Saturday, December 24, 2011

16510--Down from On High

 When I was informed that we had calculated that the course of a big, nasty asteroid (Apophis) would bring it into our back yard in 2029 and possibly hitting us in 2036, I was...well, on the fence about whether or not we should be concerned.  I mean, we're in the 21st century and I still can't even get weather information I can count on for the same day.  Now they're trying to sell me on a prediction two decades out?  I checked a mirror.  I do not have "SUCKER" on my forehead.

The way they're telling it, our best case scenario has the rock passing between Earth and the moon (which is pretty close for that sort of thing); worst case says we're looking at quakes, tidal waves, floods, plague, famine, death, see where this is going.  Be concerned if you want to be or don't (but so you know, we're looking at 99.9993% chance of a miss).  Either way, I'm not betting on the government to handle things.  The government really only seems to handle disasters well in fiction and even then the track record is shaky.

As that sort of thing goes, we'd be better off with Superman.  I know, a lot of people love to put all their stock in Batman and I don't want to take anything away from the Dark Knight's street cred, but playing head-kicker with serial killers is vastly different from changing the course of mighty rivers.  I've loved both these guys since childhood, but I've always considered Superman to be the superior role model and never had any question that when planes and giant rocks started falling from above, the Bat-signal wasn't going to get the needed help to the right place.  That's not a shortcoming on Batman's part (I won't even make a dig about searching the utility belt for a Bat-asteroid deflector).  Superman just brings a strong game to the playing field.

When problems pop-up, Superman is the superhero to go to.  I'm not talking about a Superman who falls back on some lame time-travel "solution", creating a paradox where he can just pretend bad things aren't happening.  I'm talking about a super man, who oozes noblesse oblige without even knowing it, gets hands-on and gets things done.  Superman came to us with not only compassion, but a passionate desire to help us find the best part of ourselves.

That has probably always been one of the most essential virtues of the heroic Kryptonian immigrant: he unselfishly wants to help everyone.  It's really sad to me that so many people have expressed some inability to relate to him.  I think it saddens me because it displays an inability to acknowledge the brighter virtues within ourselves.  If anything, Superman shouldn't seem unreal and alien, but an inspiration.  He should represent a standard to which we should aspire.  WWSD?  The right thing, of course.

 Superman has always been the champion of the people.  He's not from around here, so we all look alike to him.  He never plays favorites, he just helps people live their lives without interference from others.  He's a freedom fighter.  Even more than that, he wants everyone to have a chance to just get through their day.  When it struck him that a great many of Earth's people couldn't even count on having food every day, he made an effort to change that.  Unlike any other single person, his herculean effort to provide food for the hungry for a single day drew such attention that it inspired a tremendous outpouring of supplementary aid from other people.  He remains mindful of a hero's function as a role model, a status he holds probably beyond any other iconic figure.

Like many heroes before and after him, he's an orphan.  Still, he has always allowed the circumstances of his origin to add to his strength and his strength of character.  After the better part of a century, he has continued to spark the minds and souls of young and old alike.  We should expect nothing less from someone who has descended from a world of wonders to live and walk among us.  Even the appeal of innocent Billy Batson's transformation to the purehearted Captain Marvel takes a back seat to Superman's, whose virtuousness is that of an uncorrupted adult.  He is not a naive child in the guise of a man.  Superman has walked the Earth and seen what it has to offer.  He has made informed choices and refused to be led astray.

 Many believe that Superman's appeal lies in his power.  Some even feel that he wouldn't be a hero without his superhuman powers.  That's short-sighted, I say.  Predecessors to Superman such as Hugo Danner in Philip Wylie's Gladiator and pulp hero Doc Savage would certainly indicate otherwise.  Danner was born with powers similar to Superman's, but lived a miserable life in which he felt himself a misfit among humanity, never found a purpose for his special abilities and died alone, miserable and unfulfilled.  Doc Savage, closer to Batman than Superman, possessed wealth and drive, honed his body and mind to such extremes as to seem nearly superhuman and found his way in the world fighting the forces of evil.  He had no special powers, but he had a drive to be the best he could make of himself and to help others unselfishly.

Superpowers or not, I'd rather be in a world with people with the heart portrayed in these people of conscience, these people who seek only to help and ask nothing in return.  No matter who they are--Wonder Woman, Batman, Spider-Man, Doc Savage--or how many they come to number, Superman will ever stand steadfast at their forefront.  He is recognized around the world and knowledge of his mission has spread with him.  Superman fights for freedom and justice, possesses both power and humility of incalculable measure, all the while setting examples for us to emulate.  Like us, he's not perfect, but he also teaches us to never stop striving to become the very best of ourselves.

Bringing out the best in...*ahem* Moving along!

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