What the Hell am I doing?

“What do you think about this amount?” -I think it is eerily similar to my amount of superhero comics before I left the original Chaos Node.

I stopped by my comic book dealer (who also happens to be the used book store in Kristiansand). I fetched the two issues of Savage Dragon that were lying for me, and asked him to discontinue my subscription. I have quit the other comic book series as they closed down (and usually came back with a different name and different artists, but without me buying them). But this Larsen fellow just keeps ticking like the energizer bunny, it seems. So I gave up and told the shop to just cut it.

“I no longer see the point in reading about people bashing their heads with cars” I explained. “You should have realized that long ago” said the shopkeeper. “Why didn’t you read something more edifying?”

Why the Hell not? thought I, and as always when I use that phrase, I mean it in its religious sense. The shopkeeper continued talking about a local soccer hero who recently died at a fairly old age, and was praised by the local newspaper for soccer being his life until the very last. “Running after a ball is natural when you are a small kid, as long as it is just one of several games you play. But even then, something is wrong if soccer is all you play. And to keep being hung up on this for the rest of your life??”

Indeed. If some other person had been forced to spend his whole life doing nothing but soccer, seeing nothing but soccer, talking about nothing but soccer, wouldn’t he be in Hell? Not because soccer is omg so wrong, but because of the confinement and the stagnation – being essentially trapped in a small corner of a normal childhood for the rest of the life.

Ever since I read Ryuho Okawa’s view of Hell as something humans create rather than something God creates for them, it has seemed obvious to me that people are not actually thrown screaming and protesting into Hell by  hard-faced angels on the command of an angry God. Rather, Hell is something we gravitate toward. There is, so to speak, a mutual attraction between the sinner and his Hell.  Just recently I saw Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz imply something similar in his book The Thirteen Petalled Rose, and a quote from Jennifer Upton’s Dark Way to Paradise about Dante’s Divine Comedy also implying the same thing. Perhaps I am just selectively reading people who tell me what I want to hear, although this is a bit strange when I have not heard about them before. In any case, back to my comic books.

The difference between me and the soccer hero, apart from me not being a hero at all, is that I have only been partially imprisoned in a corner of my childhood.  I have tried to think about this. I have spent thousands on superhero comic books during my adult life, until my late 40es. Why the Hell did it not fall away before? It is after all not a biological urge… one can understand single men who buy porn (although I would think a couple porn mags should be enough for a lifetime, I mean, how many fetishes does one person have? – but what do I know.) Or even women who buy cook books. The body has its urges. But the urge to have cars thrown on you by angry supervillains is probably not one of them.

Looking back, I wonder if this did not start fading away around the time I wrote the series of gray entries about The Next Big Thing. At this point, I saw superhero comics as a symbol, an upwelling from the collective subconscious of the expectation that a new type of human was about to replace ordinary humanity. While the real “human version 3” will probably not be able to fly by willpower or shoot energy beams for their eyes, their thinking will be as far removed from that of current humans as superpowers would be from our physical abilities.

So as long as I remained ignorant, I remained enslaved. Reading superhero comics was in a certain sense a meaningful impulse, diverted into a symbolic form that is not exactly counterproductive, but unproductive.

In a similar way, I believe, the attraction of computer games is that they allow us to quickly do what we feel we want to be doing but cannot. In my case, guiding people to prosperity, peace of mind and lasting happiness (The Sims 2 and 3), or protecting the innocent from evil (City of Heroes). Unless I learn how to actually do these things in real life, I will probably remain attracted to these games until I die… and quite possibly beyond.

That is a chilling thought, right? But now you have to excuse me, the Double XP Weekend has begun in City of Heroes. It is time for Bright Hand of the Sun to protect his fellow heroes from the forces of Darkness!

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