I posted this image on my Too Relieved To Grieve Facebook page not so long ago, with a caption which read: "This is my boy, the purest soul in the world, who's been hurt beyond measure and just wants to help others not to feel as bad as he has done in the past". But the image - which I can neither take nor give credit for - has been seared into my mind ever since.
Then The Batman movie was released, and I kinda went down a rabbit hole with this, so please indulge me for a minute.
We know the story of how an orphaned Bruce Wayne eventually became Batman, following the murder of his parents before his very young eyes. Then we were shown the additional trauma involving bats, before having the Caped Crusader we know and root for today, fighting crime and corruption on the streets of Gotham. Now, I must warn you, my questionable film studies O'level is going to start showing itself any minute, so please bear with.
Have you noticed how film makers commonly convey good and evil? As a child in the 70s there'd be Saturday morning westerns on TV, where the goodies wore white hats and the baddies wore black hats. Nowadays however it's not nearly so nuanced. Take the Joker for example, hideously disfigured. The Penguin, not a handsome chap. Two-Face, hideously disfigured also. Then there's Catwoman, Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy who we can safely say are [ahem], deeply flawed and flamboyant with it. Compare this to the stoic and handsome Bruce Wayne who, despite his traumas and ongoing battles, remains physically appealing.
In the first instance I'm not a fan of these portrayals of disfigured individuals as varying degrees of bad and evil, but that's another blog for another day. I simply don't like how the young minds in our society are being asked to equate physical or mental differences with something hideous and evil, because it's not a universal truth (e.g.: courageous and injured war veterans) and how are we ever going to promote tolerance and respect by promulgating such myths? But like I said, that's another blog for another day.
Now, despite their obvious differences in appearance and demeanor, there is one huge similiarity between our heroes and villains... pain. All of them, by one definition or another have experienced pain on deep, visceral and/or psychological levels - but the difference between them comes down to one thing also... how they respond to that pain.
HEROES v VILLAINS
Pick a villain, any villain, and you will see how they have been hurt by the world somehow and want to hurt the world back. Now pick a hero, any hero, and you will see how they too have been hurt by the world somehow, but the difference is, they want to prevent it from happening to anyone else. They understand, acknowledge and empathise all too well on behalf of humanity. In this context, the orphaned Bruce was hurt and traumatised, but now seeks to protect and serve. The Joker, Two-Face, Poison Ivy however want to make the world burn for the hurt and trauma they are enduring. Now apply this to people you know, however scaled down your examples may, or may, not be.
The saying hurt people hurt people is as true as it's false, because it depends on the character of the individual involved. Yes, some hurt people really do go out and hurt other people (often to try and make themselves feel better), but equally some hurt people choose to help others. They choose good over evil, because as my mother used to say, two wrongs don't make a right; and I certainly know whose karma I'd rather live with.
So, if we accept that we have all been hurt at some point in our lives by one definition or another, this means you've been hurt too, yes? So which side did you land on? Do you use your powers for good or evil? Do you help or hurt? And why is that, regardless of which way you answered the question? Do you make your choices consciously, or are you on some kind of autopilot? Are you driven by a humbling need to serve and protect through kindness and strength, or not?
In this age of vast uncertainty, I know this one thing to be true. Despite how badly hurt my son has been by the choices of his father, and the actions of his father's family, my boy is not going to use that pain as an excuse to watch - or cause - anyone else's world to burn. On the contrary. It is because my son knows, and still feels the pain of what his father subjected us to, that he's using it as the model for what not to do, and how not to behave. So even surviving an emotional onslaught has a silver lining, as my son's willingness to accept harsh lessons will undoubtedly lead him towards a happier, more fulfilling and successful life than his father's.
On the other hand, the same cannot be said for my children's father, Steve, who definitely falls into the hurt people hurt people category. People whom he loved and trusted, and could reasonably have been expected to help him grow into a well-rounded, emotionally intelligent adult, hurt him during his formative years and, despite his valiant attempts over numerous decades to heal those wounds, simply couldn't, the scars still surely haunt him. Once eventually overwhelmed by a series of cumulative life events, and hampered by an insufficient strength of character to prevent a fall from grace, Steve eventually succumbed to the hideous and disfigured choices I've described in Too Relieved To Grieve | The Alternative Heartbreak Handbook.
Hey, bad things happen to good and bad people all the time, but it's how we choose to respond that defines who we are. Your priority therefore is to define who you are, by the choices you make, which subsequently shapes the legacy you're going to leave behind. So what say you: hero or villain? Good or bad? How do you want to be remembered, because if your choices have been less than ideal or honourable up until now, please remember that redemption is always possible, for the willing and the brave. You may just surprise yourself.
That's all for now, but I will leave you with this one last thought nugget. Whichever side you choose, hero or villain, good or evil, please also remember this one great universal truth: as you sow, so shall you reap, because you simply can't harvest what you haven't planted and grown.
Until the next time, be great and be kind... just like my glorious boy.