Friday, May 12, 2006

The Knight After 7: Sympathy for the Devil

News of the most recent phase of my ongoing evolution as Batman has not gone over well with my colleagues, to put it mildly. One close ally won't talk to me, another plans to turn me over to the police, and a third greets my rebirth with "disappointment ... and excitement." I still haven't heard from two other crimefighting associates, but I doubt either of them will take it too cheerfully either.

I've been called insane, a traitor, a puppet, and worse—and this is all from my close (virtual) friends. They don't seem willing to make the same leap of faith I've taken and reenvision my worst enemy as my greatest teacher. In their eyes, I've abandoned my mission; from my perspective, I've zeroed in on it.

As I see it, I haven't "crossed over" to "the dark side" at all; I've merely acknowledged the darkness which has always been a part of me--particularly this part of me, the part that even in the brightest of times emerges in the wee hours of the night dressed in a jet-black costume to pursue imaginary villains. I'm doing this in order to become the best Batman I can possibly be. It took me a good 25 years or so to realize that my superhero-fetish fantasies did not make me a monster, and another 10 or so to transform that former "monster"-self into a friend and ally. You could even, if you wanted, propose that this newest phase involves allowing a little monstrousness back into the picture.

Except that's not quite accurate, either, because I don't view collaborating with the Monk as monstrous. For me, it's all about ebb and flow, about thinking of myself not as either a hero or a villain (/top or bottom/master or slave), but a combination of the two, or rather a character whose contradictions coexist in a workable synthesis. Just as I learned to transform my own batself from a monster into a teacher, now I am trying to do the same with my understanding of the Monk.

Shortly before this latest chapter in the saga began, I came across this passage from The Picture of Dorian Gray (delivered, I should point out, by the faintly Monklike character of Lord Henry, who is Dorian's personal guide into the darkness):

"I believe that if one man were to live out his life fully and completely, were to give form to every feeling, expression to every thought, reality to every dream--I believe that the world would gain such a fresh impulse of joy that we would forget all the maladies of medievalism, and return to the Hellenic ideal ... But the bravest man among us is afraid of himself. .... We are punished for our refusals. Every impulse that we strive to strangle broods in the mind and poisons us. The body sins once, and has done with its sin, for action is a mode of purification. Nothing remains then but the recollection of a pleasure, or the luxury of a regret. The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful. It has been said that the greatest events of the world take place in the brain. It is in the brain, and the brain only, that the great sins of the world take place also. ..."

Funny thing: when I first noted Wilde's words of wisdom, I related them to the advice my hero colleagues used to give me in escaping the Monk: indulge the fantasies he stirred up in me, but find a safe outlet for those inclinations--i.e., not him but them. I discovered through trial and error how right they were--but that was then, this is now, and "escape" is no longer the point. Now I see that if I yearn so powerfully to walk on the wild side, there is no better travelling companion than the character who best embodies for me all of its wildness.

(I've been studying some other texts in the intervening weeks that are even more directly related to the subject at hand, but I'll save them for a future post. Chew on that one for the time being, and then we'll move on.)

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