Captain Compassion: A Superhero of Understanding.

Via on Nov 4, 2010

The real practice of exercising compassion comes when we challenge our ability to cultivate the clarity of understanding despite the clutter of others’ confusion.

I’ve never been too interested in Superheroes – Spiderman, Superman, Batman, etc.; however, as the mother of two, soon three, little boys, I’ve been forced to become acquainted with these fictional super-humans and their accompanying villains.

My husband will attest, I adamantly resisted allowing my children to be engrossed in such an oversimplified and unrealistic dualism of ‘good’ vs. ‘evil’. I’ll admit that I panicked the first time my son pointed to a picture of a snarling mutant and asked, “Mommy, is that a bad guy?” How could I allow my children to label and dismiss someone… anyone… as ‘bad’ or ‘evil’?

Trying to incorporate my own beliefs into this reasoning, I searched for some clear explanation imbedded in the stories to illustrate to my boys why these people were doing harm to others. Some answer that would evoke compassion in a child instead of the desire to merely destroy them.

Despite my preconceptions, there are subtle elements present within these stories with a surprising message to cultivate compassion… even for an adult.

“There is only one good–knowledge, and one evil–ignorance.”

-Socrates

In each of the superhero stories I’ve read or watched with my children, all represented the opposing force in the same manner: overtaken by some external influence of confusion or ignorance. Without getting into specifics, every one of them were overcome with greed, hatred or some sort of delusion. Sometimes these downfalls were blatantly represented but more often alluded to or symbolized by some dark imposing power.

In the beginning of these stories we are often provided with proof that these beings were once well-meaning and unhindered by confusion. We are also usually supplied with the reasoning as to what poisoned their purity. For young minds, these scenarios serve as wonderful practice to understand how to develop compassion for these beings who were once ‘good’ but then were overcome by a haze. They are not inherently ‘bad’…  they just walked down the wrong path.

In real life, however, we are not supplied with these key elements to aid in our compassion practice for deluded beings. Often encountered in their worst states and already evoking negative emotions in those around them, we have no knowledge of their prior intentions or the source of their confusion.

It is far easier to believe that a being is inherently bad, deserving to be condemned or punished, thus leaving those in most need of our empathy alone in their ignorance and confusion.  Compassion tends to flow more freely to those who are easier to understand and love.

The real practice of exercising compassion comes when we challenge our ability to cultivate the clarity of understanding despite the clutter of other’s confusion.

“The essence of love and compassion is understanding, the ability to recognize the physical, material, and psychological suffering of others, to put ourselves “inside the skin” of the other.”

- Thich Nhat Hanh

Despite some other issues that I have with my children watching and reading superhero stories (violence, revenge, etc.), I am grateful for the simple reminder for a strong practice.

If only the superheroes would combat evil with understanding and compassion instead of brute force and weapons….

May we all strive to understand those who are lost in confusion by illuminating their path with the light of our compassion.

About Jennifer K. Jones

Jennifer K. Jones is the owner of a multi-media marketing firm, yoga instructor and practitioner, holistic health practitioner, writer and artist. Mother of three incredible little boys (& a girl on the way) who will hopefully grow up to live their passions with gratitude, radiate and spread pure, unconditional love to every being that they encounter, and thrive within the vast openness of their wildest dreams... and she is striving daily to lead them by example. Contact Jennifer on Facebook or at her website.

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9 Responses to “Captain Compassion: A Superhero of Understanding.”

  1. ARCreated says:

    I think the more you acquaint yourself with comics (and specifically graphic novels) and especially with SciFi… you may be amazed at how much they resonate with your thought process…they are "fairy tales" of the masculine bent and I think much better at sending good messages (better than fairy tales telling us to sit in our towers waiting to be rescued)
    It is pretty easy to equate the violence and brut force you speak of with the hard work that must be done sometimes to overcome the negative energies…
    Think of a batman punch as the comic version of downward dog…it's a physical way to quiet the mind and remove the negativity. :)
    Or maybe your calling my be to write a new comic with a yogic hero that chants away evil :) I can see it now!!!

    • JenniferKH says:

      Beautiful! I love your perspective. Thank you. Yes, I am slowly becoming more acquainted with, and appreciative of, these types of stories. There is so much more to their message than what is readily evident. It took me a little while to break down those preconceptions (another great lesson for me) to begin to see the beauty and symbolism.

      And yes… If I had any comic writing / drawing skills at all, I'd love to create a Bodhisattva comic superhero. A modern day warrior of compassion – armed with only his vajra, bell, and pervasive compassion :)

  2. Nathan says:

    I just found this and think this should have more views and comments. You come across as a very aware being. It helped me to have a new look at comics which I used to collect some years ago. This was very easy, fun, and enlightening to read.

    I look forward to the day when Understanding is in every man's hearts.

    Thank you,
    Cloaknpoke

  3. Nice post. And I might add: Anyone interested in how mainstream superhero comics might address social justice and compassion would do well to take a look at the classic Green Lantern / Green Arrow comics run from Dennis O'Neil and Neal Adams. As Chronicled in these books:

  4. Joseph Boquiren Joseph Boquiren says:

    Jennifer KH. I love your article. And I write comics and graphic novels. One specifically addressing the lighter side of yoga that is posted on EJ, the other a layered and more nuanced graphic novel. If you need an illustrator who works for cheap. Let me know. The links to both are below:
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Samadhi-Pants/14116
    http://www.facebook.com/pages/WingWars/1745143270

  5. [...] a while since I watched superman but I do vividly remember images of him saving the day. I remember superman as a normal everyday human being when suddenly duty calls and he would dart off to save [...]

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