“Come with every wound and every man you’ve ever loved; every lie you’ve ever told and whatever it is that keeps you up at night. Every mouth you’ve punched in, all the blood you’ve ever tasted. Come with every enemy you’ve ever made and all the family you’ve ever buried and every dirty thing you’ve ever done; every drink that’s burnt your throat and every morning you’ve woken with nothing and no one. Come with all your loss, your regrets, sins, memories, black outs, secrets. I’ve never seen anything more beautiful than you.”
– Warsan Shire
A true storyteller can often have the best insight on human condition. After all, in order to tell our stories, bards must have an intimate understanding of the forces that drive us. Within most of us, there is a struggle, an arc, a journey that is ruled by an internal conflict.
Often the key to said conflict can stare back at us the entire time.
Last week I celebrated my birthday. I’m an Aquarian and I’m proud to share a birthday with my patronus, Langston Hughes.
Birthdays are often an opportunity for me to do some serious introspection in order to evolve and move forward.
Birthdays have brought me more than a few key epiphanies over the years. Being driven, precocious, and forced to grow up at a very young age, I realized early on that God notwithstanding, no one else was going to protect me or save me and I that was going to have to save myself. Ultimately, I would have to learn to be my own superhero.
With the exception of Storm and a few others, there weren’t many that looked like me then and not many more now.
There were even fewer that I connected with. So like most, you’re searching, trying to find your way and when you’re atypical, that can be disheartening, lonely, depressing, and eventually you start to believe that you may be broken, defective, an abomination, a monster, something wrong.
That deeply embedded belief can haunt you for years.
Which brings us to the Dark Knight, the second of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy which I received as a birthday gift a few years back.
As for the movie itself, I think everything that needed to be said has been said: Christian Bale was a solid lead; the late Heath Ledger actually surpassed all the hype in his performance and Aaron Eckhart didn’t get the credit he deserved for his role as Harvey Dent.
Throughout the film, Bruce Wayne was seeking a white knight for Gotham. Someone pure of heart who could inspire the masses to be something better (not unlike what Superman does for Metropolis and the rest of the world). With his darkness fueling him as the grim vigilante, Bruce knew he couldn’t be that champion but he hoped someone could do for Gotham in the light of day what he did under the cloak of night.
Bruce finally thought he found that counterpart in Harvey Dent. Beautiful, charismatic and righteous, Dent proved a viable candidate. He was a man who seemed to have the fortitude to stand up to Gotham’s underworld without being corrupted himself. After all, you either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become a villain.
Enter the Joker, a man who simply wants to see the world burn and waged a war for Gotham’s soul. While Batman was incorruptible even in dire straits, sadly the same couldn’t be said for Dent. In order to save the work he and Dent had begun, Batman took the blame for Dent’s murder and allowed himself to become a fugitive.
The irony is that even though he probably never realized it, what lied within Batman was indeed the pure of soul champion he had been searching for, the white knight he thought he found in Dent. For only a man pure of heart would sacrifice himself without hesitation for the greater good. Only a man pure of heart would burden himself with the sins of others. In spite of all of his darkness and brooding, Bruce was the best of them. He always had been.
The lesson here being, the solutions we often search for outside ourselves, that semblance of completion, the resolution to that internal conflict, can usually if not always be found from within.
Sometimes the superhero you’ve been waiting for has been with you the entire time.