Modern Day Mythology And The Development Of The Self… Or What We Can Learn From Comics. (PART 2)

In part one of MDMATDOTSOWWCLFC (how’s that! for an acronym), I ended with the idea that the X-Men myth asks us to mine our insides. However, going inside, introspection, is something we tend to avoid because of how painful it can be.   Like that part of the basement where we throw all our crap and the more it becomes overrun the more we stay away; the same goes for our emotional insides.  We stay away from ourselves because we fear what we may find, and the more we avoid it, the more the prophecy becomes fulfilled. There is a lot in us to be wary of. Introspection can feel like a fruitless endeavor when we actually find exactly what we were afraid of, darkness. Yet, there is another modern day myth, which shows us that even our darkest parts can have great value.   This Myth on darkness is The Dark Knight - Batman.

 

         The Batman myth is a fascinating one because though he is known as a “good guy,” there is very little inside Batman that feels good. As with the X-Men myth, Batman’s origin story takes place during his childhood where, as a young boy, he witnesses the double murder of his mother and father.  A trauma of this magnitude almost without exception will affect someone neurobiologically, not to mention psychologically for the rest of his or her life. Bruce Wayne is no different.  In just about every telling of the Batman myth, he is orphaned, alone, rageful, vengeful, and relentless in his pursuits.  He is someone who has great darkness inside, the likes of which will never go away. In many versions of the Batman myth, the younger version of Bruce Wayne tries desperately to deny his darkness, or maybe better put, his true self.   Yet the more he denies how much pain he actually holds inside and the specificity of that pain, the more he suffers.  (Like a cancer that goes ignored, not only does it fester, it spreads.)  However, eventually Bruce Wayne embodies the “X-Men” message: The realization that with enough courageous work and submission to his true self, his most painful parts inside are what can make him so significant.  The moment he realizes and commits to this path, Bruce Wayne is now becoming Batman. 

 

         It is right about now when I hear some ask “Yeah…but is Batman happy?”  If Batman is smart he gave up on happiness a long time ago.  And what we learn from the Batman myth is that we should too.  When we focus on happiness, we become like a cat trying to catch a laser pointer; not only is it exhausting, it’s a lot of wasted calories.  The best thing children of trauma (or just about anyone for that matter) can do is to give up, and by giving up we now have the room to put our focus onto something else.  The Batman myth gives the example of a man who holds incredible darkness and rage inside.  Yet, through a long introspective and physical journey, he figures out a way to give him self the best shot at something more important than happiness; A Good Life.  Happiness is fleeting and nebulous.  But A Good Life gives us roots, grounds us, gives us contentment and satisfaction, and we don’t have to cut off all of our bad stuff to get it, in fact quite the opposite.  The Batman myth cares about happiness about as much as gravity cares about your religious background. But it does care about A Good Life, which is made up of worthiness, and ultimately meaning.  Batman is that little boy making sure that no one good ever has to suffer in the way he has suffered, while anyone bad should know suffering in the way that he does.  This is a life full of meaning, and a life that is “good,” born out of utter trauma and despair. Happiness never crosses his mind. 

 

The X-Men set the example that the parts of us that feel mutated and shameful are in fact the places to begin.  And Batman lets us know those places have immense power, and that powerfully painful feelings can still lead to A Good Life and a life of meaning.  The final choice then, as always, is up to us. Are we going to access our powers and, if we do, use them for good or evil?