“So you run away, Shootafar? You let Poseidon have all the honours, and give him victory for nothing? Silly fool, what is your bow for? A windbow – useless! Don’t let me hear you boasting again in our Father’s hall before all the family, how you will stand up to Poseidon and fight him!”
Apollo made no answer to this, but Hera did; and she scolded the Archeress roundly:
“How can you dare to put yourself against me, you bold bitch? You will find it hard to face my wrath, in spite of the bow you carry, for women are your prey; Zeus has made you a lion among the women and lets you kill any you like! You had better go and show your prowess in the mountains by killing savage beasts and wild deer, and leave your betters alone. But if you want to learn the art of war, I’ll show you I am the stronger when you set yourself against me!”
One of the more profound things I’ve learned from reading in the wisdomsphere is how many human acts and interactions – and particularly those very acts viewed by moderns as arbitrary (typically religious) accretions – are actually baked right into humans and human nature. Moderns tell us they can hull away authority, morality, even art in order for us to better taste the sweet little pea underneath. But it’s all a lie.
And so I wonder if another one of these baked-in’s is liturgy: a “work of the people” ritualizing communal acts of worship and setting apart that which is sacred. Since we have hulled away our gods it only makes since to hull away the liturgies as well, right? But professing to be wise, we have become fools. And by unmooring liturgy from a religious context, we the people have only shifted our work, our rituals, our sense of sacred from gods to stupidities. I’ve met dredheads and Deadheads who could number the months and divide the seasons according to the music festival scene (yes, I swear it’s a thing). And its a rare heretical American who doesn’t participate “at least culturally” in the liturgical season of SuperBowl.
Well, there’s been a lot of discussion recently about superheroes and their modern portrayal. I’m not as interested here talking about a particular superhero (cards on the table I don’t think I’ve been to the movies, any movie, since 300. So what the heck do I know?). But, more generally, I have been wondering if another baked-in of humans is a desire, a longing for, superheroes: those incarnations of the Hope (the Imago Dei?) that the good, the true, the beautiful can and should and will conquer evil.
Hegel, in his Introductory to Aesthetics(*), hints at the notion that Christianity has made art impossible. He hints at this because for him, art is to some extent a portraying of the universal, particularly. And, so he argues, for the Christian the highest sublimity is the Universal in the Particular of the Trinity. The Christian “knows” this, intellectually, but can in no way portray this. Christian art then is impossible, and Christian attempts at portrayal simply become devotional, not artistic. Once this argument is conceded (not that I am), it’s easy to see how substance becomes dwarfed as technique is elevated. And the carnival commences.
And so, has Christianity made superheroes impossible? The Christian knows that The Good, the True, the Beautiful has conquered, right here and right now. Therefore, Christian superheroes become devotional allegory or caricature. But we don’t go to the movies for devotions. And the carnival commences: superheroes become inherently pagan, because for the pagan this-worldly stakes are extremely high: the good, the true, the beautiful is this earth and this life, and it’s quite possible to lose. That doesn’t mean (necessarily) that Christians can’t view modern pagan superheroes, any more than it means Christians can’t (necessarily) view modern pagan art more generally. But certainly pagans arent any more Monolithic regarding their view of the good and its liturgical worship than Christians are. And particular pagans, who have a particular warped view of the good, are quite naturally going to portray their superheroes fighting for this warpery. These are good pagans, and they are very concerned about losing. Christians obviously can discern the Good hidden in all the garbage, but we should be careful. I suppose we can also project our particular trials and battles onto the programs of particular superheroes, but how interesting is that ultimately if we cannot project the War? And we cannot project the War because the War has already been fought and won. When there’s no longer a War, to what extent are superheroes even ours to repair?
* Reading Hegel at recommendation from Dr. Bertonneau and others at the Orthosphere. Looking forward to follow up discussion over there shortly.