11-15: Why Batman is the Best

batman_inc_111. Batman really is the best literary character.

I know I’m going to get crucified for this, but it’s true.  Batman is all about what it means to be human.  He lives in a world that is broken at a fundamental level, and he himself is a victim of that world – he watched his parents murdered in front of him.  And in a world where evil seems overwhelming, in a world full of beings with supernatural powers, the Batman is only human.  He has no special abilities.  He has only his will (and a giant pile of money).  As silly as it sounds, I think the Batman speaks to that deep part of us that rages against injustice, that refuses to believe the world is just a random joke.  That part of us that knows something’s broken and wants to fix it.  That part of us that believes we can do more than everyone else thinks we can.  That part of us that knows there’s more to being human than what most people settle for.

12. Violence doesn’t solve anything.

The thing about Batman is that he’s fictional.  There’s a reason superheroes don’t really exist: they can’t.  The world really is broken, but it was broken by people.  We broke (and continue to break) the world by trying to impose our own kind of order on it.  Something like 7 billion wills all trying to get the world to march to the beat of our own drums and we wonder that chaos seems to be the order of the day?  And somehow we’ve gotten it in our heads that the answer is to try harder than everyone else.  That if we are louder or stronger or more powerful than everyone else, our way will reign supreme.  But that’s not true.  Violence only begets more violence.  Violence can be effective in the short term, but it doesn’t fix the fundamental problem, the break at the core of who we are.  It only makes it worse.

13. The worst kinds of violence aren’t physical.

In fact, physical violence might be the preferable.  Its effects are more immediate, more visible, but they fade more quickly as well.  The more insidious kinds of violence are those that leave scars on our souls – emotional abuse, degrading another person’s spirit.  Crushing other cultures not by the sword but the commercial.  Teaching someone that difference is dangerous, that conformity is humanity.  Making someone else feel less human because s/he doesn’t fit into your idea of a perfect world.  That’s much worse.

14. Power is dangerous.

And that’s scary, because as soon as you have influence over another person, it’s possible (even likely) that you’re going to hurt him or her.  None of us is perfect; we all try to remake the world in our own images.  And that means we’re always at risk – always toeing the line between really engaging another person and colonizing him, remaking her to fit into our world.

15. The best place to be is uncomfortable.

Safe is easy.  And easy is dangerous, because easy is comfortable.  When we’re comfortable, we get complacent and we quit paying attention.  We stop asking hard questions.  We start to think we’re the king of our castles.  Being in an uncomfortable space reminds us that we’re not in control.  That the world is stranger than we like to remember.  That other people really aren’t the way we want them to be.  The uncomfortable spaces are a very good place to meet God.

As I write this, I’m sitting on the balcony of a Dominican Institute in Cairo listening to the Muslim call to prayer echo across the city.  I’m pretty far outside my comfort zone.

Who’s your favorite character?  Where have you been the victim of violence?  What about the perpetrator?  And how comfortable are you where you are?