Unity: There is a Way Home

Unity: There is a Way Home
Robert Bergman '93

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

“I hope you live a life you are proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

“I never let my schooling get in the way of my education.” – Mark Twain

“With great power must also come great responsibility.” – Stan Lee 

I like Spider-Man. I’ve always liked Spider-Man.

When I was a kid, my uncle owned a few comic book stores, and I still remember him giving me brown paper sacks of comics that wouldn’t sell. Captain Carrot and the Zoo Crew, Aquaman, Bullwinkle, Rom, Son of Satan (the only St. Louis-based superhero, by the way) — anything that wouldn’t sell and would be trashed wound up in my hands. But occasionally, a poorly written Superman or Batman and even a Spider-Man Team-Up wound up in that heap/paper sack.

My children and I enjoyed Spider-Man: No Way Home. I won’t ruin it for you; however, if you like Spider-Man, then you should take the time to see it. Since his beginning in the comics over the years, Spider-Man grew up, got married, got divorced, got married again, had children, was cloned, lost family, found family, lost his mind; this poor guy has done it all, not to mention all the times that Spider-Man wasn’t a man at all but a teen girl, a grown woman, and yes, even a pig (Spider-Ham was a spider bitten by a radioactive pig, FYI). 

I’m talking about Spider-Man and not Peter Parker, and that is kind of my point.  

It all starts with a young teen who gets bitten by a spider (radioactive, genetically altered, mutated, etc.) and takes on the proportional abilities of a spider. Talk about an analogy of the teenage years; here he is, going along, an outsider, nerd, geek, smart, unathletic kid, and BAM -- everything literally changes overnight. Puberty, am I right?

What does he do? He tries to fix everything that he thinks is wrong with him.

But this is Peter Parker and not Spider-Man. The “spider-man” tries to fix everything wrong with the “teenage boy” and doesn’t do a very good job when he begins. In every iteration of Spider-Man, there comes a moment when the “Great Power, Great Responsibility” speech is made by an uncle, a friend, another spider-person, a father, a mother, a mentor, etc. The speech becomes a cliché in comic books and movies. But when we break it down, it is an iteration of Cain’s question in the Bible, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  The answer is “yes.” We have a responsibility to use our power for the greater good and not for selfish reasons.

I took my son and daughter to see Spider-Man: No Way Home, and my son didn’t want to go. Much like his father, he has anxiety and worries about everything. The pandemic has not helped us one bit. 

A few years ago at the movie theater, he saw the Venom poster in the lobby and it scared him.  

Venom, which for those who may not know, is really the antithesis of Spider-Man (it is an alien symbiote that attached itself to Peter Parker and became his black costume and then an entity unto itself). Venom is self-serving for the most part and uses his power for himself more than others. Spider-Man is the Superego, Peter Parker the Ego, and Venom the Id if that helps. But I digress.  

My son was scared and from then on did not want to go to the theater. He “hates” movies now.

However, we’ve seen all the Spider-Man movies in the theater and I made him go. After the film, my daughter, son, and I talked about the themes and character development and got pumped up for Christmas break.

On Christmas night, while my family played a game in our dining room, my son sat upstairs in his room playing Fortnite. He and a friend run a “guild” (I know it is a “clan,” but I like guild better). They are so good that my lower-level XP doesn’t allow me to join their guild. As tensions arose in the dining room, I pulled my usual magic trick of disappearing, which is how I deal with family tensions. I just leave the room and let it play out. So, I decided to check on him and went upstairs to his room and this is what I experienced: a problem arose between two guild members. One guild member, I will call him “Chuck,” bullied another person, “Dane.”  I don’t know how Chuck bullied Dane but as co-leader of the guild, my son and his partner had to decide what to do about Chuck.  

This is what I heard from the hallway: My Son: “We need to give him another chance…I know he bullied Dane but still … we need to give Chuck another chance…Have you seen Spider-Man? … Spider-Man gave everyone a second chance … that’s what we should do . . . If Chuck messes up again, he’s out … Okay … Good, second chance … I’ll tell him.”

Spider-Man gave everyone a second chance.  

In the animated film, Into the Spider-verse, the central theme is that anyone can be in the mask and anyone can be Spider-Man. Spider-Man was one of the first superheroes to wear a full mask, not just a cowl, cape, or domino mask. Peter Parker wore a mask to keep his loved ones safe from his enemies and so that Spider-Man could make decisions and take action without endangering his family.  

Anyone can wear the mask. Just ask my son, who didn’t want to see the movie, but learned important lessons: “With Great Power comes Great Responsibility,” everyone deserves a second chance, and our community is our responsibility. So yes, Cain, “We are our brothers’ keeper.”

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