Thursday, June 14, 2012

Amazing Adjectives (Powerless or Powerful?)

Many Marvel comic books start with adjectives. There is "the Amazing Spider-Man" series;  "the Mighty Thor" series; "the Incredible Hulk" series; the "Fantastic Four" series; and a lot more. These titles seem to be used to draw the reader in. If "Spider-Man" isn't enough for you, you know he is also "Amazing." If "Thor" just doesn't cut it, you should be intrigued by knowing that he is also "Mighty." The "Hulk" is not only a hulk, he is "Incredible." And, a comic book would seem pretty weird if it was only called "Four," it may be better to realize that these four are also "Fantastic."

But in real life, we don't have adjectives.

In fact, Adriane Dorr, one of the main speakers at my college graduation ceremony (like many other graduate speakers this year),stressed that we can aim to be average. We do not need to rush out of college hoping to achieve the latest, greatest thing. Instead, we can follow through in our lives as completely normal and dull people. Her speech would proclaim that it is not only appropriate to live a life full of monotonous repetition that appears meaningless in the grand scheme of the world, but what we should actually attempt to do so.

This reminds me of the Powerless series.

The reader becomes familiar in a world without super powers. Instead of Matt Murdock, Peter Parker and Logan dressing up in funny costumes to save people with their specialized super-human abilities, they live regularly complicated lives just like the rest of us. Murdock has problems with his clients, Parker is threatened by his career, and Logan is haunted by his past experiences. These comics would go perfect under the title: "What If?"

The thread that holds the story line together is the fact that all three of these "normal" men go to the same psychologist. He hears them. He helps them. He would give his life for them. In the end, this psychologist realizes that these guys, these average Americans, do great things. They would never really need any super-suit or surreal power to be heroes. The name of the series becomes ironic. Even though Matt, Pete, and Logan seem "Powerless" they are actually some of the most powerful people that their psychologist has ever known.

Scattered throughout the Powerless comics, the psychologist starts to believe that he is going mad. He has dreams and visions of heroes in costume. He occasionally sees Murdock as Daredevil, Pete as Spider-Man, and Logan as Wolverine the way that they truly are in the Marvel Universe. He sees that with superhuman powers, these "average" men could do even more.

By the final page, the reader realizes that the psychologist is, in the Marvel universe, the Watcher. Although he is able to witness many things, he can only really watch. While those around him become "Amazing," he remains the same.

He thinks: "Through it all, the one thing I have been unable to reconcile is the visions. Are they figments of my imagination... I cannot answer that question and may never know for sure. But I do know this: they activated me from the stupor in which I had chosen to live my life. And, for a moment... they helped me discover great joy."

"But now? Now, all I feel is pain. Is this what it feels like to be human? Is that the world I choose? Or is it better to feel nothing at all? To sit back and try and live vicariously? It's a choice I suppose we all must make. Often, when we dream, or imagination takes us into the world of the fantastic [Four], the uncanny [X-Men], and the spectacular [Spider-Man]."

"We dream of flying, of having the strength of a thousand men, or even of saving the world. In these amazing fantasies, good conquers evil... and no one ever really dies."

"But that is not life. To be human... truly human is to accept that sometimes we are heroes, sometimes we are victors... and sometimes we are powerless."

While the others around him grow to be powerful, the Watcher knows himself to be powerless. Forgetting that his life has any sort of meaning, he uses a razor blade to rid himself of it.

In the world of Dorr's speech, we would be just like the Watcher. We know that great things are done every day. Monumental ideas are enacted upon, world records are broken, and lives are saved. But, we would not see ourselves as having the potential to really do anything. Even though great things happen, we are the one left standing there witnessing them instead of being the one there to actually achieve them.

She was wrong.

Not only did the Watcher (like us)  have the power to influence and help other people in their lives (his role of psychologist really assisted these powerless heroes), he would have been able to do even more if he hadn't given up his life.

The problem here is that he knew that he could never really do anything great on his own.

Is this a good reason to give up? Was he right to call it quits? By knowing that he is a human being and that really doesn't seem to do much for him on a grander scale is the Watcher right to commit suicide? No. He should have looked for help. But, where should he have looked?

"I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth."
Psalm 121:1-2

Instead of merely looking in or out, he should have looked up. By knowing God as our refuge and strength, even when we are at our most powerless state, we can realize that he is the one who empowers us.

"The weakness of God is stronger than men." 1 Corinthians 1:25.

Even in this weakness, we are strong in Christ. Alone we are nothing, but since God has created us, loved us, redeemed us, and renewed us we are something. God is not proclaimed to make useless and worthless things, he doesn't even just make average or mediocre things, God does awesome and wonderful things. This includes us individually as amazing beings, not by anything that we have done, but because it is God who has made us.

In this way, we too can see the world (as the Watcher did). Knowing that God is at work within us (Vocation!). We can see each other as we really are. Instead of spandex and utility belts, we can witness that we are masks of God (as he works through us, both believer and non-believer) and Christians have even been given the Holy Spirit along with his fruits and the armor of God.

As the curtain is pulled away and we can begin to see the real world, the spiritual world, we finally realize why those adjectives stated at the beginning never found their way into our world.

They would have been too redundant.

Everything is "Amazing!!" It is all "Mighty" and "Incredible." "Fantastic" becomes an understatement. There are so many glorious things that have been made and continue to be made. And, we are each one of them. Every job from the plumber to the grocer to the doctor and president are all great because they are each used by God to tend for the world.

With all of these awe-inspiring creations, people, and events around us we often lose focus and appraise the creation instead of praising God or forget that we are each astounding and even loved in the sight of God. But, if we continue to keep the focus on what he has done instead of how we fail to live, our lives will be worth living.

Just think, no matter how glorious some thing may appear to be in itself, it is still nothing without God or even compared to the infinite glory of God.

Yet, he still chose to love us.

He died for us.

He rose for us.

And, his Spirit daily lives with us.

That is powerful.

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