a hero can save us

How To Be A Superhero In Three Easy Steps

And they say that a hero can save us
I'm not gonna stand here and wait


We're in a society that's made a cult out of the superhero. And why not? Wouldn't it be nice if there were someone out there saving the world that we could see clearly? We of this age all seem to appreciate the imperfect, the human sort of superhero that allows our empathy. But we still see them as an other, a dominant class of being fundamentally different from humanity on account of physicality.

We exalt this theory of heroism as if it were impossible. We think that because we don't have supernatural physical powers or a masterful mind or an awesome butler (because of unlimited cash resources), we can't be superheroes. We think that maybe being a hero is all we could ever be. Heroes usually only get to be a hero once, or at least that's how the media sees it. So if we ever get to save a single person, maybe that's enough. But it isn't.

What is it that attracts us to superheroes, really? Do we cheer harder when they help a stranger, or when they keep the one they love from falling? We subconsciously need them to fix everything, if not themselves, at least everything else. We want them to win. And because we so often lose in life, we live through them as surrogates - at least they have a better chance than we do. We think.

But how can we emulate the superhero of our choice? Putting on a costume isn't enough, and studying their actions won't help either. Is it possible that what we are most attracted to in the life of a superhero is something we can do ourselves?

I have long been under the impression that I have what it takes to be a superhero in the philosophic sense. When it comes down to it, there's three things that define true heroism for me. The intent to rescue, the consistent success of that process, and a dual persona. Nearly all superheroes in fantasy fiction whatever the medium are dualistic in their mask, their suit, what they both display and hide behind. I believe we all have masks to display and to hide behind. Sometimes that's a positive thing, but mostly it's a problem. Usually the mask controls you rather than the other way around... If you can make the mask subject to your will, you have succeeded.

When I was a kid, I would always read fantasy fiction starring male heroes. I wasn't really interested in being a heroine or even a superheroine. I never fit in a role that sought only a fulfillment of love, or hated men and only used them like playthings - those seemed to be the only options and I found them both insulting, if exotic at times. I wanted to be the masculine hero, who swoops to the rescue, who flies in the face of danger - someone who protects. And I always felt as though that were somehow my role, and yet I felt guilty about it.

I have only just begun to realize that I am displaying all the signs of heroism on a very consistent basis. There is a very separate part of me that desires only to rescue and protect people, and not in the culturally "maternal" sense. Sometimes I want to rescue them from themselves, sometimes from their lives, sometimes from their negative opinions of themselves, and most of all from loneliness. I feel as though all the years I spent in abject loneliness have bred in me the need to lift others who are lonely up out of it and set them on their feet. And in the process I have not only helped in the process of rescuing them, but redeemed myself.

I have a team of the greatest friends. People who were called according to this purpose, who offer everyone a chance to be accepted and loved. A group of people who offer grace.

I don't do this rescuing pridefully because I have never sought people's gratitude or come close to them out of negative pity. If anything, I feel like these people have all built into my life equally and made me capable of this sort of mission. And unlike most male hero-types in fiction, I rescue out of intimacy. I have been thinking lately that almost all my closest friends are people whose lives have been lonely and lacking in trust. God created me as a person who could be trusted, most of the time, with the hearts of other people. I have been told things that both warmed my heart and instilled rage in me - lies that people believed about themselves that are being broken down, things that had never been said to them in all their life that they should have heard a long time ago, hurts that were all consuming that have begun to heal.

Certainly I am flawed. I hurt others. I desire revenge. I assume and do not ask. I am forceful sometimes when gentleness is required. The list of my flaws is numerous and scary. And worst of all, I always feel like a bull in a china shop surrounded by fragile people, trying to move slowly and carefully but failing all the time. I assume that because the mask that someone else wears is sharp and angular, that that is who they are, and I forget that we are soft inside. Most of us do not have hardened hearts, and even if we do, no one has one that is completely frozen through - it is not the nature of humanity for hope to be entirely extinguished.

And yet, despite my flaws, I am beginning to feel as though I've been given the gift of being a hero. Not just a one-time fling with heroism, where I save a physical life, but the bravery to face down all the terror and loneliness and hurt that fills the lives of everyone around me. And when I look at it now, it's an intensely feminine thing to do. Feminine in all the strong ways. Protection is an impulse of love, how that impulse is expressed is somewhat related to gender. If I use my body to protect someone - shielding a girlfriend from a creepy guy, for example -  I'm likely trying to protect her feelings. But if I use my heart and mind to protect someone, I feel more fulfillment in that then in a thousand productive days, a hundred perfect projects. It's a work of art far more important than the physical works I create.

What's most beautiful about all of this is that I always wanted to be a superhero, and now I look at my life, at my friends and what they've said about me... That they look up to me. That I'm the only person they trust. That their life was a lot different before they met me. That I had come to them in perfect timing. That I am awesome and fantastic and beautiful on the inside.

So after all this time wanting to be a hero, I guess I got to be a hero after all.