Superman

Superman never made any money
For saving the world from Solomon Grundy
And sometimes I despair the world will never see
Another man like him

A friend reminded me of this great song yesterday and it leads to my next collection of thoughts.

There has been a great deal of speculation as to where the real men have gone, real Christians, or in fact, anything real. We have set loose the great leviathan of radical empiricism in a quest for the holy grail of reality and found nothing but a dusty cup of hammered tin. I wrote in my previous posts about how we have ignored the reality of other persons and the reality of community. Now I turn to the matter of the real self.

We have begun a madness that will not be quelled. We have abandoned sanity and greatly celebrated its renunciation. We have established national holidays to prance about on the grave of our fore-fathers.

Our wanton disregard for the state of ourselves is repulsive to anyone taking a moment to consider it.

What madness? I have considered for some time how to demonstrate to my fellows of our affliction; particularly those who manage so their dysfunction with such efficiency. What should one say to the highly functional, highly successful addict? How does one demonstrate to them without dissection the slow death of their inner members?

Brothers, we are dead inside and dying. And we are feeding on the carrion of each other. We are addicted to a great many things, but most of all we are addicted to the taste of human flesh.

Is this a thought most revolting? Have we been so distracted by the shine on the silverware and the silk napkins that we have forgotten the meat on the table where we dine? Better to eat bitter herbs in the house of love that the fatted calf with hatred!

The addict does harm first to himself. He poisons himself and his being with a substance which imitates reality but ends in death rather than life. Whether it be alcohol, gambling or sex, the addiction forms a cocoon around the addict where the only visible answer is to further fuel the engine of our own destruction. We recklessly hasten to our end.

I went to the Mayo Clinic’s website and looked up the symptoms of addiction. These are not meant as a spiritual diagnosis, yet they are a clearer picture of the spirit of this age than I have seen from pulpits.

  • Feeling that you have to use the drug regularly — this can be daily or even several times a day
  • Failing in your attempts to stop using the drug
  • Making certain that you maintain a supply of the drug
  • Spending money on the drug even though you can’t afford it
  • Doing things to obtain the drug that you normally wouldn’t do, such as stealing
  • Feeling that you need the drug to deal with your problems
  • Driving or doing other risky activities when you’re under the influence of the drug
  • Focusing more and more time and energy on getting and using the drug

Shall we consider a substitution of terms? Perhaps money would be a more appropriate matter for consideration, our reputation, or more ephemeral things like security or lifestyle. We could also go more base and discuss television, automobiles, houses and such things as we covet.

For myself I find dramatic irony that an alcoholic is best served by ceasing (under the supervision of a medical professional) to consume alcohol. But what is the prescription for those of us who have misused food, which we must consume to live, turning it into a poison that we must now disdain? Or what then of religion, how shall we do away with our religious distractions when the truth of the Word of God comes to us through the traditions passed down by our pious ancestors to which we owe our very souls?

We are lamentable to be sure. And we most functional are the most grievously endangered. For once calamity has struck and life begins to give way to death in an unmistakable tragedy all pride is broken and we are left with a moment of clarity.

But to those of us who are not yet clear, we wait. And the smarter we are, and the more sophisticated in our buttresses of reinforcement, the larger our superstructure of good habits and manners and education, the greater a monument we build to our own vanity, the greater we lift ourselves up; the scriptures tell us, the greater will be our collapse when God brings us down.

How long brothers and sisters? How long will we eat each other’s flesh? How long will we poison ourselves with our addiction for celebrity and scandal? Here now in Lent we chose to fast, but we chew on each other and receive the full condemnation of the saints who walked before us.

Superman has often been ridiculed (I have repeated it) as the “Big Blue Boy Scout”. Why such ridicule? Because we know we must protect our addictions, hide them even from ourselves. We know that if we had his strength we would not save the day, but let loose our will upon the world for our own benefit; just as we let our powers such as they are, even now, war against our fellow man.

4 thoughts on “Superman

  1. Indeed we may not be taking too great a liberty in that diagnosis. Whether it is an addiction to a chemical substance (or a feigned breakdown of a more calculated measure) he is showing all the signs. But then so am I. I was not too long ago well over 400 pounds. Food, both a good and a necessity, has become also a poison of my own making. And there are others with additions twice as subtle. These things blind us to the truth of ourselves, otherwise we would never submit to their yoke.

  2. There’s a sense in which almost all sin is addictive. It promises more and more while delivering destruction and death in the end.

  3. I would say much more than a mere sense, Jim. From the Epistle of St James, “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” This sounds like the formula for addiction. St Paul’s struggle similarly in his letter to the Romans chapter 7:

    For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.

    How can this be read in modern terms except in the light of what we know about addiction? If any Christian reads this passage and does not exclaim, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” They simply aren’t paying attention.

    This is the real reason why the scriptures and all the saints are so adamant about keeping a spotless life. It is not merely to equate to a law (for we are no longer under the law of sin and death), but because every sin is a toxic seed that can destroy our life. It has within it the power to corrupt and in our members its corruption will be more powerful than our goodwill.

    We tend to be concerned with whether or not we will be in heaven or hell, as if no other consideration mattered. All the while we squander the gifts of God, burying our head in our bowls of pottage, until we are too weak to remove them.

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