When we were kids, my brother and I were obsessed with Superman comic books. I don’t think we ever missed an issue. The stories were like a serial, with each new issue building on previous ones. So of course we had to have them all. Every month we’d head over to the old corner drug store where all the latest Superman comics were arranged on a twirly rack, fresh for the picking. We’d buy a stack of them, then hurry home to devour every page.
Back then, as today, comic books were frowned upon as inferior literature to the all the “legitimate” hard-cover offerings that could be checked out from the local library. So when teachers would rave to my mom about how rich our vocabulary was, imagine their disdain when Momma told them “It’s because they read comic books”. But it was true. After all, where else could eight and ten-year-old boys encounter a word like “invulnerable? The Hardy Boys mysteries? Dr. Suess? I think not.
My brother and I knew what “invulnerable” meant, not because we looked it up in some boring dictionary, but because we gleaned it from the context of good old Superman comic books. Superman, you see, was “invulnerable” to everything.
Everything, that is, except Kryptonite.
Kryptonite, as the legend is told, is any of the millions of fragments of the planet Krypton, where Superman was born. It exploded when he was a baby, but his father Jor-El, knowing doomsday was imminent, put little Kal-El (Superman’s birth name) in a rocket ship and dispatched him to Earth before it all went went boom-boom bye-bye.
And don’t ask me how, after all these years, I can remember “Jor-El” and “Kal-El” when I can’t remember half my neighbors’ names. It’s a senior thing…
Anyway, these pieces of the ill-fated planet Krypton went sailing out into the universe, waiting for arch-villains like Lex Luthor to find and use against Superman, to take away his powers. Maybe even (gasp!) kill him. I think over the years Superman has died of Kryptonite poisoning about three times. He always comes back though, somehow. Sort of like the that guy on “Days of our Lives”. But he lives again only to face another chunk of the dreaded green (or red or blue or white or gold or whatever) stuff in the next issue.
Yes, even Superman – faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings at a single bound – has a weakness. One thing that can bring him down. One thing that is able to render him absolutely powerless:
The fragments of his past.
Just when everything is going great, the enemies of the free world are about to be defeated and victory is within his grasp – out comes the Kryptonite to spoil the party. And until he can escape it, the Man of Steel is reduced to a lump of wet fettuccine.
Sounds a lot like me some days. Not that I’m Superman by any means. Most mornings I can barely fall out of bed and crawl to the bathroom, much less race bullets, wrestle choo-choo trains and hurtle over skyscrapers. But despite my aging body’s limitations, in the core of my essence I am powerful. I have the power to dream, to create, to go out there and make my corner of the world a better place. Some days I’m strong, confident, grounded in the present and full of positive affirmation. I’m willing to take on anything. And just when I dare to believe I can do it…
It comes hurtling out of my brain, out of slights, insults and put-downs from long ago. I live daily with those little chunks of negative energy floating around in my psyche. They appear out of nowhere to rob me of my power. I drop to the ground, trying desperately to stumble away from their eerie, life-sucking glow. Egads! The time is now! The world is waiting for me! And where am I? Down on one knee, paralyzed by debilitating voices from the past. Voices of people who didn’t believe in me. Who said I was lazy. Or crazy. Who said I could never do anything right. All the voices that made me feel like a failure.
Including sometimes, my own.
After all, I’m just little old me. Who am I to dream? To believe? To create? To make things happen? To make this world a better place?
Seriously. Who do I think I am? Superman?
Or am I:
Not good enough
Not strong enough
Not smart enough
Not ambitious enough
Not spiritual enough
etc… etc… etc…
It’s all just Kryptonite, people. It’s killing me. I just can’t keep this stuff lying around the house anymore.
Because someone out there is waiting for the guy in blue tights and red underwear to come strike a blow for truth, justice, honesty, integrity and compassion in their life.
And who knows? I just might be that guy…