Batman is Batman. Other superheroes may have come first, but it’s Batman who’s proved to be the most enduring of all our comic book archetypes. Something about Batman as a character simply works, and gets at all the traits that we find most appealing in ourselves and in others. For one thing, he’s human like the rest of us. Perhaps that’s the mass appeal. People don’t just read Batman comic books because they enjoy the costume he wears. People read about Batman because they identify with his story and who he is at his most basic level as a character.
Of course, Batman’s only a fantasy. Right? To think that you could ever be a superhero in real life would be silly. Right?
So, how can you be Batman? Do you need a Batcave? A sidekick? A Batmobile?
No, you can be Batman by choosing to embody in real life some of the same traits that make Batman who he is in the comic books and in the movies. Batman represents what we already have inside us to begin with. And by trying to be more like Batman, we will really only be tapping into our best selves.
In his first inaugural address, Abraham Lincoln sought to stop the start of a civil war by appealing to the “better angels of our nature.” He called on the “mystic chords of memory,” that unite us all as a common people, to bring us again to better action. There was no memory of a Batman when the American Civil War began but if there had been, perhaps Lincoln might have mentioned him as well.
Batman is a part of our culture now and a part of our national memory. Not everyone you asked would be able to tell you who the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is or even who the President is. Everyone you asked, however, would probably be able to tell you that Batman is Bruce Wayne.
If you want to be Batman, you can begin by examining a few of his most important characteristics and then attempting to adopt them in your own life.
Confronting Your Fears
All of Batman’s life revolves around one traumatic incident from when he was just a child. Batman had to watch as both his father and his mother were killed by a stranger. You can imagine the kind of fear that this would put into a child. Instead of running away from this central fact of his life however, Batman chose to face it down and make the fear his own creature.
Batman has faced his shadows and integrated them into his life in a way that we would all like to emulate. What do you fear the most? What fact about your life do you find is most difficult to absorb and to look at straight in the eye? How would your life be different if you could face your fears like Batman has?
Batman’s mastery over his fear and over his trauma did not come about overnight, but took years of effort and dedication on his part. Batman didn’t seek to solve all of his problems overnight, or all at once, but spent the time necessary to get at their roots. Batman didn’t try to erase any of his fear or any of his trauma. Instead he put it into a greater context that could support it and sustain him.
Batman has dedicated himself to a cause that’s greater than himself. To help himself he’s made it the focus of his life to help other people. Batman regularly risks his life so that he can keep the innocent safe. With all of his immense personal wealth, Bruce Wayne could have easily chosen to isolate himself from the rest of the world and hide away from the things that scare him.
What Bruce Wayne realized when he became Batman however, is that only by focusing on other people and their problems can he truly escape the prison of his own dilemmas. Batman immerses himself in the lives of other people and makes their problems his own. Batman’s identity is outside himself in the life of Gotham City and the people who can safely walk its streets.
If you’re exhausted with your own problems and the context of your own life, you can begin to build something better by focusing on other people in the same way that Batman has. Batman didn’t chose to help other people just to help himself. He became Batman because he felt a true need to see the lives of others improve. Selflessness is often one of the surest routes to true happiness, as Batman has already discovered.
Batman lost his first family when he was still too young to save it. He hasn’t gone without love since that time, however. Instead, he’s built a new family that matters a great deal to him and that he can lean on when he’s most troubled. In the midst of the darkness of his life, Batman has found hope and help from a variety of sources.
Batman’s butler Alfred brought him up as a father figure, and now helps to serve him as his closest friend and confidant. Alfred isn’t just a servant, but is someone who Batman counts on to preserve his most precious secrets. Alfred could have been only a caretaker in Batman’s life. After all that he had lost, it would have made sense if Batman had chosen to close himself off to prevent losing anything else.
Instead, Batman turned to Alfred to be the first part of the new family that he would build from out of the ashes of the old one. Batman then adopted another orphan who had lost both his parents and made Robin a part of his family. The two don’t just fight crime together, but depend on each other in the same way that a father and son would.
Batman inspired others like Commissioner Gordon, and then brought them into his confidence to become a further part of his extended family. Batman is able to be a more effective crime fighter because he uses so many people to help him; those who he’s able to depend on because at the end of the day, they’re all a family.
What people do you have in your life now that you can depend on and that you trust implicitly? Who can you bring into your life who can become a part of your family? Who do you already know now that you might become closer to? How can you make your life better by reaching out to others?
Batman represents many of the better angels of our nature. By using his character as an inspiration, you can not only be Batman, but you can help yourself to lead a better life as well.
Have a great weekend everyone!
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