On Having the Courage to Leap Without a Rope
The leap to freedom is not all about strength. Fear is why you fail. You do not fear death. You think this makes you strong. It makes you weak. How can you move faster than possible, fight longer than possible, without the most powerful impulse of the spirit: the fear of death. Make the climb as the child did without the rope. Then fear will find you again.
The Dark Knight Rises. Dir. Christopher Nolan, 2012
With respect to Marvel and DC superheroes, I’ve come to realise “if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em” is the only approach. My son is comic mad. I spend so much time in Forbidden Planet that I’ve asked whether they could collaborate with their neighbour Black Medicine, so I can at least get a decent cup of coffee whilst I count down the minutes (from 45, Euan’s browsing time limit). Guardians of the Galaxy (great soundtrack), Avengers Assemble (viewing experience elevated by Robert Downey Jr. playing Iron Man), I’ve seen every movie.
There’s a scene in the third of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, where Bruce Wayne (Batman) is sent to a prison called the Pit (“the worst hell on earth”) by Bane, a not very nice man who wants to destroy all that our hero holds dear. Prisoners are free to climb a well-like structure to attempt to escape, but almost everyone who has tried, has failed to make the leap across the gap between two ledges.
It is only by climbing without a rope, by harnessing his fear, that Wayne can escape the Pit.
Watching the Batman movies now, with comic–crazy son keeping me right, reminding me who’s who and how x relates to y in the previous movie is such fun, but Nolan’s trilogy has always had a place in my heart.
Heath Ledger’s heart-stopping performance of the Joker earned him a posthumous Oscar for best supporting actor in 2009. Someone close to me attempted suicide multiple times. I’m hit hard when individuals who have moved me with their talent leave this world all too soon.
Experiencing my own dark nights some years ago, Heath Ledger-playing- the-Joker-playing-me was the image I saw when I was exploring the fears in the pit of my soul.
I faced into these fears, and at first like the good accountant I was, filed them and the experiences from which they arose, alphabetically (naturally) into the filing cabinet in my soul’s basement. Job done.
Much later, I came to appreciate these experiences and used them to create the life I dreamed of. Like Wayne jumping without a rope, my fears can be harnessed. Sometimes freedom means taking a risk: that might mean jumping without a rope.
A comic book hero as the ultimate inspiration for the aspiring lifeshifter?
As Bruce Wayne, Batman is flesh and blood with very human fears, anxieties and contradictions (he might be the very gorgeous Christian Bale, but frankly, in the “playboy” scenes he’s an asshole). But as Batman, he is a symbol of hope: the lesson is we can all be better, we can all be the hero, we can all transcend even the most tragic of circumstances.
“It’s not what you are on the inside, but what you do that defines you” is one of my favourite quotes from Batman Begins. Write that book, climb that mountain, start that venture. Don’t let the humdrum distract you. Nobody remembers what you intended to do, only what you actually did.
There can be no despair without hope, said Bane. This is what makes the Pit the worst hell on earth; Bane sees hope as a weakness, Batman sees hope as a strength. Hope is simply the capacity to imagine a positive future. For the aspiring lifeshifter, imagining that future is the first step towards creating it.
“Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up”. “If you’re good at something never do it for free”. “The training is nothing, the will is everything”. I could go on. And if you’re thinking “what the heck is she on about” watch the movies. Batman is the ultimate inspiration if you aspire to change your life.
Batman V Superman is released next year. My hope? That Ben Afflek does the role justice. I loved him in Argo, but I’m just not seeing him as Batman.
But I remain, as ever, alive to the fact that we human beings can achieve remarkable things.