Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Of Nietzche and Superman: Not so Small Ville

As I wait here in the fallow wasteland across the street from my burnt house, I find caught up, yet again, by another long tale, and this post goes out as a tribute to it. It is the television series, Smallville, that holds me the way the Star Trek and Harry Potter mythologies have done in the past. I knew I was hooked when I saw the young Clark Kent sitting in his High School cafeteria reading Nietzche, and to confirm that this was a deliberate thematic thread, a character actually comes up to ask him if he is Man or Superman!

I do not get television where I live presently, and my Hindi Serials are one of the sacrifices at the altar of what I have come to think of as my fire. In absence of the Saas-Bahu sagas that used to keep my internal World Tree thriving and populated, my thirst for the Story has led me to this back-story of the Superman mythology.

I must also confess that when Christopher Reeves was struck with paralysis, I actually felt the fabric of the kind, hopeful, logical universe tear apart with a deliberate, malicious pair of shears and I almost believed in Sisyphus' condition:  is spiritual, internal strength the only kind allowed to humanity? So it has been easy for me to fall for the promise of this extremely recognizable Hercules-tale.

However, this story is no simplistic, clear-cut good and evil tale with cool labs and loud explosions, though it has plenty of both; in fact, it examines the extremely complex nature of human morality. In one of my favorite quotes by one of my favorite characters in the show, Lex Luthor sounds this theme very eloquently when he says,  "The path to darkness is a journey, not a light switch." This show goes on to examine what it means to be human by contrasting it with what it means to be super-human and addressing archetypal themes like light vs. darkness, the conflicted self, destiny vs. free will, the father-son relationship, the idea of a family, connection between the land and the people who are defined by it, and the nature of human love and its connections to justice, hate, and death.

This show is helping me come to terms with my situation. It distills and crystallizes all that is the best, all that is worst, all that is possible as well as its many alternatives, and presents my internal struggles in an easy to digest archetypal package, very much like a good Fairytale or Myth does.

Maybe it is time to re-evaluate my definition of Home as some kind of an end to my yearning, not so much to ease or to speed up my Odyssey, rather to recognize the journey as part of Home, since that is the condition, the space I inhabit. After all, the aim of the Story is to understand the ever-changing, ever-recognizable condition of being human, not a perfect, static landscape the unchanging gods would inhabit.

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