Antony Gormley tries to decipher the meaning of being alive using the body as a guide. Grief, for example,is symbolized in this sculpture, Loss. “Art confronts life,”, he explains, “allowing life to stop and perhaps change direction.” It’s an interesting thought: How would life change if the body altered rather than the circumstances, adding a capability rather than a choice.
But imagine all the awful things you’d have to know about everyone… Okay, then dial it back to something less involuntary, more Mel Gibson (What Women Want) than Charles Xavier. Imagine being able to reach in specifically to answer a question or to retrieve a moment?
Then you are burdened with the responsibility of acting morally from that knowledge… It’s too easy to solve it by granting a power to control minds. So what if it were a choice between reading or manipulating minds, between knowing without being able to act, or acting without really knowing?
There’s more potential for selfish mischief in the latter, but but both powers seem undesirable on reflection.
What about invisibility? Its safe and comfortable, and avoids the knowing / acting conundrum. Only useful to get away from something, or to get away with something, sniffs the New Yorker. Another essayist holds that the true power of invisibility is simply freedom from judgment: emancipation from the world’s perpetual, foreboding, nit-picky, relentless condemnation. But as a reality?
Tina Harper writes that women over 50 are already rendered invisible through social indifference. When the radiologist no longer asks if there’s any chance you’re pregnant. When the cashier at the movie theater, glancing indifferently at your gray roots, suggests you might want the senior discount (years before you might qualify). When people in the subway don’t really look at you as they politely offer you a seat.
For men of the same age, it’s loss of power. Invisibility means no longer being vital or important to others, respected as leaders, or sought as advisors. Again, the small cuts matter: the phone stops ringing, emails stop accumulating, invitations stop arriving.
Invisibility is already something I avoid, would I really want more?
What would be your favored superpower? In comics, male heroes seem born with strength, speed, flight, invulnerability, while female heroes acquire truth-telling ropes, impenetrable shields, and instant invisibility. The nature of these powers and of how they are acquired, even whether they are difficult to control, seems embarrassingly gender-specific. And the comics always show powers to be double-edged, exacting a price and changing the person bearer in unpredictable ways.
Besides, John Jantsch suggests that everyone already has at least one superpower. If you really take the time to think about your greatest strength or quality—be it resourcefulness or creativity or logic or intuition—and apply it every day to what you do, you’ll at the very least be staying true to who you are and letting that guide you.
Antony Gormley suggested similar ideas when he created the super-sized sculpture, Angel of the North, near Newcastle. “No-one has ever seen an Angel and we need to keep imagining them,” he says. “The Angel has three functions – firstly a historic one, secondly to grasp hold of the future, and lastly to be a focus for our hopes and fears…. I wanted to make an object that would be a focus of hope at a painful time of transition.”
Symbolic of the true superpower of being able to find the places, organizations and people to whom and with whom we feel most and fully vital and alive.