Superman: Man of Steel — an ideal to aspire to

I’m going to go out on a limb to declare that the new version of Superman: Man of Steel will be one of the best films of 2013.  Needless to say I am very much looking forward to Christopher Nolan’s version of Superman, because after Dark Knight Rises, I am pretty sure I know where Nolan is going with that long famed hero.  If I had to guess, I would say that Nolan and I share a love for the classic book Thus Spoke Zarathustra.   To understand what I am talking about, let us study just a few quotes known to come out of the new film set to be released on June 14th 2013 in tribute to the 75th year of the comic book creation.  Many similar quotes are spoken by Zarathustra in that wonderful book which has meant so much to me over the years.  They have been modified to fit the story of Superman, but the essence is there as either an accidental or intentional tribute by Nolan, to Thus Spoke Zarathustra.  To place faces to the dialogue below, Jonathan Kent is being played by Kevin Costner, and Jor-El by Russell Crow two of my favorite actors.

    1. Superman: My father believed that if the world found who I really was, they would reject me. He was convinced that the world wasn’t ready. What do you think?
    1. Jonathan Kent: You’re not just anyone. One day, you’re going to have to make a choice. You’ll have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be. Whoever that man is, good character or bad, he’s going to change the world.
    1. Jor-El: What if a child dreamed of becoming something other than what society had intended? What if a child aspired to something greater?
    1. Jor-El: You will give the people an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time you will help them accomplish wonders.

To understand what Superman means to me, let me take you dear reader back to the time when I met my wife 26 years ago who felt that her father was the only living embodiment to Superman on Earth.  She quite literally felt this way about him as he had then and still does have a Clark Kent quality of gentile courtesy even as a very large and strong man.  He could crush most people easily, yet he didn’t.  He supported the world in a way that Ayn Rand’s character of Hank Rearden did—another man of steel as a business tycoon—quietly, tenaciously, yet graciously.  That man, my wife’s father was involved in a very serious accident a few years ago at the age of 65 when he was riding his Vestpa home from the school where he taught geology and was hit by a car driven by a young girl texting on her phone.  The crash broke his leg so badly that doctors threatened to cut it off. Being a man of science, he knew that there was a chance his body could repair the fractured bones if only the living tissue within his femur would take and bond again.  Doctors were very doubtful.  There really wasn’t enough stable bone to even place rods through, so the prognosis was not good at all.  Months later he came to my house and my son-in-law and I tried to pep him up with a positive discussion so that his mood would influence his peptides and feed his cells into rebuilding the bone of the femur.  At the time, it looked like the bone was dying, as doctors had predicted.  Yet his mood was good.  He arrived at my house and insisted on walking on the broken leg.  He dressed in a very nice outfit complete with a fedora hat and suspenders which was typical for him.  He seemed to have a handle on the situation even though amputation seemed inevitable.

Months later the bone began to heel, and it was obvious that his shattered leg would repair.  He has recently just returned from a 10,000 mile trip all over the western United States with his spouse, my wife’s mother.  He hiked the Rocky Mountains with his leg and countless other places as a 67-year-old man.  He’s fine now and can walk without a cane when he wants to.  Over the years even during the tragic deaths of loved ones, economic difficulties, social upheavals, and any tribulation known to man, he has always risen to face those problems time and time again.  In fact, on the day of his mother’s burial recently, we spent some time in his basement movie theater watching movies and laughing as though nothing had happened in the outside world.  His ability to carry trouble on his back so adequately–protecting the more sensitive females in the family boldly is why my wife has always thought of him as Superman.   In fact, she is planning to take him to see this updated version for his birthday, which occurs around that time.

My wife let me know from date number one that she expected from me to be Superman too.  She wanted nothing less.  Now many people who knew me then thought that her expectations were outrageously high and terribly unrealistic.  Superman Part II from 1980 was the very first film she and I watched together and I noticed her sincerity when it came to Superman.  We were in Richmond Virginia the day that Christopher Reeve had an equestrian accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down.  She openly wept because reality had come to her mind that Superman played by Christopher Reeve was fictional.  It’s not that she didn’t know it already, but it was blatant that the idea of being greater than just a slop of human flesh was not obtainable in the world except in the fantasy of the mind.  To her it was sad that such a strong man in Christopher Reeve was imprisoned to a wheel chair for the rest of his life, which was greatly shortened because of the accident.  Reeve had put on a valiant “Superman” like fight, but in the end had lost.  My wife never really got over it.

When my wife met me, I was very rough around the edges.  Actually, I still am.  I don’t like dinning customs, social manners that remind me of European Victorianism, and I’ve been so mad that as recently of two years ago I’ve put my head through doors splitting them in two to make my point.  I used to hope that my wife would be impressed by those acts of strength, but she never was.  Now I only do things like that when I need to make my point to someone attempting to impose themselves on me.  What did impress her were the times I rode a bicycle for 12 miles a day round trip in 10 degree weather working two jobs so she could stay home with our growing children.  Or when I worked 16 hour days 7 days a week to make ends meet, or when I took on a whole neighborhood of rowdy kids to bust up a marijuana ring endorsed by the police, or the night I caught a peeping tom outside our window trying to get a look at my changing  wife—and many other incidents.  Not all of them were so obvious and clear-cut, but in my mind I always held in my mind the famous “S” shape that is the second most recognizable symbol in the entire world behind only the Christian cross—and I pushed forward no matter how daunting the feat in front of me was.  My wife’s insistence that only Superman would impress her put my mind into the mode that was required.  As a result, I don’t belch or fart and I never let even lip saliva run down a glass I drink out of.  The reason is that those things are reminders of the grotesque nature of the human body, the simple collectivism of cells running about trying to live one more day in slow decline toward death.  The human body needs to be more than that, or at least aim higher.  Because of my wife, I hold the door open for all ladies young and old, I walk on the street side of a sidewalk when I walk with her to protect her from dangers that might come from that direction, and I have learned that there is a lot of strength in kindness, which has preserved many walls, doors and windows over the last couple of years.  Instead, I have focused that energy not in the misplaced reaction to ill will toward me and my family, but in the pro-active attack of threats—often before they have a chance to manifest.

In short, since I have met my wife, I have tried every day to get up in the morning and be Superman.  I expect to be Superman.  That doesn’t necessarily mean the physical manifestation, or the ability to fly.  But what it does mean is the “IDEA” of superman, the yearning to be more than just an average man, a man of faults, of weakness, of scandalous character, of pathetic whimpering, a man less than super.  There were times where I thought such expectations where unrealistic, and that I thought she was the out-of-her mind to expect such high quality from me.  But the result is that I am now at an age where I can hear that classic John Williams score and understand it intellectually, not just perceptively.  I now have stories worth telling, and they are much greater than they would have been if I had not pushed myself to be a Superman every day of my life.

Sure, there were times like in Superman II where I understand just wanting to be a normal guy, and surrender all the power of the cape to be “human.”  But what is quickly learned, just like in that old film, is that without Superman, evil rules the Earth, and hiding in the mountains, or in the Fortress of Solitude with a loved one won’t stop evil from advancing.  It advances when there are no Supermen to meet it.  So the world needs Supermen.  My wife without realizing it set a high standard for me. I struggled to meet it, and in the end, I feel I understand Superman extremely well.  I strive every day of my life to be Superman and nothing less.

It is easy to see why my wife was so insistent on living up to the image of Superman now in hindsight.  Having kids of my own, they have a father who is someone they can legitimately look up to.  Like I always looked at my wife’s father as something to aspire to, I have now given a new generation something to emulate.  My version of Superman may be more like Indiana Jones, dirty, gritty, with streaks of blood running down my arms and back routinely.  I lack the cleanness of leaping buildings in a single bound and flying around the world to stop time itself, but the idea is what’s important.  The yearning to be more than just a decaying human being that simply wants to fill their bellies with food and have sexual relations with the same intensity that one uses the restroom—and for the same reasons, is something to be overcome, not cherished.

Because of Superman, I have looked for real examples of such an idea, and this is how I found Thus Spoke Zarathustra and ultimately became such a fan of the Übermensch idea which means in German “OVERMAN.”  This is why this site is named Overmanwarrior’s Wisdom as Overman means Superman.

It sounds as if Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder made their version of Superman: Man of Steel understanding all of what I have said above.  After Dark Knight Rises for Nolan, and 300 for Snyder, I am 100 % sure that these guys understand what Superman is.  It is highly likely their own wives have a similar yearning from them to behold a Superman, after all, what woman in the world deep in their hearts doesn’t?  It is up to such men to be Supermen for their women.

But more than anything, Superman is an American idea.  Superman evolved from the German ubermensch of Nietzsche and was carved into a preserver of Truth, Justice and the “American” way through comicsI almost turned away from Superman not long ago when the comic took a dark turn toward statism and Superman declared his alliance to The United Nations, which is to take such an American icon and turn him into an advocate for socialism.  This is a trend I trust Christopher Nolan will halt in this upcoming film.

The only thing I am worried about concerning Superman: Man of Steel is the music by Hans Zimmer.  I am deeply in love with the John Williams score from 1978, and it will be difficult to accept anything less.  It is not rare for me to put that soundtrack on in our family car and blare it loudly with the windows down.  My kids know all too often that this is routine with me and comes with riding in the same car.  They were raised on that type of music.  But Zimmer is my second favorite music composer behind only Williams, and I have a sneaky feeling that the musical score may actually be spectacular on many intellectual levels.  Another popular soundtrack that is played all the time in my car and on my iPod is the soundtrack to Gladiator, which Hans Zimmer wrote.  So Superman is in good hands.

Superman is great not because of his strength, but because he stands as a symbol of what everyone should strive to become.  Unlike Robin Hood who steals from the rich and gives to the poor, which is an entirely socialist scheme, Superman stands alone as a beacon to the world as something to be aspired to, something to attempt to become.  Superman is what capitalism is to the world, an example of the best among all human beings and someone who drives all of society forward in an attempt to be better.  This is how Superman became the embodiment of the “American way.”  It is the same as to say Superman endorses capitalism and fights for the right of mankind to be free and not to struggle under the tyranny of scheming despots, like what Lex Luther always represented as the primary villain.

I feel a little sorry for my son-in-laws.  My daughters do expect them to be Supermen, and it will be tough.  They don’t expect those boys to be cut the way Henry Cavill is but they do expect the heart of the Superman character to be in their every day life.  They do expect their personal Supermen to hold up the entire world and crush any threat to their freedom; they expect a man who would crawl into the depths of hell to rescue a loved one, or to fight an army of millions all alone.  Is such a thing unrealistic……………of course…………….that is if the problem is viewed from the lens of being only human.  But if the same problems are viewed the way of Superman, then no problem is too great, and not threat is too severe.

The “S” on the front of Superman’s shirt does not stand for “super” but for “hope.”  This is why young women desire their men to be Supermen, and if they don’t they should.  Young men need such targets to aspire to.  They should not look up to weaklings, and belching comedians.  They should look up to Superman and work every day to be super.  In that fashion, the “S” represents the hope that all people have to be more than they were born into, to be more than any terrestrial goal could otherwise provide.  Hope is what Superman represents, and I “HOPE” that Man of Steel is even a fraction of what I desire it to be.  I am looking very forward to seeing that picture with my wife, because out of all the characters in film or literature there is not one that she admires more than Superman, and the idea of a man who is more than just average.

Today is the twenty-fifth anniversary of my wife and I.  Traditionally, a man is supposed to give his wife some kind of silver after 25 years of marriage.  But our life has not been conventional to say the least.  So some silly silver trinket just won’t do.  So what I give her instead is the gift of the Superman.  I give her the literal meaning of the “S” and everything it has come to represent.  It’s all she has ever wanted, and after 25 years of marriage she has the right to have it.  Thus Spoke the Overman.

superman-pirate1Rich Hoffman

166701_584023358276159_1119605693_n“If they attack first………..blast em’!”

www.tailofthedragonbook.com

3 thoughts on “Superman: Man of Steel — an ideal to aspire to

  1. Interesting. Of all the superheros Brooke said that she sees me most as Superman, which is quite a compliment. Of course, I have you to thank, since you certainly pointed me in the right direction when you suggested I read ‘the hero with a thousand faces’ at the impressionable age of 17.

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