- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Wisdom from the Batcave analyzes the life philosophy that emerges from Batman comic books. In 18 lighthearted chapters (such as "How to Triumph over Adversity", "the Value of Inspiring Others," "A Better Definition of Victory"), the Batman's example is used to teach profound truths. Focusing on relationships with self, others, and the larger community, Wisdom from the Batcave uses the experience of the Batman and his allies to illustrate how to live a better life.
Wisdom from the Batcave will appeal to young and old alike. It is both lighthearted and profound. Adult readers of comic books or younger readers who like the Batman will enjoy this book.
His parents' murder is the central defining event of Bruce Wayne's life-everything flows from it. Whatever Bruce Wayne does is driven by that void in his life, by that sense of loss and rage at having been denied his parents, from having grown up without their love and guidance.
The loss of his parents is so powerful that it provides a lifetime of inspiration for Bruce's difficult, grueling work. It haunts him every moment of every day of his life, and drives him to train tirelessly and fight relentlessly to ensure that no one else will ever suffer in the same way.
Dick Grayson (the first and greatest Robin) was also orphaned as a young boy after criminals killed his parents. In Robin Annual #4, he speaks for Bruce, as well, when he describes a childhood characterized by little other than "the pain, the loss, the loneliness."
Did you ever notice that people rarely appreciate what they have until they don't have it anymore? Loss is often the first step in appreciating the great gifts in our lives.
It is a sad reality that few of us appreciate our blessings until they disappear.
Imagine what Bruce would give to have had his parents present to nurture him while he was growing up. He would have gladly foregone all that he has achieved andaccomplished, all the good he has done, to have had the love and warmth of his parents, Thomas and Martha. A recurring theme in the Batman stories is the importance of family, the blessing of parents and children nurturing and loving one another.
* * *
Many of us fantasize about wealth, power and fame. If we could only ... win the lottery, play for the NBA, sit in the White House, be a superhero ...
What does Bruce Wayne fantasize about?
In "Perchance to Dream," an episode of Batman: The Animated Series (Fox Kids Network, Airdate: 10/19/92), the Mad Hatter captures the Batman and places him in an ideal imaginary dreamworld that he could never want to leave. What does the Batman dream about? What seductive vision does he conjure up? A very mundane existence, with his parents alive and well. He fantasizes about nothing more grandiose or elaborate than to have his family. What Bruce dreams about is, actually, commonplace and mundane for most of us.
The lesson is clear. We may not have Bruce's financial success or his incomparable talents, but we are blessed with loving relationships. Even though our parents, siblings, children, spouses and in-laws are imperfect, they are still forces of love and support in a lonely world. They care about us, worry about our safety and health. Bruce would trade all of his fame and fortune for a chance to have such relationships.
Think what a happy place the world would be if we recognized that we already have what we really want and need in life. What if the things we dreamed about were the ones that could really bring us lasting peace? What if, instead of fantasizing about money, glory and our adoring public, we dreamed of growing old with our spouses, watching our grandchildren grow and develop? Those are wishes that are within our grasp. But more importantly, they are wishes that bring lasting contentment, and not mere fleeting pleasures.
* * *
A great advantage of comic book fiction-indeed, any fiction-is that you can imagine and test out possibilities that are unlikely or impossible in the everyday universe as we experience it.
Back in 1994, the entire DC Comics universe experienced the "zero-hour" phenomenon, which caused a series of time anomalies; and, for a brief period, Thomas and Martha Wayne were alive again. Let's look at Bruce's reaction to the news that his parents were alive, if only briefly.
Our sequence begins with Bruce's realization that his parents are alive at Wayne Manor. He, of course, rushes back to see them, and, after his car is wrecked, resorts to running the last mile to return home to them.
Is that really his "every dream answered" described in Figure 1-1-"To hear my father's voice, to feel my mother's embrace"?
It sure is. From very simple experiences come profound pleasures.
That's what Nightwing tries to teach Robin in the exchange in Figure 1-2. Tim Drake (the third and present Robin) is complaining to a grown Dick Grayson (the original Robin, now the hero Nightwing) about his need to come up with excuses to explain his crime-fighting-related absences to his father.
Tim's complaint sounds familiar to us. How often do we complain about overbearing, nagging parents? How many jokes do we make about the guilt our parents inspire in us?
Dick's response is bracing: What he wouldn't give to "have someone to lie to"-i.e., parents who care for and worry about him!
* * *
Sometimes in life our natural family does not provide us with the nurturing we need. Divorce, illness and death all conspire to rob us of those precious relationships we need so desperately. In his own way, Bruce created a surrogate family to recreate some of what was lost. For a loner, the Batman has done an amazing job filling up the Batcave! His family consists of Alfred Pennyworth, Dick Grayson, Commissioner Gordon, Leslie Thompkins, Tim Drake, Barbara Gordon, and many others.
The Batman teaches us that when circumstances require it, we can create a family to replace the one that should be there to provide us with the emotional warmth and nourishment we need. In characteristic fashion, the Batman identifies a need-emotional support-and rather than crying about what's missing he constructs a reality for himself to meet that need.
As a young boy, Bruce Wayne was dealt the cruelest blow imaginable. He watched as his parents were murdered before his eyes! What greater horror can a child endure?
My mother and most of her friends are survivors of the Holocaust. They witnessed unspeakable atrocities directed both at themselves and at the people closest to them. As a child, I would listen to their stories. What always amazed me was the way they responded to their tragedies. My Mom and her friends came to this country with absolutely nothing. By the time I arrived on the scene, they had married, raised families, built businesses and sent their kids to college.
People respond differently to tragedies. Some people succumb to despair and self-pity. A typical response is "Why me? I just can't go on." Others dig deep and find a reservoir of inner strength they never knew they had.
After his parents' cold-blooded murder, Bruce could easily have allowed himself to hide behind a thick curtain of denial for the rest of his life. His inherited wealth would have allowed him to drown himself in materialistic, mind-numbing pleasure. He could have become the lazy, selfish, mindless playboy he only pretends to be. Who would have blamed him?
Instead, Bruce Wayne chose a very different path. He refused-and refuses-to succumb to despair or to embrace a philosophy of hopelessness. Every day-indeed, every moment-of his life, he faces squarely the adversity that life has dealt him, and he triumphs over it spectacularly.
Obviously, he can't bring his parents back to life. So what does it mean to win? He takes the miserable situation life handed him and, unbroken and defiant, converts it into magnificent victory by working, constantly and tirelessly, to ensure that no one else suffers such senseless loss.
Spiraling into despair was not an option for Bruce. Figure 2-1 describes what Bruce Wayne chose to do as a result of his own experience with tragedy.
Many of us suffer misfortunes in our lives. We, too, can choose how to respond.
It's so easy and seductive to succumb to depression and wallow in self-pity, to talk forevermore about what might have been "if only." The true test of heroism is to refuse to surrender to despair, to face squarely the difficulties that confront us and to try to impose a little order on our messy lives.
* * *
Self-pity is the easy way out. The more difficult choice is the road that the Batman chooses. His loss is ever before his eyes, the wound reopened daily. It would be much easier to bury his pain in some self-indulgent, self-defeating behavior.
Jewish tradition teaches that This World is a preparation for the Next World, a world of the spirit. Our job in This World, then, is to prepare for the Next World by developing and refining our character. While this can be a painful process, our goal is to challenge ourselves to rise above adversity and become the best, most noble version of ourselves.
Misfortune creates opportunities for personal growth, development and refinement of character.
Would Mahatma Gandhi, Michael Collins, Menachem Begin or Martin Luther King, Jr. have found the strength within themselves to change the world if not for the adversity they confronted? Would Helen Keller have attained the same greatness of character if not for her physical disabilities and her determination to triumph over them?
When life is easy, and everything is comfortable, there may be no particular need to tap into the depths of our potential. Why should we? It doesn't require a lot of bravery or patience to endure an ice cream sandwich of happiness and comfort.
On the other hand, when adversity strikes, we often begin to contemplate the preciousness of health and life and what we could be accomplishing. If Thomas and Martha had not been murdered, Bruce may have become the indolent, shallow, spoiled playboy he only now pretends to be. What motivation would he have had to tap into those limitless capabilities and push himself tirelessly to help people and battle evil? Why would he bother?
* * *
In the classic Detective Comics #500, a shadowy, supernatural hero, the Phantom Stranger, offers the Batman a chance to travel to another, alternate reality to prevent the murder and save the lives of Thomas and Martha Wayne. Robin [Dick Grayson] accompanies the Batman on this journey into that other dimension which lags behind ours by about twenty years, at the point when the Waynes are approaching their encounter with the gunman.
The Batman and Robin observe the Waynes of this other dimension in their home. The Batman, of course, is overwhelmed to see his "parents," and his reaction is obvious: "I swear by all that's dear to me ... I won't let you die again!" What's not obvious is Robin's reaction. He is circumspect because the young Bruce Wayne of this dimension is a "spoiled little brat!" Consider Robin's analysis in Figure 2-2.
Bruce Wayne used his own experience with personal tragedy to ensure that other people would live happier lives.
A crushing tragedy isn't the only way to inspire growth and accomplishment. Before we consider other lessons to be learned from the Batman, let's return for a moment to the happy conclusion of Detective Comics #500:
The Batman and Robin successfully prevent the murder of that realm's Thomas and Martha Wayne. But what becomes of little "spoiled brat" Bruce? Apparently, we learn from the story's postscript in Figure 2-3, adversity doesn't have to be final or fatal to knock us out of our complacency.
Let's use the small reminders and opportunities for growth, and maybe we won't ever have to receive those bigger, more permanent, less pleasant ones.
One of the most pervasive themes of Jewish religious tradition is the endless capacity for human greatness. Not surprisingly, this is a constant message of Batman comic books: How far does human potential extend? The Batman stories are unequivocally clear: to infinity. There is no limit.
This lesson about the endless capability of every human being is the single most important theme of Batman. It is this greatest of all truths that defines the essence of the Batman and accounts for his enduring appeal. The Batman, more than any other literary character, reminds us that every person has an infinite capacity for achievement.
If we do not realize that potential, it is only because we do not believe we have it. But it's there, all the same.
If we don't do the things that Batman does, nevertheless, something inside us resonates to the stories and whispers that we could-if we only majored in chemistry, worked out hard enough, learned kung fu, studied acrobatics, practiced rappelling, apprenticed to racecar drivers, demolition experts, crossbow experts, contortionists and master detectives. Mastery of each skill is within the realm of possibility; human beings have certainly excelled and mastered these disciplines, and many more besides.
But we are used to seeing a person excel in only one area, if at all. How can we master two difficult disciplines, let alone twenty or thirty? The lesson of the Batman is that human potential is enormous. Anything is possible if we utilize all-or, at least, more-of our capabilities. We get a glimpse of this every once in a while when we hear of an adrenaline-fueled mother who single-handedly picked up the front of a car so her child, pinned beneath, could crawl out.
We can. We just have to want to.
Modern research and timeless religion teach us that we don't even begin to tap into the potential we possess in our souls, minds and bodies. A great sage once commented, "The greatest danger for most of us is not that we set our goals too high and fail to reach them; the problem is that we set our goals too low and we reach them."
This is certainly the lesson of the Batman. His goals seem lofty to us-yet without such grand goals, he would never have accomplished even a quarter of the greatness of which he is capable.
Don't be afraid to make demands on yourself and push yourself beyond the comfortable limits of what you think you can accomplish; you'll never exhaust your reservoir of potential for accomplishment and achievement. The only limits we possess are the ones we impose upon ourselves.
A great rabbi used to say, "I never asked myself if I could do it. I only asked myself if it needed to be done." In his relentless struggle against evil, the Batman never asks himself if he can do it; he asks only if it needs to be done.
In our lives there are superhuman feats that need to be accomplished. Whether it's loving an unlovable grouch, imparting values to a malevolent teenager, caring for a burdensome parent, let's not ask ourselves if we can do it; let's just find out if it needs to be done.
Each of us possesses an endless-indeed, infinite-potential for greatness. But possessing potential and realizing it are two completely different stories. There is a lot of work in between. There are many cold, rainy mornings at 5 a.m. when you just don't feel like getting out of a comfortable bed and running for an hour, and it's hard to remember, when you're at 499, why pushup number 500 is so important. Believing, or even knowing, that you can do it is one thing. Exercising the willpower to get it done is quite another.
Willpower means sacrificing some ease and comfort right now for a greater goal sometime later. Willpower is stubbornness: It is refusing to give up when you encounter difficulty.
You can't get through life in any meaningful way without it. Asked to define a "strong man," a Talmudic sage explained that the only person who can be described as strong is one who is in control of himself. There is no strength that is not inner strength, no power that is not inner power. All outer strength is false and illusory. Real strength flows from inside outward. All the outer trappings of power are nothing if the person who possesses them is weak inside.
Willpower is indispensable to the success of any endeavor. You'll never realize your goal, other than the most trivial, without it. Without willpower, we easily get distracted and discouraged. The slightest bump in the road is enough to derail our plans and upset our focus. Some people do set worthwhile, challenging goals for themselves, but run out of steam before reaching them. That's where most of us end up: just shy of the finish line.
Certainly it is Bruce Wayne's willpower that has made him what he is. His will indomitable; he never wavers for a moment.
Excerpted from Wisdom from the Batcave by Cary A. Friedman Copyright © 2006 by Cary A. Friedman. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted December 28, 2011
Posted October 15, 2011
No text was provided for this review.