I’ve been thinking a lot lately, randomly about random things, and I had a happy realization about myself. But more on that later.
I was talking with my friend, Nate, the other day. He called me. He was annoyed with me. My review (oh yeah, I just linked myself) of Cat’s Cradle had gotten him thinking, which of course only filled me with smiles. I paraphrase: “You can’t get me thinking about all these books—I don’t have the time!”
Nate and I have a fascinating relationship—one that never fails to fill me with smiles. He is a conservative capitalist. I am a liberal socialist. And yet that doesn’t stop us from believing many of the same things. We both hate Bush (or, he’s at least annoyed with him) for totally different reasons. Neither of us has a particularly strong faith in the human race. You should hear us talk about institutionalized religion. Nate’s a Christian; I’m not. But Nate’s such a devout Christian that he doesn’t feel the need to preach to me or anyone. He’d rather live the Beatitudes than mount the Ten Commandments in a courtroom.
He didn’t understand if I was applauding or condemning the book because I chose only to quote one-star reviews from amazon.com. But more on that later.
I am a bit of a narcissist (I link my own blog . . .). I try to hide it but if you pay attention you can tell. My girlfriend is quick to remind me of this. It’s one of the reasons I love her. Sometimes, when I’m walking my sister’s dog or driving across town or just generally bored and alone, I interview myself. I pretend that I’ve just published a book to rave reviews and I’m the hottest thing since the Foreman Grill. I’ll pretend that I’m on The Tonight Show or The Late Show or even The Daily Show if they would have me, and Jay or Dave or Jon wants to know all about me.
J/D/J: Boy, this book is hot right now.
Me: You’re not kidding. If I’d’ve known, I’d’ve taken a page (heh heh) from Bradbury and printed it in a flame-retardant jacket.
JDJ: It’s interesting that you choose multiple protagonists in many of your works, including this one.
(He/They is/are talking about my gangster piece that’s set on Mars)
But more on that later.
I remember, about a year ago (has it been that long?), I was talking with my friend, Nic, about ideals. I don’t like em. I think they’re unrealistic and too narrow in any real world situation. Nic said that wasn’t the point. He said an ideal wasn’t something to be made manifest in the real world. We can’t have Eden. I paraphrase: “But just because they’re unrealistic doesn’t mean they aren’t something we can shoot for.”
I own exactly forty Batman comics and graphic novels in addition to The Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and The Death of Superman. I don’t think I like the idea of a superhero. I certainly don’t like Superman (one of the reasons the only comic I own of his is the one in which he dies). Yes, he’s a bastion of American virtue. Yes, he could probably use his powers to dominate and enslave the human race but he chooses instead to use them for good. But that’s just it. He has a self-righteous idea of good that he got from his wholesome, Midwestern upbringing. He supposedly fights for Good, when that good is no more capitalized than mine. Batman, on the other hand, has one clear mission statement: to destroy the evil that killed his parents. And so he works every day to do so. And he’s not always nice about it. But he does it because it works. And he does it unapologetically. It also helps that the people he isn’t nice to are criminals, so when he does it we call him a hero. But at least he acknowledges that he toes that murky, grey line.
He also occasionally kicks Superman’s ass.
On some level, Batman knows he’s a little crazy. He dresses up like a bat and fights crime, for crying out loud. He also rarely fights alone. Certainly, in the beginning, he was but one man in a suit, but he still had Alfred to cool him down. Then he met Gordon. And then came Robin. Robin’s suit has bright colors, he doesn’t take a whole lot seriously, he readily makes light of any given situation. He’s the perfect counterbalance to Batman’s seething will to revenge. Batman needs Robin to balance him out. Keep him safe. Keep him (a little more) sane. Batman knows he is just one man and that the darkness that he becomes, that he fights, could conceivably consume him. He doesn’t get self-righteous about it.
All Superman has is a Fortress of Solitude.
Me: Well the thing is J/D/J, I don’t think any one person has the answer.
J/D/J: How do you mean?
Me: It’s a matter of perspective. Everyone’s got one, and no one can escape it. Take a man and his view of the world. That view will be colored by his race, ethnicity, socio-economic upbringing, culture, gender, etc. And he will always be constrained by that. Therefore, he will never be able to see anything outside that. He needs other people to round his view out. Otherwise, he’s just some guy.
Any book I like will be hated by countless others. Sometimes, I need to remember that.
I realized the other day that as a human being who exists within a certain social context, I will never have a truly Complete Viewpoint. I need everyone else to round me out. I also realized how much of a thoroughly democratic idea that is. I used to believe that democracy was the best form of government because it was slow. That’s still a good reason. When things in government happen quickly . . . things can turn bad just as quickly. But now I think my view is a little more rounded out.
That’s not to say our government doesn’t have areas to work on. Oh-ho-ho, belieeeeeve me.
But at least now I know what I want to shoot for.