Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Child Within (SHAZAM!)

Deemed worthy to become a champion...
Whenever he utters the word, "SHAZM!",
Young Billy Batson is powered
with the abilities of six Elders,
Solomon's Wisdom,
Hercules' Strength,
Atlas' Stamina,
Zeus' Power,
Achilles' Courage,
and Mercury's Speed,
as he's struck
by a thunderbolt,
transforming into
 the World's Mightiest Mortal
that ever lived, Captain Marvel!

In the early 1940's, Captain Marvel comic books were flying off the shelves. In fact, these new Whiz Comics were becoming a financial threat to the original Action Comics superhero, Superman. With his seemingly endless power and various capabilities many people started wondering, "Isn't Captain Marvel just a knock-off of the Man of Steel?" Action Comics, now DC comics, thought so. In fact, they ended up suing Whiz Comics for stealing their idea. Guess who won. (Captain Marvel is now a proud member of the DC universe.)

I think Action Comics was wrong. Captain Marvel was unique. He had something that Superman never did. Because most lasting companies use various marketing strategies in order to financially survive, Whiz Comics did something that Action Comics never thought to do. They knew that the majority of their audience were young boys. They knew that these young boys saw their heroes as role models. And, they knew that many of these young boys wished to be "just like that!"

Whiz Comics fueled that. They made a superhero, Captain Marvel, who was in fact a boy. But, he wasn't just any boy, he was a boy who could turn into a hero just with the muttering of a phrase, "Shazam!" Once he becomes a hero, he would have the capacity to join the Justice League. He can then be the comic book hero that a young boy would wish to be.

Although most kids would only see the strength of the Captain, time and time again, we find out that this hero's true strength lies within the boy. It is often (Underworld for example) not the strength or the might of the spandex that saves the day, but the purity and innocence of the youth which saves the world.

"Young Billy Batson was an orphan who wandered into a deep cavern. There he encountered the ancient wizard Shazam, who granted Billy the ability to transform into the hero Captain Marvel."

"We must try to recover the candour and wonder of the child; the unspoilt realism and objectivity of innocence. Or if we cannot do that, we must try at least to shake off the cloud of mere custom and see the thing as new, if only by seeing it as unnatural... We must invoke the most wild and soaring sort of imagination; the imagination that can see what is there...

A certain childish directness is needed to see the truth about the childhood of the world... [In the finding of the first evidence of a cave-man,] a priest and a boy entered sometime ago a hollow in the hills and passed into a sort of subterranean tunnel that led into a labyrinth of such sealed and secret corridors of rock. They crawled through cracks that seemed almost impassable, they crept through tunnels that might have been made for moles, they dropped into holes as hopeless as wells, they seemed to be burying themselves alive seven times over beyond the hope of resurrection. This is but the commonplace of all such courageous exploration; but what is needed here is some one who shall put such stories in the primary light, in which they are not commonplace... I am even more concerned with the symbolism of the boy than with that of the priest.

Nobody who remembers boyhood needs to be told what it might be to a boy to enter like Peter Pan under a roof of the roots of all the trees and go deeper and deeper, till he reach what William Morris called the very roots of the mountains. Suppose somebody, with that simple and unspoilt realism that is a part of innocence, to pursue that journey to its end, not for the sake of what he could deduce or demonstrate in some dusty magazine controversy, but simply for the sake of what he could see.

What he did see at last was a cavern... revealed on its walls large and sprawling outlines diversified with coloured earths; and when they followed the lines of them they recognised, across that vast and void of ages, the movement and the gesture of a man's hand. They were drawings or paintings of animals; and they were drawn or painted not only by a man but by an artist. Under whatever archaic limitations, they showed that love of the long sweeping or the long wavering line which any man who has ever drawn or tried to draw will recognise; and about which no artist will allow himself to be contradicted by any scientist. They showed the experimental and adventurous spirit of the artist, the spirit that does not avoid but attempt difficult thing...

So far as any human character can be hinted at by such traces of the past, that human character is quite human and even humane. It is certainly not the ideal of an inhuman character, like the abstraction invoked in popular science. When novelists and educationists and psychologists of all sorts talk about the cave-man, they never conceive him in connection with anything that is really in the cave... When the psycho-analyst writes to a patient, 'The submerged instincts of the cave-man are doubtless prompting you to gratify a violent impulse,' he does not refer to the impulse to paint in water-colours; or to make conscientious studies of how cattle swing their heads when they graze. Yet we do know for a fact that the cave man did these mild and innocent things; and we have not the most minute speck of evidence that he did any of the violent and ferocious things.

In other words the cave-man as commonly presented to us is simply a myth or rather a muddle; for a myth has at least an imaginative outline of truth. The whole of the current way of talking is simply a confusion and a misunderstanding, founded on no sort of scientific evidence and valued only as an excuse for a very modern mood of anarchy. If any gentleman wants to knock a woman about, he can surely be a cad without taking away the character of the cave-man, about whom we know next to nothing except what we can gather from a few harmless and pleasing pictures on a wall.

But this is not the point about the pictures or the particular moral here to be drawn from them. That moral is something much larger and simpler, so large and simple that when it is first stated it will sound childish. And indeed it is in the highest sense childish; and that is why I have in this apologue in some sense seen it through the eyes of a child. It is the biggest of all the facts really facing the boy in the cavern; and is perhaps too big to be seen.

If the boy was one of the flock of the priest, it may be presumed that he had been trained in a certain quality of common sense; that common sense that often comes to us in the form of tradition. In that case he would simply recognise the primitive man's work as the work of a man, interesting but in no way incredible in being primitive. He would see what was there to see; and he would not be tempted into seeing what was not there, by any evolutionary excitement or fashionable speculation. If he had heard of such things he would admit, of course, that the speculations might be true and were not incompatible with the facts that were true. The artist may have had another side to his character besides that which he has alone left on record in his works of art... These things are not impossible, but they are irrelevant. The common sense of the child could confine itself to learning from the facts what the facts have to teach; and the pictures in the cave are very nearly all the facts there are.

So far as that evidence goes, the child would be justified in assuming that a man had represented animals with rock and red ochre for the same reason as he himself was in the habit of trying to represent animals with charcoal and red chalk. The man had drawn a stag just as the child had drawn a horse; because it was fun. The man had drawn a stag with his head turned as the child had drawn a pig with his eyes shut; because it was difficult. The child and the man, being both human, would be united by the brotherhood of men; and the brotherhood of men is even nobler when it bridges the abyss of ages than when it bridges only the chasm of class. But anyhow he would see no evidence of the cave man of crude evolutionism; because there is none to be seen."

In The Everlasting ManG.K. Chesterton explains that we often need to go back to the roots of a child. It is only during the time before we grow into our flawed ideas and presuppositions that we can see things as they really are.This is the only place where we can confine ourselves only to the facts and find what the facts have to teach. It is only in the time before we build ourselves up with sophistry, pride, and arrogance to see ourselves as a hero that we can realize that we are closer to the state of a child.

"Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it." In Scripture, this state of children is emphasized. "To such belongs the kingdom of God." Now, do not be confused. We are not to be "children in our thinking." Instead, we are supposed to be knowledgeable and ready to give a defense for the hope within us. At the same time, we are to have the faith, love, hope, and trust as children. We are to lean on God as if we have never been hurt before, as if we did not know what losing someone's trust pertained. We are to be able to know God as our father, for through Christ's sacrifice that is what he has become to us.We are to be able to see the world with a limitless awe and wonder, to marvel at his miracles and daily sustenance, everything from the food we eat to his limitless grace.

We must know that we are children.

"And now, little children, abide in him."

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