Batman, Superman, Rocketman, Supergirl, Captain America, Black Widow, the Incredible Hulk, the Green Hornet, the Avengers, Wonder Woman, Antman, Thor, CatWoman, Spiderman—where will the list of power-enhanced human hybrids end? When you include characters with all-but-superhuman warrior dominance like James Bond, Rocky, Laura Croft, the heroes of Star Wars, Mission Impossible, and Star Trek as well as the leads in most western, martial arts, and action/adventure blockbusters, you have tapped much of the box office success of Western entertainment media.
What does this constant quest to employ police surrogates and vigilantes to conquer evil and to soar above it all mean about us humans? Do we have a subconscious memory of flying? Some of those who believe in evolution might think that we remember once being birds. Yet those of us with a spiritual identity might interpret this vicarious on-screen “flying” differently—perhaps we were once “angels”, not birds. Or perhaps our ancient ordinary powers included flying? Or perhaps right now in this very moment we can fly above our circumstances by acts of personal transformation and “letting go” in consciousness.
Those who research the recurring themes within dream psychology point out that people from virtually all studied cultures have dreams of flying. Is this “race memory” as Jung called it? Or is it aspiration? Either way the superhero symbolizes a soaring identity—someone whom we once were or whom we are longing to become.
As Marshall McLuhan put it “movies are dreams that money can buy.” Horror movies are oversized nightmares. Superhero movies are our “wish fulfillment” dreams. In our daily lives we wish to see justice prevail over dastardly evil. Superheroes fulfill that need and also allow us to tap enhanced powers that propel us to solve world problems. Moreover, speedy flight permits us to transcend and then set right our own circumstances.
Are current TV hits like “Supergirl” and movies like “Star Wars” really all about us? Well, what does it mean to “project”? Aren’t the entertainment media about projecting our fantasies and fears onto shared screens? Why would literally billions of people flock to the same recycled plots and paradigms in every decade if not to connect with some time-honored truth— and perhaps with “the force” itself—however distant, dim, or distorted?
To my view we all long to be “super” in some way and we realize that we have untapped potential. Whatever the external trappings of plots, sets, and secondary characters, superheroes remind us that we can be something “more.” Indeed positive outcomes or “victories” are possible whatever the seeming odds.
To unwrap our own undiscovered energy strength all we have to do is hold our hands a few inches apart and tune in. Can you feel a source of electrical current there between your palms and fingers if you turn them toward each other? Try taking a cleanse from all manufactured food and exercising twice as much for a month. Suddenly you feel another undiscovered yet entirely natural power.
What if we lived in the way of the Tao also known as the “central way?” Or in more Western terms what if we followed “the path of righteousness” for years? Surely our “enhanced powers” begin to come forth when we surrender to patterns of balanced living, to Life’s Way and to what might be called the Source or Creator.
I am not suggesting that we will transform from the ordinary to
the extraordinary like the Incredible Hulk every time there is an emergency. Rather, the extraordinary is who we already are. “Letting go” to our embedded identity produces enhanced powers which are natural and which only seem supernatural in a world of shrunken human identity.
New superhero communication is coming forth this spring, summer and fall on screens large and small. Superman will be taking on Batman (“Batman vs. Superman”) and some of the avengers will compete among themselves (“Captain American: Civil War”). A new cast of Star Trek (“Star Trek Beyond”) will soon surface in theaters and the ending of the current hit Star Wars (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”) is scripted to foreshadow yet another sequel.
May we experience these forthcoming thrillers with new eyes. And may we experience ourselves with Divine, and thus with super, power.
– [Dr.] Tom Cooper, professor and publisher
DR. TOM COOPER is currently guest scholar at the East-West Center, University of Hawaii, Stanford and Berkeley and professor at Emerson College (Boston). Musician, black belt, and playwright, he has written eight books and two hundred published articles, been advisor to the Elders Project (with Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter and others), co-nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and is co-publisher of MEDIA ETHICS magazine.