An intriguing question came through my Facebook newsfeed recently: what are your superpowers? On the surface, this may seem like a fun, diversionary post, prompting you to indulge in whimsy about your hidden, larger-than-life abilities. Yet there’s so much more to this question that calls you to discover and claim the special gifts and powers that are yours alone to share with the world.
Forget the superheroes of the DC and Marvel universes, with their superhuman powers and strengths. Yes it would be marvelous to fly, shapeshift, manipulate the elements, space travel, and the gazillion other fantastical talents of these otherworldly beings, but none of these things are within your human reach.
While you’re at it, forget the superstars that our culture obsesses about. Yes it might be marvelous to be a movie star, famous musician or artist, media celebrity, billionaire or world-class athlete, dazzling the world with your special talents and meteoric success, but, if you’re like the vast majority of us, these adulated characteristics won’t apply to you.
Superpowers aren’t only the prerogative of superheroes and superstars. You don’t need to measure your personal abilities, worthiness and contribution to society against these select, special few, with their showy, out-of-reach talents. It’s much more empowering, and interesting, to widen your gaze to the super-people closer to home, including yourself, with amazing, unique superpowers of the more accessible and nourishing kind.
Add to this the idea that you were born into this world for one reason: to claim your special gifts and offer them up to others. You are here, on this Earth, to be of service to others and our planet home. This service isn’t about self-sacrifice and personal deprivation; instead it’s your path to self-actualization. By claiming and cultivating your special gifts, and sharing them with others, you will naturally blossom into your true, beautiful, powerful Self.
Where you find this sweet spot of service and self-actualization, you know you’ve hit upon your superpowers.My Personal Superpowers
When I read the post with the question about superpowers, I immediately put my fingers to the keyboard, and, without thinking, typed the following:
My superpower is to be a master story-hunter. I go searching for the story-magic that’s needed in the moment, traveling deep in the land of lost tales and forgotten dreams. I follow the trail of angst and longings of the story-seeker that show the way to the frozen-in-time moment of the long forgotten tale, and then I pluck the story back into the waking world and place it into the hands of the story-seeker, trusting them to discover and make their own the beauty and healing medicine from the lines and drama of the tale. My cape is deep red, the color of life and beating hearts and living stories. Yes! This is my superpower!
I dream of being with a woman elder who teaches me about a clan of good men with special spiritual energy that have been with humanity throughout our history. Then the dream shifts. I’m waiting on a street corner on my island home for a man to pick me up and give me a ride. I intuitively know that he’s part of this clan, a teacher and holder of this special energy. The car pulls up. He smiles and greets me. I get in the car and then the dream ends.
In my waking-world life, I know this man, and he is indeed of this special clan of good men whose presence and deeds can open hearts, heal souls and change our world. He’s a poet, teacher and Zen practitioner — a brilliant yet humble man, with gentle, penetrating eyes that seem to take in our world of beauty and sorrow with a deep love, wisdom and crinkle of humor.
There are such good men among us. They are the poets, writers, teachers, leaders, wise men and healers in our midst who kneel in reverence before the miracle that is life, and give over their hearts and hands in service of the very best of our human society: love, compassion, justice and beauty.
Oddly, the good man isn’t our cultural ideal of the masculine. Instead this ideal venerates “real men” who emulate a rugged self-determinism founded on domination and personal gain. In the battle for supremacy in our shared social order, real men fight their way to the top of the pile, reaping the rewards of wealth, power and adulation, indifferent to the price others pay for their success. Our modern political, social and economic systems are founded on this masculine ideal of dominion, will to power, and unfettered self-interest and greed.
It can be hard to recognize the good men among us given the long shadow of our cultural, real-men ethos. Many of us have experienced harm at the hands of an abusive man, or because of the misogynist roots and toxic male and female stereotypes that permeate our social order. Others may have a strong political or intellectual viewpoint that understands the role that men and patriarchal institutions have played in the worst of our human history and current malaise.
Yet there are good men in our midst, with big hearts and spirits, gifting their best in service of others and our world. And these men, with their positive masculine traits, are desperately needed as partners, allies and role models in the mending and renewing of our human society.
When I shared my good-man dream with my poet neighbor who appeared as the good man in my dream, he replied, “Yes, there are such men without a doubt. I’m glad you know, Karen. That, in itself, is worth all the dreams.”
To know the good men among us — to open our hearts and minds to their presence and offerings — is a powerful counterbalance and antidote to the clamor of the crazy, crazy of real-men masculinity, played out in the constant bad newsfeed of political mayhem, environmental devastation, economic crisis, income disparity and war.
Here is a simple exercise for claiming this powerful, healing good-man medicine in your own life.