|Superman in the meadows|
Friday, May 24, 2013
My best friend Frank always told me he hated Superman because Superman seemed without flaw, perhaps as insane as Nietzsche’s version, who assumed that laws were meant for little people, like us, while only shackles on great people like him, and that Superman seemed inhuman to Frank, someone who didn’t cry or feel love, who didn’t care about anything except cheers from the police chief every time he saved the city. Spiderman on the other hand Frank said felt real, someone who didn’t want to feel special, but strived to be normal when he couldn’t. I usually didn’t take a stand, hating Superman and Spiderman equally if for different reasons, knowing that Superman violated everything that human kind was all about, cooperation and unity, while Spiderman got sucked up in his own weak ego, never able to rise out of the personal to embrace the race and work towards common good.
But one night, staying over at Frank’s East Village tenement apartment, I gave both a test, as to which comic when rolled up killed the most cockroaches, shocking Frank the next morning when he found out what use I put them to, pathetically scraping off the remains of roach guts from his precious Spiderman #1.
“How could you do this?” he said, peering over the ruins of the cover at me.
“Easy,” I said, years later realizing that I have spent a life time continuing the pursuit of tearing down false gods, and coming to understand there are no super people landing here from other planets to which we owe some kind of tribute, no Nietzsche super people better than others or above common laws only flawed people painting their flaws into super powers, pretending that a spider bite makes them invulnerable when it only makes us weak.
I was always a little more comfortable with the groups of super heroes like the Fantastic Four, but even they seemed a little too arrogant, a special club I couldn’t get in until I had some weird perversion and a hunger for power – a club Frank always fantasized that we could become a part of, some artistic cult he thought we could build in some remote place, one time even willing to invest in the purchase of a farm near the Canadian border where we might built our own little Fortress of Solitude, each of us displaying our artistic superiority – a dream that never materialized, not because we couldn’t afford the land, but because each in their own way, my friends gave up what truly make them unique, their humanity, and the more remote they became, the more inhuman, and the saddest day of my life was not the day my best friend actually died, but two decades prior to his death, when the dream did, when pursuit of fame became more important that what we contributed, and when he was willing to sacrifice basic human values, the building blocks upon which our humanity is built, for his own special place in the clouds. He also forgot that our gifts (our so called super powers) are only the bottom rung, and that the rest of the trip we had to make by pulling ourselves up rung by rung, and that half the value of reaching the top is how we get there. He was always looking for an escalator or an elevator, laughing at me because I kept both hands firmly on the rung I was on.
Watching him fall off, watching him give up on those things that truly made him great, remains the saddest moment in my life, partly because back when we met, when he was still a struggling artist, he inspired me, giving me faith that I – an ordinary, everyday kind of guy – could do something extraordinary, but because I was a superman, not because I was held back by the rules of society, but because I was a part of the greatest single exclusive club on the planet, the human race, and if what I did made the race better and elevated ordinary people’s out of their pain, or I could document the passage of ordinary lives, I was indeed someone special.
I still miss Frank, especially those days when he and I walked around the streets singing, not for money or fame, but because it changed the world from something ugly into something amazing, cheering people’s lives even when they mocked us.
I remember the confidence man who promised to make Frank a star, taking Frank’s inheritance for a week long session in a second rate recording studio before disappearing leaving Frank with a cassette copy (which I still have) and a lot of empty promises, and I remember seeing the dream die in Frank’s eyes (just as I later saw it die in the eyes of others just like him, who mistook pursuit of fame for art) and I remember thinking how he would never be the same, and he wasn’t.
Me, I’m still clutching to rungs on this insane ladder of life, not sure I’ll ever reach the top or get anywhere, but as someone one time told me, it’s not the destination, that matters, it’s the journey, and hell, this is one hell of a ride – and I don’t need a cape or to get bit by a spider to know how special it all is.