods for unleashing our own inherent potentials. By seeing our heroes in action, we are reminded how important in life is the ongoing process of Waking Up, Growing Up and Showing Up, of being our most authentic self in daily life.
SUPERHEROES ARE WAKING DREAMS THAT EXIST AS PURE IMAGINATION WHILE INFLUENCING OUR REAL WORLD
While comic book superheroes are a modern invention, we’ve had some form of hero story around as long as we have been on this planet, in one form or another. Every culture in every age has had its hero/heroine stories – and those that didn’t just went ahead and invented new heroes. Superheroes don’t come from “out there” in the exterior world, they come from “in here”, from the depths of our hearts and souls.
They are idealised figures that represent our best greatest hopes, dreams, values in a form that is far more immediately engaging and entertaining that mere abstract words and ideas could ever convey.
Superheroes in their purest form are mythic archetypes, they are pure ideas of inspiration and a reminder of the great potential of humanity. Their strength lies in their home dimension of imagination. Trying to make them “realistic” is kind of missing the point of their very existence.
Superheroes are here to inspire us and raise us up metaphorically. They are not here to replace us, or do the hard work of living for us. Each of us must find our own hero within , our own values, mission and purpose in life if we wish to live a truly satisfying life.
1. YOU CAN TRANSFORM YOUR GREATEST FAILURES AND PERSONAL TRAGEDIES INTO YOUR GREATEST STRENGTHS
Youn Bruce Wayne saw his parents brutally murdered before his eyes. He swore an oath to “war on all criminals”. Instead of growing up a rich trust fund baby, he instead became the Batman, a one man army who fights a never ending war on crime with single minded determination and courage.
Batman fights the corruption that tangles like a creeper weed around the heart of Gotham City choking the very life blood of Batman’s chosen kingdom. By night Batman fights crime in the streets, and by day the Wayne Foundation fights the causes of crime like poverty., homelessness and lack of education.
Bruce Wayne is Batman 24/7. He never rests, he never stops. His dedication, and passion is unwavering, his commitment, 100%.
In real life Jamie Walton was forced into a life of child prostitution. Jamie Walton is a survivor of child sex crimes in the United States and she runs the real life Wayne Foundation started by herself and Kevin Smith.
The Wayne Foundation is committed to spreading awareness of CSEC (Commercial Sex Exploitation of Children) DMST (Domestic Minor Sexual Trafficking) occurring within the United States.
The Wayne Foundation’s vision is for a world without child slavery. We are dedicated to providing direct assistance to those victimized by exploitation.
By starting the Wayne Foundation, Jamie Walton has taken one of the greatest most horrific things that could have happened to her in her life and turned it into a strength. By offering shelter, a network and access to integral services for young women who have been cruelly exploited – she offers them a way out, a way to start the process of escape and recovery from modern day sex slavery in America that the mainstream media barely even acknowledges and polite society doesn’t even want to talk about, let alone do anything.
If you want to donate to this worthy cause, or simply find out more about the organisation and it’s services, then please visit the website Wayne Foundation Donation page.
You can listen to Jamie Walton’s heart breaking true story as she tells it over a series of Podcasts with Kevin Smith. It’s very hard to listen to, but I urge you, like Batman to face darkness head on rather than run away or be afraid of that which is extremely disturbing.
2. NEVER GIVE UP ON BECOMING THE GREATEST VERSION OF YOURSELF
The Batman is always learning, always adding to his skill set. Ever-becoming, always hungry, never satisfied. His yearning for self-knowledge, growth, understanding and developing his skills knows no limits. In real life we have to learn many skills to be of any use in the world – and that is a lifelong process.
To become better people, to grow up into a healthy fully functioning human being means accepting the responsibility for your own growth process. It also means whatever we can’t do alone we should get help with. Batman may spend most of his time alone, buy he has Alfred to help him every step of the way, and Bat-Family made up of Robin, Nightwing / Grayson, Batgirl, Huntress, Catwoman and others who help him during his most challenging crises.
We become better people through co-operation with others and ourselves, through building life affirming habits rather than soul destroying addictions. Becoming the best version of yourself means going beyond your own self-imposed limits. It means saying “YES!” to life and getting off your ass every day, facing your demons and doing whatever the hell you need to do today that gets you to where you ought to be. It means learning whatever skills you have to – to get where you know you need to be in life.
Becoming the greatest version of yourself must be a conscious choice. It is an ongoing process. Like Batman, simply deciding what direction to face in, deciding where your life is heading in the future can have a powerful impact on today, on how you live your life every moment from now on.
Becoming the best version of yourself means living personal excellence at all levels, and always looking to make improvements however small or incremental. It means living life not just with your head, but with your heart. It means being vulnerable and afraid, and feeling shame or doubt or any any other universal human quality, accepting all of it and using it as fuel like Batman. Constantly driving us to become better versions of ourselves, and not accepting lazy excuses or half-hearted efforts. It means taking all your failures and successed and using them as fuel to propel you forward to greatness and new heights of achievement.
Batman ain’t lazy, and he doesn’t do “too hard” or “can’t be bothered today” – he charges forward with an unbreakable laser-like focus on whatever he sets his attention to, and why would you want to give anything less than your best effort?
You are your most authentic self when you show up in life and give everything you have, making no excuses for mediocrity. Total dedication, total commitment, living with purpose in every step, in every breath – is a daily choice. You may fail, but you damn well better show up and give life your best effort, nobody can fault you for that.
3. NO MATTER WHAT DIFFICULTIES YOU FACE IN LIFE – KEEP MOVING!
No matter what tragedies, good fortune and suffering we experience in this life, there is a hard truth that we have to make peace with. WE HAVE TO KEEP MOVING.
Life is growth and movement. We stop moving – we die.
Giving up on ourselves or on those whom we are responsible for means remaining stationary, taking no strides towards our goals or mission in life. There are times and places to sit and contemplate, or talk with people who can help us through grief and other types of suffering. Whatever we do in life, we’re going to experience suffering. We can either be crippled by that revelation or empowered by it. If we know ahead of time, that there will good times and horrible times, we can mentally say to ourselves
“Yes, I am a going to face whatever challenges and suffering come my way in life, and like the Batman I’m going to rise up and embrace it, rather than run away or repress whatever fears I must face”
When you keep moving you have momentum, and it’s easier to change the direction of your life when you are already in motion, than when you are stationary.
We all have the same 24 hours in a day. The only difference is how we use them. Every day we must get out of bed , brush our teeth, get dressed and face the world. So do whatever you have to do during hard times – cry, get angry, blame the world, the economy or whatever you like while you endure the unendurable – but keep moving. Batman welcomes challenges and difficulties – they make him stronger as he inevitably finds a way to overcome them – and you can do the same.
4. WHERE THERE IS A WILL, THERE IS A WAY
I have a silly expression I often like to say to myself:
“Batman does 5 IMPOSSIBLE things before breakfast”
It is an exaggeration on the myth of Batman as BAT-GOD (being unbeatable), but when you set your attitude to being able to do the “impossible” and just turn a blind eye and ear to anyone who tries to stop you or criticize you – you end up routinely doing the impossible.
The impossible is not walking on water like Jesus, punching like the Hulk or flying like Superman – in the real world the so called impossible is often other people’s lack of faith in themselves and their own abilities projected onto you.
Or your own lack of faith in yourself and your abilities. Where would the world be if every time somebody said something was “impossible” we gave up without even trying? We would have no Batman for one thing.
DC EDITOR: “We need another hero like Superman by Monday Bob!”
BOB KANE: “Well, that is impossible, it simply can’t be done so I won’t even try.”
When you stand for something in this world – whether you shine brightly in the sun like Superman, or do what you do best in obscurity like Batman in the shadows – well some people are going to get jealous and want to drag you back down to their level. Don’t let them do it. Be immune to critics, and do “5 Impossible Things Before Breakfast”.
Doing the impossible is not really about setting world records, or trying to impress anyone as it is about going beyond your own self-perceived limitations. You don’t know what you are truly capable of until you do it. And those who never try will seal their own fate as people dis-satisfied with life, too afraid of their own shadows to move forward and accomplish new things.
5. BATMAN IS NOT JUST MAN, A COSTUME, A LOGO OR URBAN BOOGEYMAN. BATMAN IS AN ATTITUDE.
I frequently refer to Batitude in my verbose rambling Batman articles.
Batitude is a fun word that was popularised with the release of The LEGO Movie. But more than a social meme, my version of Batitude represents having a Batman like attitude to life. You are are reading about this attitude right now. I hope you also live it.
I apply the same kind of mental discipline to my physical and mental training, and values in life that Batman does.
You can leave out the the negative stuff about Batman – the depression, stand offish attitude and the murdered parents part, and embrace the good stuff from Batman. You can choose your own personal version of Batitude, Bat Wisdom and Bat Values and live it however you damn well please.
For me Batman is an avatar of darkness, of our individual and collective shadow self, someone who walks the line between light and darkness, denying nothing in himself and accepting everything. If you take a look at my Batman Value Grid you can see some of his overall qualities and characteristics. It’s up to you to choose the values your own values to live by.
The particular values I aspire to live by in my own life inspired by Batman include:
Heroic, Determination, Goal Focused, Single Minded, Relentless, IRON WILL, Protector, Strong Man, Mission and Purpose.
However – I don’t always live up to those qualities, but I damn sure aim in that direction and take action every day of my life.
The alternative is to drift aimlessly through life standing for nothing, and being basically nothing. You know you’ve met people like that all too often, so don’t become one. Instead rise up like Batman and live the best life you can imagine for yourself and others. Find your own mission, find your own purpose and get busy being of service however you can.
It’s up to you to choose your own values to live by, but whatever version of Batitude you apply in your own life, don’t compromise who you are, don’t give up on being the greatest version of yourself you can become. Remember that like Batman, at any stage of life you can totally reinvent yourself and go in new directions, learn new skills, and literally be a new person. No matter what tragedies you suffer, no matter what happens, you get up off your ass and keep moving. You take each day one step at a time, making steady progress towards your goals and dreams.
If you can’t remember all of that, then remember this simple mantra;
“BE LIKE BATMAN”
And remember whatever you do in life you can’t always choose the circumstances, but you can can control how you react to the circumstances and events of your life.
Batman is American mythology. It’s a child’s character that also matures with us as we grow. There are various interpretations for each stage of development. It’s a human hero that endures, who is flawed but triumphs. His heart, his drive and yes that dark side that most people never admit to having. Bottom line, Batman is cool. There’s no arguing that!
-Kevin Porter (Bat in the Sun cosplayer)
Whether historical figures or purely fictional characters, the hero, superhero and savior archetypes show up again and again in human history within our various diverse cultural narratives.
There are many perspectives what role the hero, superhero and savior archetypes have to play within our own lives.
Each perspective is neither right nor wrong, but any perspective is true for the person who holds it, for any person who feels in their heart what is true, is true for them.
But this personal truth is only a partial truth, a valid part of a larger whole. We have trouble when the partial truth claims to be the whole truth, or claims that other contrasting partial truths are invalid.
Heroic figures are generally thought of as beneficial, but heroic figures can also be self serving. There is no moral prerequisite nor absolute standard for a hero, and some historical figures who were considered criminals in their day or even terrorists are later labelled heroes in retrospect.
In Detective Comics #27 Batman is clearly a criminal who operates outside of the law.
In Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns Batman could reasonably be labelled a fascist terrorist. Yet he is still heroic.
A hero is typically called a “hero” by an invested party, an observer or witness.
A heroic act performed without a witness is just an ordinary action. A hero without a witness is just a person performing an action, free of labels or judgement.
Some obvious questions arise when we evoke the archetype of hero, superhero and savior.
Is a savior here to “save us”, and if so, from what?
Do we need to be saved? Are we not capable of realising our own potentials without this archetype? Should we rely on heroes to save us, or should we be more self reliant?
Should we seek to become heroes ourselves, or to become like heroes through emulating their example?
How does a savior or hero know what is best for other people? Did they go to hero school, should we listen to them or ignore their advice? Is their agenda the best possible choice in a given circumstance, or just a partial truth within a larger whole?
Another view on the hero, superhero and savior archetypes are as figures of inspiration.
In the realm of inspiration Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Lao-tzu, Superman and Wonder Woman are equally important.
Some people would be offended at this idea, that a fictional character could be as important as a historical religious figure. Then again, some would argue all of them are fictional characters.
I am not here to debate the historical evidence for whether Jesus, Buddha, Krishna and other religious figures actually ever existed, or were even retellings of the same basic composite story in different cultures as some theories suggest.
When we read a story that we find inspiring, whether it was a literal account of objectively verifiable events that actually happened, or a pure fiction invented by a writer, both experiences are within our mind.
That inspiration is within our own mind, that feeling of inspiration resonates within our body. No matter HOW it got there, once there, that inspiration is “true” for us, the feeling experienced is real, any action that may follow from that feeling exists independent of whether the path that lead to the feeling began as fact or fiction. This is what I mean when I say that inspiring figures and stories are equally important to us, and the source is less important, but still significant.
Not just what we do, but “how we are”, is what people respond to. Our heroes and savior figures have magic about them, they stand out in some way, but the greatest of them remind us of our own potential for greatness. A true hero uplifts and inspires others, and asks nothing in return.
The old adage of one mans’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist can easily be applied to the hero, superhero and savior archetypes.
A vigilante hero such as Batman serves his own ends and operates outside of the law, although he does sometimes co-operate with law enforcement via Jim Gordon. Ultimately while Batman serves his own brand of personal Justice, he is answerable to no authority but himself.
Superman while also basically a criminal who operates outside of the law, is not a vigilante in traditional terms. He frequently co-operates with law enforcement and emergency services.
While he can also be said to be serving himself, his collaborations with authorities suggest he serves the greater good, or the will of the nation in the best sense. In his first incarnation he was a champion of the people, of the oppressed underclasses, typically the migrant workers of 1930s America. Batman motivates through fear, Superman motivates through hope.
Later during World War II Superman (along with Wonder Woman and to a lesser extent Batman) became more nationalistic icons, and would actively be associated with pushing “Truth, Justice and the American Way”. The American Way part was added on, and not part of Superman’s first appearances. Later still Superman became the figurehead of a corporation, and an ambassador of superheroes, comic books and any characters that wear tights, underwear on the outside and a chevron on their chest.
Superman’s famous “S” shield on his chest would become known more as a logo, as a brand to be slapped on products, rather than symbolic of a dynamic figure of strength, courage and virtue as represented in his original incarnation.
There is no virtue in a product with an “S” shield logo on it. But in a consumer society where we often feel powerless and disenfranchised, we feel that maybe something of the Superman magic will rub off on us if we wear the logo on a Tshirt, or buy the Superman toy or statue. The irony being that Superman who once inspired and stood for moral values, virtue and hero-ness became just another product in the machine of capitalism to be mindlessly consumed. Another cog in the merciless amoral machine of consumerism.
Of course it need not be that way, despite the commercialization of the Superheroes, they are still available as figures of inspiration if we choose to view them that way, if we look into their very essence, they are still have the same resonance and power to inspire they always did. We just forgot this inspirational quality by turning out attention to the products and icons, the outer form, the package, rather than the inner essence, the real substance of life.
Frank Miller plays up the relevance or meaninglessness of the forgotten icon of Superman in Dark Knight Returns, where Superman has become a boy scout for the government. He mindlessly follows their orders to keep the peace and not make any waves in a world that like Allan Moore’s Watchmen and Marvel’s Civil War, has basically made it illegal to be a superhero.
Superman only exists as a government pawn to promote whatever agenda they see fit. While Superman may have objections, he chooses to submit his will to the government for what he perceives to be the greater good. He surrenders his Godhood and unfathomable power to the will of the nation.
Frank Miller’s version of Superman is a god, or at least a deity. His portrayal as bowing down to the government makes him a coward in the eyes of the author (Miller), and significantly in the eyes of Batman whom Miller speaks through in teh story. Superman and Batman’s differences lead to their inevitable confrontation towards the end of the story arc. The battle while very visceral and physical, is not so much a traditional Superhero slug-fest battle, as a battle of the difference in Superman and Batman’s core ideologies. This makes the anticipation reach a fever pitch in a way the typical Thing vs Hulk or Red Hulk vs Thor battle never achieves.
Superman sees the government – even a corrupt oppressive government – as basically good. Batman sees the government as rotten slave masters, as oppressive enemies no less of a threat than the invading Persians Leonidas faces in Miller’s 300 graphic novel. Batman in Miller’s eyes is not just a hero, but a soldier who fights for the true freedom of the people, with uncompromising integrity. Miller’s Batman is a militaristic hero who values the freedom of the individual, while Superman is the coward who yields to the whip of the empire, and all its enslavement, and oppression of free will and eradication of individuality.
Superman’s “Justice” (in Dark Knight Returns) serves the homogeneous mass of humanity, the individual must serve the state unquestioningly, a gross perversion of Spock’s immortal spiritually intentioned words in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan “The needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few”.
Batman’s “Justice” serves the individual, he fights for the free thinking and feeling rights of the individual, in his view government and all companies or corporations must serve rather than dictate to the individual.
Both views are valid but partial truths, part of a larger whole. A synthesis of seemingly opposing ideas may lead to greater understanding and more “truth”. But only in open dialogue and through freedom of expression, intentionally looking at another’s point of view we disagree with, and looking for the benefits of that point of view. This synthesis can not be arrived at by force or coercion, but only through open minds and heart, if we are willing.
Often examining contrasting ideas in parallel, rather than in opposition can lead to greater understanding. Neuroscience refers to the human brain as a self-organising system of patterns. Edward DeBono also uses that same terminology in his works and the practical applications DeBono frequently talks about in his numerous books including Parallel Thinking and Edward DeBono’s Thinking Course.
“Studies have shown that 90% of errors in thinking are due to error in perception. If you can change your perception, you can change your emotion and this can lead to new ideas.”
“Most of the mistakes in thinking are inadequacies of perception rather than mistakes of logic.” – Edward DeBono
Edward DeBono makes some bold claims, and they are backed up by several decades of research and application in various institutions including various corporations and schools around the globe. Although as with any progressive thinker, some academics criticise his solutions to various problems.
Many highly intelligent people are poor thinkers. Many people of average intelligence are skilled thinkers. The power of a car is separate from the way the car is driven – Edward DeBono
Superman and Batman, while old friends, basically act as archetypal ciphers in Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, giving voice to one of the oldest arguments in history. What is more important, the needs of the “individual” or “the many”?
Both the individual and the many are valid but partial truths. Both the individual and society are important, one does not invalidate the other. Both views are part of a large whole, but an intentional shift in perspective is needed to get beyond the ideological argument. When viewed within a larger context the superficial argument becomes redundant, ultimately because we all need each other.
Society would grind to a halt without the co-operation of hundreds if not thousands of individuals that make our every day lives possible.
Societies need infrastructure that benefits the citizens, the government needs citizens to vote for them to act as their representatives (for better or worse) and individuals need their equality and freedom of choice to act as genuine human beings, not as robots nor slaves in an uncaring machine.
No tree has branches so foolish as to fight amongst themselves – Native American Proverb
Savior figures, real or imagined, whether Superman, Lao-Tzu or Jesus, we encounter them as ideas within our own minds and hearts. None of them can we meet in physical form. If we are inspired by the example of their teachings, their beliefs, attitude and moral example, or their very Being, their very presence, then that is a rich inner experience as valid as any other in life.
The form inspiration may take can be infinite. One person reads a religious text or commentary and encounters an inspiring figure, another person reads Superman or Harry Potter and finds an inspiring figure or role model to emulate.
Of course the flaw here is that someone may find a flawed or even down right bad role model and emulate them. We need look no further than actors, rock stars, professional athletes and musicians for examples of lives dominated by external appearances, shallow ego worship, rampant drug addiction and glorification of false or misleading values.
The question remains do we need saviors to save or fix us?
Do we need to rely on heroes as a psychological dependency or are we leaping into the future by imagining our own greatest potential as popular entertainment? I can’t answer that question for anyone. It is highly personal, and speaks to the needs of unique individuals, not to impersonal masses.
In traditional “God of Abraham” narratives, there is a fall from grace for humanity. The Adam and Eve story brings temptation, knowledge of good and evil, and self as “other”, as separate from God, and sin. The modern context of sin is often rendered as bad, evil, flawed or imperfect. The historical roots of the word in the English language “sin” come from archery, where to sin meant to miss. To miss the mark, make the error of not hitting the target. In contrast Semitic languages have multiple meanings and synonyms for Sin that imply evil acts, or wrong acts.
In other religious traditions such as Buddhism and the Baha’i Faith human beings are not seen as inherently sinful or flawed, but as inherently good, as inherently Buddha-like. Human beings are seen as inherently loving and full of light and other airy-fairy mumbo-jumbo that is often meaningless and impractical to our daily lives. But one look at a mother breast feeding her newborn baby is all the evidence I need to know that we are ultimately lovers here to learn, grow and express ourselves.
Whether we are religious or not, the cultural narrative of the society we each live in is often dominated by one religion, one hand me down belief system or another. So by proxy we adopt some of those mass cultural beliefs unconsciously as children, and if as adults we never question those beliefs, then we assume them to be true and they colour our perception of the world. Those hand me down beliefs we inherited within our culture inform our perception of both our inner non-physical self (or self-image) and how we perceive our outer physical world.
We may forego the traditional religious savior figure or superhero and instead make a political figure, rock star or musician into a savior, putting all sorts of expectation upon them that they can not possibly fulfill.
To grow into an adult means to let go of our limited perceptions and beliefs like a snake shedding its own skin, constantly being reinvented and renewed by the unrelenting thrust of life to grow, move forward and evolve into new shades of complexity.
Wherever we are as individuals is just fine. We grow whether we want to or not. Some of us feel the need to look up to inspiring figures, some feel a need to be those inspiring figures for other people. While others have no interest in the idea whatsoever. Each are valid choices, and one woman’s choice does not negate anothers. One mans ignorance or wisdom does not affect the person next to him, unless he actively promotes a particular ideology.
So is humanity deeply flawed, broken and sinful? Or is humanity inherently loving, are we angels and gods who have forgotten their wings? Does it need to be one or the other?
I don’t see life as a binary either/or choice, but a rich infinitely complex sphere of activity that constantly evolves into greater complexity with infinite simultaneous points of view. A kaleidoscope like holographic Matrix simulation of greater and lesser densities of light refracted into human bodies and brains that think they are thinking, a universe of space where atoms spin so fast they appear to be solid, but if that spin slowed down or if we could change the vibration of our molecules we could walk through walls just like The Flash. Where if densities changed we could jump through the air like Spider-Man or the Incredible Hulk.
A dancing universe of infinite beauty that is inherently, more than anything, alive and intelligent, forever expanding, and re-experiencing itself to infinity and beyond. But that is just my limited partial subjective truth, and I may be completely wrong.
Superheroes and Saviors to me are fine, inspiring figures. Do we NEED them? I don’t know, perhaps we do. But let us imagine we don’t need them for a moment, even then I’d still like them to be around, I don’t want them to go away. I don’t want any reminder of our own greatest potential to go away or be forgotten. The names don’t matter to me, I find inspiration in many different figures, each adds something to my personal world view. I’ve had nor shortage of friends of various religious faiths, while not being religious myself. I have also managed to offend pretty much all of those friends at some point with my views, but remained friends despite our differences. Is variety not the spice of life? In my experience, I learn best from experiencing great contrasts. Different foods, different religions and cultural values and practices. Different races and ideologies.
Getting back on topic, in one possible view, we rely on the savior to fix us, make us whole or worthy. In contrast the inspirational view is that we become more like the savior figure. Of course these are just two limited perspectives, there are other valid perspectives, but my objective is not to state them all here and now.
One mode is worship and adoration, with no challenge to grow.
Another mode is emulation, becoming more like the savior figure, and not relying on them to “do” anything, other than be who they already are.
When we consciously model teachers and mentors, we learn their best attributes and apply them to our own lives. But when we worship heroes and savior figures (be it Jesus or Superman [a.k.a. space Jesus], or some idiotic celebrity) we do nothing to evolve our own intelligence, we neither learn nor grow as adults.
But man has need of stories to dramatise events and big ideas in a way that captures his imagination. Darth Vader is much more compelling than the abstract concept of squandered potential, turning to evil and subsequent redemption, or at least forgiveness.
Batman is a hell of lot more dramatic a tale of personal loss, tragedy strength, will-power and vigilante-ism than just mere words can convey. Jesus is still my favourite story of the embodiment of kindness, love and forgiveness. Avalokiteśvara (the weirdo below with 1000 arms to help 1000 people) is my most inspiring personal embodiment of Compassion and selfless service to others.
Whether super heroes, bible stories, or ancient myths and legends all are equally compelling and full of parallels. To me this speaks not to any grand truths on any one topic, but to mans need to tell stories. To project his self through time in mythological narratives that carry the best (and worst) messages of a culture down through the ages. From mimicking our heroes as children to emulating them as adults, they are always there to inspire us and help carry us forward.
We ignore our cultural stories, religions, myths and history at our own peril. If we feel that we are not affected by such antiquated notions as stories passed down from our ancestors, then we are willfully ignorant of our heritage.
Each of us has our own personal narrative, we are the main character in our own individual life story, with everyone else in supporting roles. Of course, to another person, they are the main character in their life story, and we are the supporting player.
If you think this post is building to some intelligent and insightful conclusion, well I only have pre-packaged disappointment for you. But at least it didn’t cost you anything. Other than the time it took to get to this sentence, unless you skipped down from the top, in which case shame on you! If you were hoping to be inspired or saved by the end of the post, well that is not what I am here for, your own personal inspiration is where ever you may find it, and always available to you if you truly look.
Some guy a long time ago talked about living from our hearts, I forget his name, or the words. But I remember the feeling it inspired in me. The feeling of looking within your own heart, and following its call. So far, my heart has never steered me wrong in life, I know of no greater way to heed the call of inspiration than by finding it in the mundane and everyday, in the here and now.
To me all of life is inspired and sacred, especially YOU, so never forget it.
You are unique and one of a kind and destined never to be repeated.
I don’t know what inspiration looks like, but it feels like this picture of Felix the cat, it spills out of you and no container in the universe can ever hold it. It is the flame of flames, your heart of hearts, the infinite wisdom of inspiration is available to you at all times, it flows like a river through you and can not be stopped by any external forces.