Tag Archives: superhero

Batman – The Greatest Fictional Character of All Time

The Forces that Shape our Stories – Why We Crave Superheroes/Modern Mythology like Oxygen

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.

Dragon_4_by_el_grimlock
A mythological dragon can  represent out own personal demons to battle, to triumph over.  The dragon can also represent the unintegrated aspects of ourselves that we have disowned or refuse to acknowledge.  A dragon may also represent the ‘other’ in physical terms, the ‘other’ may be perceived as threatening or benevolent.  Art by El Grimlock / DeviantArt

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.

Werewolf by El Grimlock Deviant Art
Werewolves are fun, they serve as warnings of predators and are symbolic of animal instincts and sexual energy

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. quote-we-shall-not-cease-from-exploration-and-the-end-of-all-our-exploring-will-be-to-arrive-where-we-t-s-eliot-57010 Disassembled Car 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.Terminator Matrix Tron Neo Arnold 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”.

Bathurst_Island_men Australia Formula 1 Car
Australian Aboriginal culture may be earths oldest at an estimated 75,000 years of unbroken genetic lineage

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?

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Labelling something does not mean we truly understand something, we may miss vital information that does not fit the label

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. the unwritten22 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. unwritten arm55 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 unwritten Book 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. Spiral 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. red skull hitler stalin thanos dr doom dictator bad guy 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.

Dr Doom Superman
Dr Doom meets the Kryptonian Knuckle Sandwich

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. Star Trek Unity and Viruses 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. Super hero 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.

Ellen Ripley Wonder Woman Buffy Vampire Slayer Female Goddess Heroine1
Strong empowered female heroines are rare

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. batman begins darth vader wolverine neo matrix rocky spider man movie 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. batman-3

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. heart diagram-horz 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!

Superheroes and Savior Figures, Oh My!

Superman Clark Kent by Alex Ross transformation
Up, Up and Away!

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.

Batman Arkham Asylum Game Concept Art_2

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.

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WORLDS FINEST: Dancing with the stars edition

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?

Kevin Porter Batman cosplay
Kevin Porter Batman (Bat in the Sun Productions)

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.

We are all Wonder Women by Catherine & Sarah Satrun
“We are all Wonder Women” by Catherine & Sarah Satrun

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.

Jesus Cosplay YOLO (2)
YOLO Jesus

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.

Superman Batman Bruce Wayne Clark Kent hald and half image art

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.

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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.

Batman-Arkham City Concept Art CG Render XX

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

Batman Arkham Asylum Game Concept Art_1

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

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Lean and Mean Batman by Diego-Rodriguez

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.

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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.

Cookie Monster of the Sea
Cookie Monster of the Sea, a timeless cultural myth

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.

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The real Goldfinger? No, it’s the Legendary Ox riding Lao-tsu / Laozi

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.

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Avalokitesvara Buddha

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.

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Batman’s Identity remained a mystery

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.

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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.

Be inspired!

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How Batman stories Inspire us to be better Human Beings

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The Fantabulous Misadventures of “MULTIVERSE MORRISON”

There is always a part of us, that thinks we can dodge the bullet, and its a brilliant part – even if we are wrong, we need it.  We can’t survive without it, Batman personifies that.

You can take it even deeper, Christ is God made flesh.  Whether he’s historical or not, it doesn’t matter.  The same as Batman is not historical.  It makes us feel something. It presses a human button that is very important. – Grant Morrison / Fatman on Batman Podcast

Whether a story is about reality and actual events, or pure fantasy either way the effect is the same, a story makes us feel something.

I agree with Grant Morrison, pushing that button that makes us feel something is important.

A good story usually has characters we care about, drama, conflict, resolution and holds our attention from the beginning until the end.

Films, novels and comic-books can do many things, but the one thing they need to do more than anything else is they have to be entertaining, otherwise we just won’t engage with the story in the first place.

While the quality of various Batman stories is all over the place – for a 75 year old character, he has a surprising amount of good quality material to delve into.  Batman has great movies, cartoons, comic books and video games to his name, something few other superheros have achieved.

Even his forerunner Superman is sorely lacking in the modern video game and cartoon department, relegated to JLA and Young Justice appearances and the odd direct to home market animated feature or the obligatory pathetically dull handheld game destined for the wasteland that is the game store bargain bin.

Batman Masks classic, dark knight adam west modern

No matter what medium we find Batman in, he is a character that manages to not only remain relevant and interesting, but cool, like upper level Bruce Lee or Elvis cool, the kind of cool that never goes out of style.  Batman is basically unkillable.

As a man he is vulnerable, but as an idea, a mythic pop-culture icon that transcends generations of fans – he is immortal.  Like his spiritual brothers Sherlock Holmes, Zorro and The Shadow, he refuses to be contained by any one medium, any one incarnation.  Batman is a character without limits.

There is something about Batman that attracts unrelenting passionate enthusiasm for the character from fans.  From the most hardcore to casual Bat-Fan, the love for the character is consistent amongst the old and young, and people of different races and cultures from around the world. Like Tintin, Astro Boy and Mickey mouse, Batman is loved and celebrated around the world, and that is no easy feat for such a dark character.

Batman’s darkness seems to be part of his enduring appeal.  His traumatic childhood makes him a sympathetic character from the beginning, his lack of super-powers makes him more relatable.  Every fan thinks, maybe, well… you know – just maybe …if you have enough money, time and training you could be Batman.  Until you get shot and stabbed in your first week like Dave in Kick-Ass.

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Me am Number#1 BATFAN

But the fantasy is appealing.  It doesn’t matter that it is bullshit.  In Batman’s world, he CAN dodge bullets.  He can jump a little further and make the impossible ordinary.  In a comic book world who is to say gravity is not a little different, and human bodies are not more robust?  There is no way to disprove it and anyone who would try just doesn’t get the fun appeal of comics.

What evidence do we have that Batman can dodge bullets?  The fact that he does it on a weekly basis.  We know it is impossible, and a bit silly.  But that doesn’t matter, the fact that Batman can dodge bullets is just damn cool, and that he can run around in the best super-hero costume ever designed without getting heat exhaustion in the summer, or frost bite in the winter, and his mask never slips sideways when he gets sweaty making him temporarily blind – none of that matters.

That Batman’s joints should be shot to hell in a handbasket, and his his scar tissue so numerous that he should barely be able to move, let alone run jump and punch crime in the face just somehow makes him more appealing, rather than silly.  Comics are full of dumb silly ideas, but we look the other way, because – hey- we all enjoy a good story.

You give Batman the benefit of the doubt, because he is Batman and he has it all figured out.  If we went into his world he would probably tell you he engineered the texture of the cowl to be non-slip while somehow still breathable, all while allowing him wireless tele-communications, night vision and creepy fake white eyes to freak out criminals.

Now and forever, Batman is the guy, the man, the big cheese, the coolest cat in town.  He takes some lumps both in the comics and now and then in the press for having the odd rubbish movie, but he always bounces back, like the six million dollar man – we can rebuild him – better, faster, stronger.

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I don’t know how long Batman will be around, but the longer he is the more he demonstrates the power of fictional characters to influence real lives, real people.  Batman hanging around for as long as he has is only the beginning, his near-mythic cultural resonance has transcended the funnybook cultural ghetto he was born and conceived in.
We need look no further than the recent Brett Culp directed documentary Legends of the Knight for evidence of Batman’s impact upon the “real” world.

“A documentary about the power of storytelling to create positive change in our lives and around the world, expressed through the lens of one of the most popular stories of our time – the Batman.” -IMDB.COM

You can’t write copy like that, well… you can in this case.  If you don’t get excited reading that sentence, then maybe Batman is not the guy for you.  I encourage you to watch the brilliant documentary.  I will write a full article about it eventually but have too many other features planned first, so it is on the back burner for now.

While Batman has run the gauntlet during the decades from pure pulp-fiction to neo-noir, he is not limited to any one genre.  His stories, while made up, make believe and well, hogwash – show a remarkable power to entertain, inform and inspire.  Fiction has a great power to incorporate the best of what is real, and what is unreal.  Weaving a tapestry of emotion, feeling and connection to us in our every day lives, Batman lives in the hearts and mind of millions around the world.

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A great story, whether real or imagined, has the power to make us feel very real feelings.  A great story and a great character have the power to lift us up and take us on a journey to another place, perhaps even another time.  Fiction has the power to remake and remold reality by inspiring the greatest values in us stealthily wrapped in cheap disposable entertainment.  If you want to influence the minority, create some wonderful ideas and inspiring ideas.  But if you want to influence the whole world, create a story that inspires with archetypal characters that resonate while teaching timeless life lessons.

Why is it that mankind can routinely lose its own history, forget the culture of lost and destroyed civilizations (whoops, there goes another one while you read this sentence, bugger…) while our stories survive?  The cultural narrative of a civilization is only as strong as its best stories, its highest ideals.  After we are dead and gone, all people will have left of us is our stories.

Batman never being born, can never die.  A story can exist beyond generations and even beyond cultures and countries. A story knows no borders, and time means nothing to a fictional character.  One hundred years of our time is like five years for Batman or The Phantom.  Give then two hundred years and Sherlock, Batman and Zorro will defy logic and reason, getting younger, more handsome, and more brilliant.

Take a look at an early issue of Detective Comics and compare it to any issue from today.  Batman is smarter, stronger, impossibly handsome and he continues to evolve and grow both in the fictional stories and in our world as an idea – at a phenomenal rate.  He shows no signs of slowing down.

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A murder, how boring! Just let me finish my pipe first…

I feel that the world is a better place with Batman in it.  If on all the various earths in the multiverse there are earths were Batman does not exist (not even as a fictional character) then I don’t want to live there thanks.  I’ll stay right here on Earth-1, or is it Earth Prime?  Whatever it is, I’m glad I live on planet Batman, the coolest planet in the galaxy in my opinion.

I was going to talk about other ways that Batman inspires me to be a better human being, but perhaps that can wait for another time, I’ve rambled long enough for today.  Well, just a hint then:  it involves training in martial arts, lifting heavy weights and a passion to give back to the community.

How to Be Like Batman PART#2: Develop an IRON WILL

Persistence and Determination alone are omnipotent
-Calvin Coolidge, 30th President of the United States

An Iron Will Fist of Iron

To be like Batman takes an Iron Will.

It takes hard work, determination, persistence, an attitude of never giving up.

A habit of doing things that are uncomfortable, a habit of doing what we dislike doing but know is good for us.

It is one of the fundamental qualities of Batman that is rarely understood.

Possessing an Iron-Will can come across as being arrogant, conceited, self-important, dogmatic, inflexible, stubborn, and other qualities that may seem at first to be a negative trait.

But the perception of that negative trait is in the eye of the beholder, not in the mind of the person who is being judged.

To the one who possesses  an Iron-Will, it is a great asset, an Iron-Will can move mountains, move nations, inspire people to better themselves, an Iron-Will can mean a person of character who is unwilling to let fate or any external force choose their thoughts, attitude or actions for them, a person who is unmoved by the threat of imprisonment or execution who stays the course for a greater good.

An Iron-Will is not to be confused with those who would seek to dominate and hold power over others.  While a dictator or despot may have an Iron-Will, a true man (or woman) of courage and virtue is a master over their own mind and habits.  They have zero interest in dominating or controlling others.  Truly, those who dominate others are cowards who live in constant fear of losing their illusory power, if even one individual rises up against them, their illusion of power is shattered, or at least questioned.

Developing an Iron-Will does not mean putting on a symbolic suit of armor, and shutting ourself off from our emotions or other people, it means that we acknowledge and respect the needs of others, but do not compromise our core values just to fit in or conform with popular opinion.

Exercising will power at first is hard, especially as we modern people have grown terribly soft and lazy, having never faced the crucible that the generations who lived through World War II did.  Tough times make for tough and resilient people.  In contrast the more luxurious and comfortable a society becomes, the more it breeds people accustomed to soft living.

We live in an era were if we want to be challenged, to build strength of character, we must choose our own challenges rather than wait for the world to provide them for us.  A life where we never challenge ourselves is really no life at all. The man who strives to better himself and his circumstances enjoys greater joys than the man who has everything handed to him on a plate without ever lifting a finger.

Batman Legends of the Dark Knight 19 Cover Batman vs Shark

When it comes to mental training, there is only one method.  Believe in yourself 100%

-Vince Gironda

The Batman didn’t get to be who he is through self-doubt and neurosis, he believes in what he does 100%, there is no space in his mind for any erroneous thoughts to enter.  He may have been born into a life of privilege and soft living but he chooses to forge his Iron-Will through struggle, difficulty and his relentless pursuit of personal excellence and adaptive learning in any task he applies himself to.

Batman chooses the road less traveled, he embraces obstacles and lives a life of hardship by choice, he would not be who he is without his obstacles and flaws, Batman uses his obstacles as a path to self-knowledge and constantly challenges his skills and abilities, using each opportunity (or crisis) to adapt, improvise and overcome.

The more we exercise our will power, the more natural it becomes to be in command of our own senses, our own minds and bodies, and the circumstances of our lives.  It takes discipline to get up early and train or be willing to do what most people will not do.

But once begun the momentum of self-discipline pays rich dividends.  After a time it is no longer discipline, but a joy to be living a conscious life of creation, rather than a life of constant animal-like unconscious reaction to everything that vies for our attention on any given day.

A life of blindly following the herd to mediocrity and mental death from lack of exercising our own will, our own decision making abilities. The more we exercise our ability to make decisions and exercise our will power, the more we grow as individuals and stop being second-hand citizens who complain and gripe about everything in life, but are unwilling to lift a finger to help ourselves.

Batman flames Jim Lee pin up

“The development and discipline of one’s will-power is of supreme importance in relation to one’s overall success in life. No man can ever underestimate the power of an iron will. It is a part of our human nature, and the quality of our very existence depends upon it.”
– Orison Marden

Forging an Iron-Will is a lesson we all could learn from Batman, and an essential quality on the road to being a hero or superhero.  Batman’s will is so strong it could almost be considered a super power. Where lesser men would fall or give up, he pushes through pain, fatigue, and injuries. He pushes through or around every obstacle that comes his way.

No matter how severe the situation, no matter how impossible the task, Batman never admits the idea of failure into his mind. His will power is supreme.

That is the critical difference that some say defines Batman from his contemporaries.  Few other characters in the DC Universe possess his mental resolve – perhaps DeathStroke The Terminator would be next in line, followed by Superman and Lex Luthor.  Batman’s mental training, never say die attitude, his ability to never give up, are not abilities has was born with, but what he chose to develop through progressive incremental training.

His never-give-up attitude should not be misunderstood as never knowing when to walk away.  Batman knows how and when to withdraw and come up with new plans and strategies when he is in over his head.  The Batman knows his limitations, he knows when to push beyond those limits, and when to walk away to live to fight crime another day.

In the comic books Batman is regularly beaten to near death, captured, tortured, or trapped in dangerous situations that should result in death. However many times this happens, he is never truly beaten, because even if he is beaten physically, he comes back after training and preparing himself to best his opponent.  His worst defeats he uses as further victories, further opportunities to iron out his weaknesses and improve his mental resolve.

His true super powers are his Iron Will, Discipline, Preparation and Planning, Determination, Persistence, a refusal to quit, a refusal to die, a refusal to give up or abandon his cause.  A man may reach great heights of achievement, but he will never succeed beyond the cause he devotes himself to.  Batman’s personal mission, his calling in life is his never ending War on Crime and his commitment is total.

One of the secrets of a successful life is to be able to hold all of our energies upon one point, to focus all of the power of our mind upon one single place or thing

-Orison Marden

Of all the JLA, or the other DC super heroes, his will is supreme. Batman can beat the JLA, or any of his infinitely more powerful peers not because he wants to, but because he can. He develops numerous strategic plans.  He methodically studies his potential foes weaknesses. When Batman is taken by surprise he improvises, but eventually one way or another, Batman wins.

Some people are critical of this version of Batman, as some sort of unbeatable “Bat-God” as he has been dubbed in online fan communities.

But to call him “Bat-God” is to miss the point.

Batman is not unbeatable.

He gets beaten physically and mentally regularly in the monthly comics, he uses those defeats to grow beyond his previous limitations, he uses obstacles as fuel for greatness.  It is fair to say that Batman is a little different in his own stories, versus stories where he is with the JLA or wider DCU community in a large company wide crossover.  Different elements of the character are played upon depending upon the context of the story.  Critics may say that Batman is inconsistent, fans say he adapts to the environment, he is as versatile as Deathstroke or Wolverine, with Batman we never know exactly what he will do, even after countless adventures.

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The Batman’s character has not varied that much over the decades.  He has gone through superficial changes, but at his core Batman remains the same character.  The science fiction stories and imaginary stories era of DC is probably Batman at his worst.  But even those stories contribute to the mythos, and unpopular as they are, they are party of the Caped Crusaders history.

Spectacular stories of Batman teaming up with Superman, the JLA or other DC heroes and villains have been staples of the DC Universe since the 1950s.  Whether Batman is in Gotham City, on the dark side of the moon or in a haunted mansion, it is all fair game.  Batman has been a detective hero, science fiction hero, traditional superhero and more.

Batman fits comfortably in science fiction, film noir, hard boiled crime stories, gothic horror, or universe hopping tales on alternate worlds.  Each fan has their personal favourite version of Batman, but to say there is only version of Batman that is the true Batman, or that any of the other versions are wrong or less worthy is to live in denial of the characters history.

Batman is bigger than any one medium, he exists as a multidimensional fictional entity that can be expressed in a multitude of ways in parallel, each as valid and useful as the other, and all contribute to the greater whole, the gestalt of the imaginative ideas that represent Batman.

The camp Batman of Adam West or the Brave and the Bold cartoon with Diedrich Bader is just as important and significant as Frank Miller’s cynical laughing maniac Dark Knight Returns Batman or Denny O Neil’s even minded slick ladykiller James Bond Batman.  Every version of Batman contributes something to the whole.

An important lesson we can all learn from Batman is that he never gives up, and his Iron-Will allows him to be that person who never gives up.  We as individuals can face all the difficulties in life that the world seemingly thrusts upon us.  We can be starved, beaten and tortured, but we always have the ability to choose our attitude to life.  We can literally go through hell on earth, and we can not only survive but thrive.  No force in the universe can choose our attitude to life for us, only we can do that.

Our bodies may break, but our minds are free, we can only be beaten when we allow ourselves to give up all hope in life.

Batman is a master of not giving up.  While he is a dark brooding character, he is also the eternal optimist. Batman sees the worst in people, and plans for things to go wrong.  But he still ultimately believes that Gotham City and its citizens are worth saving, or he would not go out night after night to fight crime.

If someone inflicted the life of Batman on an unwilling individual, it might seem like a cruel unending torture.  To be Batman means a life of constant struggle, like the Greek legend of Sisyphus who was condemned to push a giant boulder up a hill over and over.  Each time he completed his task the boulder would roll back down to the bottom of the hill, thus making his efforts pointless, this was his unending punishment.

“He was punished for chronic deceitfulness by being compelled to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this action forever.” – Wikipedia

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Like Sisyphus, Batman endlesly performs an impossible task

Batman performs an endless task, when he is dead and gone there will still be crime.  His actions in the context of Sisyphus and his boulder are futile, one could say pointless.  Batman knows this and he still takes action, he is totally committed to a goal that is impossible, unlike Sisyphus Batman chose his own affliction.  At least poor Sisyphus got a good workout every day pushing that damn boulder.

Batman performs his duties in the mode of service to humanity, it is his calling in life to be Batman, and to inspire others to join him in his campaign.  It takes discipline, courage and intense focus to get up every day and train and keep your body in condition to be Batman.

It takes effort and willpower to stay the course, not to quit too early, to study many disciplines over many years.  To increase ones knowledge and skills, in ever deepening circles of influence.  Resolve and determination are essential, as is the ability to do one thing, to focus on a single task thus not dissipating ones energy.

A wise man will be the master of his mind. A fool will be it’s slave.

-Publilius Syrus

Batman is a master of his mind, and not a slave. His mental abilities dwarf his physical abilities, however advanced they may be. He is a master of logic, deduction, and reasoning in the classical Greek style. He is a master of meditation, martial arts, criminology, escape artistry, a master swordsman and more.

All of these disciplines take time to study.  They take incredible focus and determination to see the field of study through to the end, to stay the course over weeks, months and years.  Batman never rests on his laurels.

He innovates and improvises his own techniques and methodology in addition to what he has learned from others, improving upon what he has learned and embodied.  Like Tony Robbins, Batman makes constant infinite incremental improvements to whatever he applies himself to.

Many people never attempt anything worthwhile in their lives, or give up without ever really attempting to do anything worthwhile.  The Batman is the man who does not attempt to do everything at once, but can focus on a single goal or task in the present moment.  He pursues his given task with relentless laser-like mental focus and determination, he never wavers from his task.

Like Sherlock Holmes, once Batman has the scent of a clue, his mind never rests until he has his resolution, or breakthrough moment.

Batman has acquired his skills slowly over many years.  His studies lead him to mastery, and to subtle progression and further distinctions as he grows more advanced in his fields of expertise, learning from those who are smarter and more wise than he is.  The Batman has conditioned his mind/body/brain/muscles/nervous system so well that many of his abilities are automatic, reflexive and instinctual.

An essential element to Batman’s character is that he does not panic, no matter how extreme the situation. Astronauts at NASA are trained over and over again not to panic, but to perform whatever task is necessary, no matter the external conditions.

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The potential astronauts accomplish this by rehearsing every aspect of their mission over and over, down to the most minute details, they desensitise themselves to panic and fear through repetition and simulated extreme situations and as realistic as possible role plays.

The Batman has applied the same basic principles as those potential astronauts.  He has conditioned himself to become a master of his internal states. He has experienced states of panic and extreme fear under controlled conditions, learned all he can from those states, and how to overcome them.  Of all the things the Batman can do that we can also do in the real world, this is perhaps the most useful skill set to train.

However few people ever bother to try.  Being a master of your internal states and your body does not seem exciting or sexy enough for most people to bother with.  Yet it is a skill that can be used in any arena of life, and many people are addicted to their own self-created dramas, having no interest in maturing as adults.

We don’t need to be masters of the martial arts or mountain top sitting gurus to benefit from mental training.  How grateful are we when a police officer, doctor or paramedic attends to our loved ones in the most extreme situations possible with total calm and reassurance?  How effective would those professionals be in their jobs if they gave in to panic and anxiety at every opportunity?

The man of will understands that it is not the amount of work that can be accomplished at a fever-pitch, stretched in all directions, but it is persistence of focus that keeps us at our best. It is the long, steady pull, the unconquerable purpose, the unbroken effort, that wins the battle of life.

-Orison Marden

Being a master of your own internal subjective state, be it emotion, feeling or bodily sensation does not mean being cut off from or ignoring our emotions, our humanity. It means fully experiencing all states and emotions including fear, but not being controlled by fear, or any other extreme state and allowing it to overwhelm us.

In an emergency situation such as a fire, or scene of an automobile accident, giving in to panic, fear, worry or anything that takes out of the present moment can mean death. Only by staying in the present moment, dealing with what is right in front of us, can we have any control over the external situation or our internal states. Only by breaking things down to little steps, focusing on one task at a time in the present moment can our actions have any potency.

When we are lost in thoughts of any moment other than this one, our actions are ineffective.  In true crisis situations, our ability to remain calm rather than panic, our ability to stay in the present moment, rather than not be present and choose worrying thoughts over presence can literally be the difference between life and death.

Rather than the mistaken impression of a feel good new age philosophy, the power of “now” is a requirement for conscious living.  An experiential process that means paying attention to ones own behavior, habits, attitude, actions, and reactions, rather than blindly stumbling through life thinking only of an imaginary conceptualised past or future, which exist only in our mind.

Worry and panic are luxuries we can no longer afford to indulge in if we wish to be the captain of our own ship. Our bodies do what we tell them to do, our physiological states follow our intentions, thoughts and emotions.

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If Batman is thrown into a river in straight jacket and panics he will almost certainly drown.  If he is worrying about what the neighbors think of him or the football score, he is as good as dead.  Only by choosing to be a master of his own mind can he concentrate on the immediate task at hand, narrowing his perception to his most immediate task. Only by breaking things down to small, manageable steps can he allow himself to escape one death trap or impossible scenario after another.

Escaping from a pair of ordinary handcuffs would take no conscious thought or real effort for Batman as he has done it successfully so many times, whether on land or underwater in complete darkness.  He has practiced his skills and abilities endlessly.  Once he has escaped those handcuffs, let us say he is still underwater and relatively blind, his fight or flight response will be active whether he wants it to be or not.

Some states, like the fight or flight response are activated automatically in response to real dangers and threats. However, all too often we activate our fight or flight response not to any actual real danger, but to a perceived danger such as an argument with a workmate or at home with a family member.  Once the fight of flight response is activate, we temporarily lose some of our fine motor skills, while our overall strength goes up.

So after our body enters a state of hyper-alertness, it is a really bad time to try and sit down and write a letter or an essay, our thoughts will be erratic, our hand trembling perhaps too much to write anything legible.  But it is a good time to throw a punch, throw a spear, swing a club, fight or run away.  The alternative is freezing like a deer in headlights and doing nothing.

This freezing and immobility can be overcome through training, the Batman does not freeze up when confronted with life threatening danger, he leaps in to action, having put himself through hundreds of dangerous scenarios, some of his own design, some at the hands of his enemies.  Actual combat  and danger is like a respite from Batman’s psychologically demanding routine.

The athlete trains for his race; and the mind also must be in constant training if one is to win the race of life. “It is,”‘ says Professor Mathews, “only by continued, strenuous efforts, repeated again and again, day after day, week after week, and month after month, that the ability can be acquired to focus the mind to one subject, however abstract, to the exclusion of everything else.

-Orison Marden

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What is defeat?  Nothing but education.  Nothing but the first steps to something better.

-Wendell Phillips

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Through repeated conditioning, the Batman takes advantage of Neuroplasticity.  He creates himself as the being he wishes himself to be, repeated conditioning sets up new neural networks in his brain with the only real limitation being aging and injuries.  But what does this mean?

It means that for Batman, many of his skills and abilities are relatively easy to perform, his neural-shortcuts allow him to do far more in less time, to be more efficient and use less total energy to accomplish the same task than someone who has not learned his unique skill set.

Old world science speaks of limitations.  Modern neuroscience has not so much thrown open the rusty door on these old beliefs – as busted the door clear off the hinges – creating a permanent opening to new ideas that empower people, reminding them they are who they choose to be.  Their environment may have shaped them, but they can train their minds to think new thoughts, their bodies to feel new feelings and associations, building new neural networks and re-inventing themselves daily.

Many people do not due to the false and limiting beliefs that we can not change, that we have some invisible barrier holding us back in life.  In a sense we do, that barrier is our own attitude.  Our attitude conditions our thought patterns, repeated thoughts become beliefs, repeated beliefs become character traits.  Then we say that we can not change or do anything different.  But where did this pattern start?  With our attitude, with out choice to how we perceive our lives and react to the world.

The Batman makes new choices and is not held back by yesterdays thoughts and beliefs.  Those neural networks don’t just “happen”, they are created through repetition.  So Batman trains himself relentlessly not just in his existing skills, but acquires new skills, new learning all the time, constantly challenging himself, growing more skilled and growing smarter daily.

If we want to be like Batman it means not accepting yesterdays reality, but creating each day anew, putting aside self-imposed limitations, which are after all only perceptions, or our attitude to life, they have no objective existence whatsoever.

The process of obtaining this level of self-mastery — this complete command of one’s mental powers — is a gradual one, its length varies depending upon the mental constitution of each person; but its acquisition is worth infinitely more than the cost of it’s labor.

– Orison Marden

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To be Batman, or like Batman means total dedication to being the best version of yourself you can be.  It means saying yes to life and yes to challenges and hardship.  It means taking action, rather than making excuses.  If you are going to make excuses, make them for why you have to do something important that truly matters to you, rather than put off what you most value in life.  Second hand citizens are dis-empowered because they allow themselves to be.  No man nor god can choose our attitude in life for us.

Nobody but us is ultimately responsible for the direction of our lives.   We may not know where we are going or where we will end up.  But the steering wheel on that ship is in our hands, we can at least pick a direction and plot a course, and hope for the best.  And when trouble comes looking for us, we can stand proud and laugh in its face, for we all have the Iron-Will of Batman within us if we choose it.

Struggle only makes us stronger.  Batman welcomes adversity, it keeps him sharp, it keeps him on his toes, it keeps him at his best.

“No one ever won success without great will-power to eternally hold himself to his goal, even in the face of great difficulties and obstacles. Even if you possess great abilities, without will-power, they are of little use, for they are not forced to leave their mark. They are never fully developed into the great gift that they were meant to be.  For the person of only medium talents, but who possesses a great strength of will, can, by remaining focused on this one thing, win great success.”

– Henry Ward Beecher

READ MORE ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES:

HOW TO BE LIKE BATMAN PART#1: Mental Training and Physical Conditioning

How to Be Like BATMAN PART#3: CORE VALUES

HOW TO BE LIKE BATMAN PART#4: Build Self Confidence Brick by Brick