If you could choose your own super power, what would you choose?
Awhile back I talked about how much I enjoyed comic books, and yesterday I posted a blog about Doctor Dolittle, the guy who could talk with animals.
Think of the comic book heroes: superman could fly. He was, as the old show said, “Faster than a speeding bullet; More powerful than a locomotive; Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound…” Batman and Iron Man both have brains and loads of money. Spider Man was… well, you know his spider. Radioactivity caused his problems, and Daredevil’s, and The Hulk. The Red Scare and the thought of nuclear annihilation consumed a lot of people’s thinking in the late 20th century.
And what about books? Yeah, we all know “You’re a wizard, Harry!” But I’m not talking about the pucks and wizards. Most stories, even vaguely boring ones, have heroes with powers, even if they’re not the kinds we’re used to. Owen Meany was very loud and perceptive as God’s instrument on earth. Frodo Baggins was physically weak, but tenacious. Elizabeth Bennet stands for her proud, prejudiced principles and is eventually rewarded for her sagacity.
And people you might meet on the street? I briefly asserted the other day that Lincoln was a hero. He may have been the most empathetic politician who ever lived. What about Mozart, the manic, musical Wunderkind? We’ve created our own list recently: Steve Jobs, Ronald Reagan, JFK (not to go on about assassinated presidents), Mother Theresa. How about John Lennon or Gandhi?
We tend to look for people who stand out from the crowd. In general, folks want people to make the world a better place. We want to be lifted out our daily grind at our job: the things that compel us to shout at our neighbors because their dog crapped on our sidewalk, or to holler at a coworker because it saves our pride somehow. we want heroes in our lives.
We need Jesus.
We also need Mozart, and Mohammad, and Professor Dumbledore. As a race, we need compasses to point us the right direction. We need Pope Francis, and Peyton Manning, and César Chavez, and Malala Yousafzai.
You know what’s interesting? Different people need different heroes. It aggravates me when people denigrate Caitlyn Jenner. He was my hero in 1976. She’s my hero now. Different days, different reasons, but still a hero. Just because a person didn’t lose a limb while saving a squad-under-fire in Afghanistan doesn’t strike you from the honor roll. We all need different heroes that fit our different lives. That’s what makes the list so vast and interesting.
Now, as to superpowers themselves: what would you choose? Would you fly? Read people’s minds? Time travel? Invisibility?
Well, we don’t get those. Think back on the number of times you’ve tried, and failed, to read somebody’s mind. I move one whole second into the future every second or so. And invisibility? There are several minutes every day when nobody can see me at all, because my eyes are closed.
As to flying, when I was 6, and living in Sacramento, I jumped off the roof of my child care provider’s chicken coop. I sprained my wrist pretty good. Years later, Donna (that was her name) described my leap to me as “that time I was playing superman”. I wasn’t, actually. Just wanted to tackle the kid underneath me. Either way, it didn’t work out well.
A few years later, in Pistol River, there was a huge fallen tree that I could climb onto, the root wad at the end was probably fifteen feet in the air. I jumped onto the log on the narrow end, ascended to the high end, and parachuted off the log, with a plastic bread sack in both my hands, and directly onto my sister.
Apparently Lori had superpowers though. Within ten minutes, she got me good and spanked by my mom.
I guess I’m trying to say we haven’t *got* the luxury of superpowers. I have a bit of brains that I generally forget to use. I am able to climb onto a short stepladder and change light bulbs WAY up in the air. I can steam a mean pitcher of cappucino milk. But generally, superpowers elude us. We have to hone the ones we might have: piano playing. Empathy. Chess skills. Sarcasm.
A final question: Whose hero are you? Have you done anything recently that would make you stand out? I don’t mean jump in front of a moving bus. Have you tipped someone 30% because she was a great waitress? Have you told a friend (like my college buddies Tyler and Lisa) how much you love them? Have you taken the blame for something that was clearly someone else’s fault? Because, after all, those are the only powers we are really capable of controlling.
I don’t know that I have (or that I’d even want to, on some days). But we’ve all got those moments inside us, to brighten someone’s day. It’s reasonable that we should, just a little, try to sometimes be those heroes we look up to. Today, I’ll try it, if you do.