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After the Golden Age by Alvin Schwartz
Giving a glimpse into the formative years of comics and beyond.

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AFTER THE GOLDEN AGE for 04/18/2005
Vol. 2, #163

In the modern world, Superman and the entire congeries of superheroes that followed in his wake represent the belief that the evil in the world is so powerful that it takes just such a superbeing to keep things sufficiently balanced so that men are not overwhelmed by the negative forces that keep us in constant conflict over just about everything, our positions in life, our nation, our religions, the validity of our private selves.

Such a hero, in all its various forms, represents an awareness that things can and should be otherwise but, lacking the means to achieve this, we turn to fantasy figures, or religious dogmas that will somehow help rectify the endless imbalances that lead to one senseless conflict after another.

Today, for example, we are watching the most powerful and self righteous of nations, our own United States of America, falling into this trap, attempting in the most simplistic of ways, to assert great physical power (the nation being collectively the very force for good that Superman represents individually) and somehow, under the firm hand of George Bush becoming the very tyranny we are hoping to overcome. Yes, Bush is playing Superman and making a very bad job of it, even with all of God's help. Why is this? In a sense it is because we are victims of our own human history. We are not yet fully aware of the changes that have occurred that should allow us to make genuine progress on this front without war or weapons or atomic and microbial threats.

Now we know very well that men of good will, mystcs and religious thinkers have preached a doctrine of peace and good will and brotherhood for centuries. Yet nothing has changed. Or, so it seems.

Yet, something very significant has changed. All the time we were apparently flailing at windmills in our scattered efforts to bring about peace, an element of the human mind was moving ahead and developing the structure on which such a peace could be based. Today, we call it science.

Remeber--Science is not at war with religion, but a continuation of the religious impulse that swept the world and gave us such visions of reality as Judaeo-Christianity and its closely related Muslim vision. These, in turn, always had in the background the Buddhist and Hindu religions in all their magnificently flowering forms. But each carried along with itself a notion of exclusivity that tended to further the same old conflicts. But only partially. The idea of universal brotherhood did take root, but, again, only partially. Because the structure was not yet in place to make the tenets of these great beliefs universal across the globe. They happened, each of them, during times when the globe itself was little known and when communication was piecemeal, so that very few were able to get the full message. The barbarians remained at the gates, never hearing the great messages and tearing down the temples that contained them. But the one important element in this vast evolution of human culture was still lacking, and that was science.

Now most of us have been taught to believe that science and religion are themselves in mortal conflict. Yet this is simply not the case. Science grew directly out of religion, in apparent conflict only when science, led by men of a profound religious nature, attempted to shore up the excesses and errors of religion which for so long seemed not to be making the kind of universal headway its sacred writings presaged. Indeed, you might say, science grew directly out of, was the true corrective and continuation of religion, supporting religion's basic ideas of human brotherhood and a kind of planetary unity as, for example, with the science of ecology.

Even the fang and claw notion of evolution, emerging from science's early beginnings, has been purified by ideas of cooperation rather than survival of the fittest, as when the microbiologist, Lynn Margules, demonstrated that the early evolutionary fossil hunters were missing twelve million years of evolutionary history because they could not reach back to a time when the non-eukaryotic cell existed, that is, the cell that had no nucleus. As Ms. Margules showed, the nucleus of the cell had to have developed by symbiosis, by cooperation, when an outside attacker, instead of destroying the cell, joined forces with it, creating a cell far more effective and efficient. In short, we "evolved" by cooperation. It was this strand of science, and others like it, that, stripping away the barbaric accretions to religion over the centuries, was in fact religion's true continuation. It was science that ultimately demonstrated that all men are brothers, all life is related, and the ultimate goal is peace and joy. It was also science that made possible the dissemination of these religious ideas since "the mystic's call in the past had been heeded by so few largely because communication was so piecemeal. There were always barbarians shattering cultures before they could learn from them the advantages of peace through individual transformation." (1)* But science has now created one world and instantaneous communication. Virtually all of mankind is now in touch with one another, and this immediacy of communication increases with every passing day. "It's all out there now, brothers, and nobody ain't gonna be able to get away with nuthin' no more."

So, now we know. Things aren't looking so bright at this moment, but that's about to change. Even in the Darfur region of the Sudan. Because now we know. We really know every jot and tittle of what's going on.

I've been coming to this conclusion slowly, over the years I've been writing this column.

But having said all that, how does it took to those of you who've been reading me? This is something worth talking about. If we can't even do that, we may as well give up.

--Alvin.

(1)* The Self-Aware Universe, Amit Goswami, p225, Tarcher/Penguin 1995

<< 04/04/2005 | 04/18/2005 | 05/09/2005 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Round Table.


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