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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 10/23/2006
Vol. 2, #193

In these columns, I've written a great deal about Superheroes. I've written especially about Superman since he was, along with Batman, the hero of many of my stories. But in these columns, I've also presented a variety of different ways of thinking about Superman and considering him as a role model-perhaps more than the others such as Batman and the Flash, Wonder Woman, Aquaman -- a long list -- since I was called in very often to fill a hole in the ruthless printing schedule from which there was never any letup.

In writing these stories, my imagination often ran ahead of me. I tried to consider the meaning of these outsized heroes, of heroes in general and most particularly, because fans and readers often contacted each of us working in the superhero mill as I sometimes called it. But the readers, in many cases, always seemed to be looking behind the characters to see what was really there. Since somehow, from the late thirties onwards, the Superman-style hero somehow became more than simply a type of featured entertainment but took on aspects that got seriously involved with our deepest life purposes and the very meaning of the world in which we were enmeshed. I mean enmeshed because World War II, the bomb, the Holocaust, the overwhelmingly threatening future from which none of us seemed able to escape, drove us toward accepting more imaginative and less realistic, often less hopeful visions, of our meanings and purposes in this life.

This all happened at a time when the so-called real world -- the world of science and reality as we had accepted it since the renaissance no longer seemed to make much sense. Newtonian science was beginning to show cracks as Einstein's special and general theories of relativity began to take hold. Most especially when Planck's Constant was born of a dream and led to a whole new vision of the universe most frequently represented in Schroedinger's famous cat experiment and the double-slit theory (which I won't bother to repeat here, except to touch on the broader picture these each offered in which reality seemed to exist as wave forms and, as such, disconnected from the matter which had for so long been first the focus of our science. A science mainly in which material destruction had by now seemed to become the modus of our durable, predictable, mechanical Newtonian universe. Especially in the form of our wars). Out of all this came the most destructive (the atom bomb) and at the same time most successful theory science has ever known -- quantum theory.

In the quantum world, reality consisted of waves only, waves which would collapse instantly into a single point as soon as we tried to observe them. And that startling fact in itself told us immediately that there isn't any object in so-called space-time without a conscious observer looking at it! Let me emphasize this! Consciousness is the thing that collapses a quantum wave. In other words, outside of the observer's consciousness, there isn't a single object in space-time. Everything exists merely as possibility and only within consciousness. And so, in the absence of consciousness there is only nothing.

There were superheroes before Superman. The Greeks had them. The Egyptians knew them. The Hebrews and other biblical peoples expatiated in great detail on them and always these heroes were bound to higher powers and touched upon divinity of whom they were the representatives and delegates. Superman was the superhero who had, in a sense to create himself, and as I said in a previous column, to derive himself and his goals from the particular society in which he emerged regardless of his Kryptonian origins. His purposes and values were born in this world, in the Village of Smallville. And our universe of Smallvilles did not simply grow out of nothing. To repeat what, quoting Hegel, I have said in this space many times before, there is no nothing. Only the negative of a particular positive. To take the final necessary step, I would add that the so-called negative is simply a way of parsing the source. That source being consciousness.

Now in many of the columns that have appeared here, and especially on the Round Table, there have been readers who expressed their highest aims and purposes as assuming some form of Superman characteristic. Not superpowers for superpower's sake but for life-shaping goals, for a kind of intentionality (the great buzzword of today's crop of evangelizing idealists). Someone sees himself acquiring the art of flight, someone else, the gift of supersenses, the protector of the weak and downtrodden-and yet doing so in full awareness that these are not childish fantasies or power drives but expressions of some vaster meaning-some ultimate synchronicities which exist outside the boxes that frame and bind our daily lives, and through which there is truly an awareness of freedom, of a fullness, a meaningful joy of sheer being which is, ultimately and effectively, the ability to fly! The cow does indeed jump over the moon! Every child knows that.

And slowly, as I've continued this column over the years, and my life has taken turns that brought me face to face with synchronicities I had never dared to indulge my hopes with, until and because I began to become aware of the new state of things, the non-locality of the real, if you like -- I began to discover that things were never bound by the chains of probability -- that the possible was always present, and the impossible-non-existent. Then I began to understand why some of my correspondents were not merely childishly seduced by a rather ordinary and not really very original comic strip, but had simply discovered by some power of intention that they could indeed fly.

In my earlier book, AN UNLIKELY PROPHET I discovered that those kids I watched running around in their homemade Superman suits were, in fact, really flying. This is no metaphor, except in the sense that all transcendence has metaphoric aspects. And that's what it's all about -- transcendence. It's what we're called upon to do. So, fly, my friends. Fly! And after you've tried it, because every flight is private and unique, stop by here at the Round Table and tell us about it.

-- Alvin

<< 10/09/2006 | 10/23/2006 | 11/27/2006 >>

Discuss this column with me at my Round Table.

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