Lately I’ve been ruminating on the form of power to choose one’s direction in life, and while doing so, my thoughts turned to Batman, the self-made superhero.
While I cannot deny the brilliance of superheroes such as Zatanna and The Flash (who received their powers supernaturally or by accident), self-made superheroes have always fascinated me. True, we cannot all be heirs to billions of dollars with which to create high-tech gadgets and armor, but the origins behind Iron Man and Batman are worth more than their price tags. In fact, their origin stories offer wisdom and philosophy that other heroes’ stories may not. But for right now, I will focus on Batman’s story because I am biased and will always defend my favorite superhero.
Before Batman, there was young Bruce Wayne, heir to the influential corporation Wayne Enterprises. When he was faced with the senseless murder of his parents, he had a choice. He could allow himself to become consumed with hatred and revenge, or he could rise above his circumstances and promote justice in a broken world.
Peter Parker (Spider-Man) faced a similar trial. He had to deal with the murder of his uncle Ben in addition to the untimely loss of his parents. But there lies a fundamental difference between his and Bruce’s story: Peter already had the radioactive spider venom in his veins when Ben was murdered. Ben’s death merely provided a new outlet for Peter’s powers and identity as a superhero. On the contrary, when the Waynes died, Bruce was still a child. He did not have the paranormal capabilities Peter and other heroes did. But Bruce did have a strong desire to bring justice to Gotham. He also recognized that his resolution would require extraordinary power, and so he made himself into “the caped crusader,” Batman.
It is also important to note that while the death of his parents certainly gives Bruce the motive to become a hero, it is Bruce himself who finds the power to forge his identity as Batman. Like every human, Bruce has limitations that set him apart from his Justice League contemporaries, but he wills himself to rise above these limits and become an equal force to that of Superman and Wonder Woman.
Through Bruce’s story we can realize our power to choose and to accept the idea that no matter how poor our circumstances, we alone have the power to decide what will affect us. If there is one thing we can control in life, it is how we receive these challenges.
Now, I am not suggesting that you all put on a ski mask and become your town’s trademark vigilante like Phoenix Jones (though that would be a pretty cool hobby to put on your resume). I do, however, wish to illuminate one of the lessons our favorite “Dark Knight” has taught us over the years. When faced with a crisis (big or small), do not let it defeat you. You have the power to decide how the crisis will affect you, if it will shape your character for the better or worse. When in the heat of a crisis, step back a moment, evaluate whether the concern is even worth your time, and always know that you have the power to walk away if it isn’t.
In the end, I offer one wise rule to live by: “The most important thing in life is to be yourself. Unless you can be Batman. Always be Batman.”