What’s wrong with this picture? Clark Kent and Superman can never be together at the same time. One always has to be hidden to allow the other to operate. So Clark Kent always has to appear as bumbling and incompetent whilst Superman is out saving the world again. I find it surprisingly easy to pity Superman here. Imagine having Super Hearing. Or Super Sight. Or Super Strength. One could always hear everything that was said-about oneself, one’s friends and family and so on. How do you smile at someone who has just been criticising your wife or husband, unaware that you have just heard every word of their conversation? Or keep to yourself the things you have seen someone doing that were never meant to be anything other than private?
And with Super powers comes an almost complete self-sufficiency. What help can I offer a Super Hero? How can a Super Hero know what it feels like to not be able to do something? And how quickly might my gratitude to Superman turn to envy or hatred? I find Clark Kent a much more agreeable persona. Clark Kent knows what it is like to miss a bus. Or be hurt. Or to be a friend. In short, to be vulnerable.
In my clinical work I meet a surprising number of patients who find it hugely difficult to be Clark Kent. Offer them a mull storey building to leap and they will try it-again and again and again. They will stop speeding bullets quite happily, often whilst stopping a meteorite hitting Earth. What they find impossible is delighting in the ordinary and the mundane. Less because they are unable to enjoy a garden or a sunset. More because they fear these mundane things are too easy-and that only the Amazing should occupy their energies. Not necessarily because the amazing is more enjoyable or satisfying. But that they fear that the ordinary will diminish them. To go home and kiss one’s partner. To know where to find your comfortable slippers. To have the dog jump up and demand a fuss. Yeats wrote of finding “In all poor foolish things that live a day, Eternal beauty wandering on her way.” I think Clark Kent saw more of eternal beauty wandering on her way than did Superman.