(Jonathan Ryan posting for Jen Schlameuss-Perry.)
I had a quick exchange with a friend last night that got me thinking about the different types of superheroes—they boy scout type like Superman and Captain America vs the ones who are teetering on the edge of justice like Batman and Wolverine. I have a sincere appreciation for the good, good guys. I need models of purity of heart—they offer me hope that people can truly offer themselves for the service of others with pure, unselfish motives. I love that; I’m attracted to it and strive to be like that in my daily life.
However…I am half Sicilian and half German—my very genetic make-up alone is high recommendation for supervillainry. Growing up small and ugly didn’t help. It has become my nature, or at least my initial instinct, to be somewhat suspicious of and guarded with people. I can also lash back with extreme effectiveness when attacked. I have had to curb that in myself. I frequently deal with verbal abuse from people, and my inclination is not to be friendly. I’d like to offer them the opportunity to “take a number.” I am required—by my Christianity and my profession—to respond in charity. Now, I don’t fancy myself a hero because I manage to eek out some self-control—I fancy myself still employed and not in jail.
Having role models like Batman, Wolverine, and Aquaman (have you seen the new one? He’s like a steamy retiarius) who also struggle with tension between what they would like to do and what they must do is helpful to me. A hero who is not always certain, not always where he should be, inspires me to hang in there. Knowing that I don’t have to be perfect like I think Superman is, but can still be good in my imperfection, like Batman is, helps. It’s like Jesus and St. Peter—I need them both—one to show me how I ought to be, and one to show me that I can keep on trucking when I fail (as Peter often did). As much as I need the boy scout model of superhero, I need the slightly off model, too. Because I’m slightly off.