I was bored the other day and was browsing a couple of answer sites like wiki.answers and Yahoo answers. It’s what I do when I get bored sometimes, and besides, some of them are really funny.
I came across one in particular that gave me a laugh about Spider-Man. A kid asked how he could be more like Peter Parker. The most popular answer was something like:
“Why would you want to be? Everyone he gets close to dies. He can’t hold a job because he’s out saving everyone, and life generally just sucks”
While some of this may be true, and some of it not so much, I started thinking about Peter Parker and why we are so drawn to someone like Spider-Man as a hero.
Anyone who knows me knows I have a slight addiction to Spider-Man; and by slight, I mean it might be a little unhealthy. Anything related to the web head is something I’m a fan of. I’ve read the comics, I’ve seen the movies, I’ve played the games, I’ve worn the suit (no, really who would pass up that opportunity). Needless to say, he has been a very, very constant thing in my life. His victories were my victories, his failures were my failures, his heartbreaks were my heartbreaks. I still tear up when I read issue #’s 121 & 122. Every. Single. Time. It’s like a piece of me. A piece that hurts but that I can’t get enough of all at the same time.
So, why am I so drawn to it along its millions of other adoring fans?
We see ourselves in Peter Parker.
Today for my reading, I read Spider-Man. I thought about some of my favorite Spidey victories and failures and re-read through a few of them. These are the ones I decided on:
TASM = The Amazing Spider-Man
TASM #39-40 (Spidey and Green Goblin unmask each other)
TASM #50 (Peter gives up Spider-Man)
TASM #88-90 (Death of Captain Stacy)
TASM #121-122 (Death of Gwen Stacy)
TASM #293-294 (Kraven’s Last Hunt)
I had to stop after this because I could go all day..
While I could talk all day about any of these and how there’s an indefinite source of spirituality behind them, I’m going to pick one to tell you about.
And that’s the death of Gwen Stacy.
I’m sure most of you know of Gwen Stacy since they rebooted Spider-Man in 2012. Peter Parker’s first love (SPOILERS) dies.
This was huge, not just for fans and my childhood self when I first read the comic, but huge for comic books in general. It’s often regarded as the end of the Silver Age of comics. After this, comics got much darker and grittier. Never before, with the exception of origin stories and a few other circumstances, had a super hero failed to save the day. Never before had the super hero lost someone so close to them. Never before was such a pivotal character killed off.
For some of us, Gwen Stacy was like our first girlfriend (you thought I was kidding about seeing myself in Peter Parker). Sure, I was a kid and had no real idea what any of it actually meant. I just knew the girl I liked was dead. Dead. Just dead because Spider-Man (me) couldn’t save her. Talk about some traumatic experiences.
After several years, I began to mature. I never stopped reading comic books, and no story had ever impacted me like those two issues had.
You understand what I just said, right? No story had ever impacted me like those two issues had.
I’m sure I sound crazy, which is fine. This challenge is about being real.
What did the death of Gwen Stacy do to Peter Parker? And what does that have anything to do with spirituality?
We’re getting there.
Let’s look at plots, characters, and roles. Gwen represents innocence. She was the good girl and not near the party animal MJ was. Like many of us, our innocence dies and there’s really nothing we can do to save it.
Now, let’s look at Peter. Peter is us. We are a product of our circumstances, whether they are the result of our own decisions or not. Peter’s innocence died with Gwen. Each of us reaches a point where we lose it, and it’s generally for the better. That’s how we grow. That’s how we become more of a human being.
Does it hurt? Like hell. Some of us lose our innocence much earlier than others. Some of us, it’s taken away forcefully. Some of us, it just sort of leaves and becomes a memory. Our brain is filled with “What ifs” and “Maybe I could have done better” or “If only I had done this instead”. Leaving us to dwell on the past and not appreciate what we’ve gained from it.
Remember what I said about David yesterday? After his son died, he got up and ate after laying on the ground crying, praying, and fasting for seven days. Once he got up, he said that he needed to move on and look forward.
While it’s great if you can manage to do that yourself, many of use will choose to be more like Peter. We look back on our mistakes. We look back on those dark times. We dwell on what could have been and what we were robbed of in regret.
It takes some time, and Gwen’s death always haunts Peter, but eventually he decides to keep fighting and he moves forward.
Yes, I understand that he is fictional and not a real person. Or, is he?
It’s interesting because, to an extent, we can all understand and sympathize with Peter. Despite his super human abilities, he is still a human. He falls, makes poor judgements, and he’s not perfect. A superhero that is still a human.
Maybe the spirituality of Spider-Man is that we have to become greater than what we suffer. We are constantly bombarded with things like death, depression, crucial decisions, and life in general. It’s easy to lay down and call it quits. It can really come down hard on us. But, those things are what can send us down a path, a path to make us who we are.
My prayer today is that we can become greater than what we suffer. It’ll hurt like hell. It could be the hardest thing we ever do, because we always have to be doing it. The same way life doesn’t stop throwing things at us, we can’t stop being made better because of them. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, or something like that.
Breathe in. Breathe out.