Going to Comic-Con feels like the opposite of the things I have been working on lately. Isn’t it just a celebration of our need to anesthetize ourselves from this world through games and TV? Isn’t it just an excuse to spend a lot of money in San Diego? If you are critical of the idea of people being obsessed with illusions at the expense of current events, I would invite you to consider that everything that is happening at any point other than the absolute present is an illusion. The opinion you have of what I just said: that is an illusion about an illusion. That is your brain making up a story about a story that I made up, which I conveyed to you in made up symbols called letters that may or may not capture the essence of what I really meant at the moment that I wrote them. Trippy. (I've been reading too much Michael Singer.)
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On the outside looking in...
I didn’t get tickets to Comic-Con this year. When you are part of a military family, planning things six months in advance is nearly impossible. Though what goes on in the hallowed halls of the Convention Center is off-limits to me, this is not a sad story. I did get a chance to walk around to catch some of the festivities on Friday afternoon. I was in so much awe that I didn’t care about the heat.
There were people bedecked in every sort of garb. There were more superhero t-shirts per square foot of sidewalk than I have ever seen. Billboards and signage advertised hit shows, special performances, and showcased upcoming video games. I was most excited to see the cosplayers, and there were many: Wonder Woman, a gaggle of Spartans, Batman, and Ash Ketchum were walking the streets. (Little known fact: I want to cosplay at least once before I die.)
I was overjoyed to see the buzz around Comic-Con. The energy radiating out of that place is a sign that we need stories. Every culture that I have studied has a place for stories, and ours is no different. We are no longer confined to epic poetry, vase-paintings, and literature. We have film, video games, graphic novels, and books. You can’t tell me that Link doesn’t embody the Hero's Journey in Ocarina of Time. Some of our ideals as a society are locked in these powerful stories. To see people who love stories and their characters so much that they are willing to converge on this city – some of them dressed like characters – is inspiring. I create stories. How great is it to know that people love them so much?
What is the point of Comic-Con?
I have been chewing on this one for a while. Why escape from reality? Well...they call it “breaking news” because it busts open hearts. I have to slap on a Scopalamine patch to watch the news because there's too much spin for my constitution. We are so consistently imperiled by violence, disgusted by hatred, and horrified at the thoughtless destruction of human life. We are so caught up in the illusion of the latest pop feud or the latest political gaffe that we miss what actually happens. I am fatigued by another shooting, another disease, another cry in a cacophony of cries. I have to think about where my locus of control is in all of this. We can't ignore the world, but we must think about where our power actually lies instead of drowning in things over which we are powerless.
With all this heartbreak, we need stories more than ever. Stories give us the vocabulary to process what happens in our lives. They help us wrap our heads around our cultural values and take notice of instances when those values are problematic. The ancient Greeks used tragic plays as a way to communalize the trauma of war. Did you know that they also included a satyr play (a comedic interlude) for every three tragedies? They knew that leaving people in a state of unrelenting doom did nothing for their collective psyche. I am not suggesting that we close our hearts from the suffering of others. At the same time, I will not fault anyone for shamelessly parading around in tights and a neon green wig all weekend. Love your stories, people.
There’s nothing wrong with believing in an ordinary person in an extraordinary situation or an extraordinary person in an even more extraordinary situation. Bring on the superheroes!