[Greetings once again from Chester of The Adventures of Chester. If you like these posts here at Winds, please visit my blog and see if you find something you like there.]
The new NBC series Heroes is very entertaining. The premise is that a number of regular people all over the globe -- about 10 or so -- have discovered that they have incredible powers. These are the usual comic book-type of powers, but that doesn't make them uninteresting. Indestructible bodies, the ability to fly, painting the future, hearing others' thoughts, and bending time and space are among those skills. It's a great show and I recommend it.
The most interesting part is each character's reaction to the discovery of these skills. Some want to deny them, others immediately see themselves as freaks, several aren't sure just exactly what is happening, and one in particular knows that he is a superhero and must now save the world.
The sudden discovery of unknown power then becomes a moral question: how best to use it? For good or evil? And how to determine what is good and what is evil?
The show hasn't gotten that far in-depth yet, but I suspect it will have to, because ultimately, these powers are useless, or at least destined to be misguided without the impetus of a sort of moral journey, in which one determines what is good and how to strive for it. Only then can superpowers be used effectively. Otherwise, they'll be forever used for mundane goals -- like cheating at Vegas.
Moreover, the possession of such power means that eventually choices will have to be made. The ability to make those difficult choices -- whom to save if many can possibly be saved? -- is perhaps what gives those with superpowers their true edge.
This leads to a question: if it is a clear moral grounding, or an ability to weigh difficult decisions and choose the lesser of many poor outcomes that truly gives superheroes their power, then couldn't such a faculty be conscientiously developed by an ordinary man not possessing such unnatural powers, but who would come to be no less potent for his ability to quickly and accurately command his emotions, a situation, or a difficult moral decision?Two things jump to mind: first, Frodo, of the Lord of the Rings, who has no supernatural powers whatsoever:
Frodo: I can't do this, Sam.And the second is Robert E. Lee's Definition of a Gentleman:
Sam: I know. It's all wrong. By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding on to Sam?Sam: That there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo... and it's worth fighting for.
The forbearing use of power does not only form a touchstone, but the manner in which an individual enjoys certain advantages over others is a test of a true gentleman.Perhaps honor and perserverance trump unnatural powers. It's a thought worth remembering in a test-driven meritocracy.
The power which the strong have over the weak, the employer over the employed, the educated over the unlettered, the experienced over the confiding, even the clever over the silly--the forbearing or inoffensive use of all this power or authority, or a total abstinence from it when the case admits it, will show the gentleman in a plain lightThe gentleman does not needlessly and unnecessarily remind an offender of a wrong he may have committed against him. He cannot only forgive, he can forget; and he strives for that nobleness of self and mildness of character which impart sufficient strength to let the past be but the past. A true man of honor feels humbled himself when he cannot help humbling others.