Back home... and why superhero comics are spiritual

It’s about two weeks since I returned from my two-month overseas trip, taking in the sights of Thailand and Bulgaria. Here in Canberra, we launched straight into the Sri Chinmoy Triathlon Festival. Every year, on that weekend, many of us are kept very busy – and for three days, we get by with very little sleep.

Now, a week later, I’m … recovering. Our bodies don't really need as much rest as we like to think. However, while you can borrow seemingly endless reserves of energy, you still need to pay back. The past week has been slightly less dynamic – though I’m still keeping busy.

(OK, perhaps that’s just a lame excuse for not keeping up with my blog. Sorry about that.)

I’ve just been looking at a comic book called “Ramayan 3392 AD”, which retells the great Indian spiritual text The Ramayana … and sets it not in the hoary past, but (as the title suggests) 1385 years into the future, in a high-tech, sci-fi world. I suppose it’s not such a strange concept. Rama, the great spiritual figure, was like an ancient version of a super-hero – and now, he even looks like one! (The comic is co-published by, among others, new-age maven Deepak Chopra. Though I’m not sure if these sacred texts should be re-imagined in such a way, it is written with some respect for the ancient scriptures.)

I’ve always been a fan of super-hero comics. There are various reasons. The simple qualities that the heroes represent – Batman’s sense of justice, Captain America’s sense of compassion, Superman’s nobility, Wolverine’s dynamism, the Invisible Woman's nurturing kindness, Spider-Man’s self-transcendence, Daredevil's courage...

Also, I suppose I enjoy the pure escapism of people in silly costumes fighting bad guys in even sillier costumes … but that doesn’t sound as impressive a reason.

Their powers didn’t interest me so much as their characters – except in the sense that, despite the temptations that such powers could bring, Superman and his colleagues never used them for anything but altruistic goals. It was what super-heroes symbolise as a whole – goodness, heroism and inner strength (or as someone else put it, “truth, justice and the American way”). In my childhood, these were the great legendary heroes – fictitious versions of such Indian heroes as Rama and the Pandavas. Actually, the Pandavas (from the greatest epic, The Mahabharata) were almost the Justice League of spiritual folklore, all with distinct powers and abilities beyond those of mere mortals. However superhumanly powerful (and numerous) their foes, they were still able to defeat them. When I first read of their victory at the Battle of Kurukshetra (many years after I read my first comic books), it seemed strangely familiar to me...

See? Super-hero comics are spiritual!