Sunday, February 27, 2005

X-Men

Published at somewhat recently at idkfa, now republished here:

There is a fundamental divide between Wolverine and Cyclops from the X-men comic books that perfectly illustrates the meaning of existentialism. Philosophers forever, essentially, have been trying to prove first what is real and secondly whether we should accept it and thirdly how to find what is real, factual, and the truth. Wolverine, chooses, in a way, not to accept the reality that others say is around him, whereas Cyclops takes the responsibility that he thinks he has.

While at first the choice to be a Scott Summers in life seems almost inevitable, we must look much deeper into the analogy to really understand what it is that we're saying with our choice. The Logan-Scott dichotomy is essentially reflective of the existential nature of man. Cyclops ascribes to the values and morals set for him a priori, that is, by the Professor, his wife, and the nature he thinks he has, or by a "God"-figure (in a non-religious sense). Wolverine on the other hand has no a priori essence; he has only his existence, a blank memory, and frickin' awesome claws in his knuckles.

Wolverine is the token existentialist; he takes his life and gives it the meaning he chooses. He chose to join the X-Men, he leaves frequently to return whenever he wishes. He has no answers besides those he creates for himself, and he has no responsibility save that responsibility he creates for himself.

Cyclops, on the other hand, is locked into a life he didn't create for himself. Like a religion, he is bound to the X-Men by a sort of duty to the professor and the connection and place that he thinks he has. He "knows" the answers, although they are outside of him, and he has plenty of responsibilities, even though he didn't take them on himself.

What Scott doesn't know is that, as Nietzsche said, God is dead. There is no a priori structure of values one which to hang his hat, or visor in this case. His perceived responsibility is just that, perceived. He has locked himself into a structure that doesn't actually exist for the sake of a nature and a "God" that were social constructs in the first place.

Logan is the Camusian absurd hero. He is left alone and abandoned by nature, society, and "God." While he is of course faced with a Sartrian existential anguish and despair, he is also granted a reprieve from the shackles of life and given a new hope. Life without a priori structures, life without a priori values is a life where, as Dostoevsky's Underground Man says, "anything is possible."

In looking for our answers in some extraphyiscal construct, we subject ourselves to the torture of an eternity of a life beyond us. Adam looked for the answers in a tree and was condemned to leave paradise. Prometheus looked for the answers among the gods and was subject to torture. Cyclops looks for the answers in his group, in the professor, in the world apart from him and in so doing subjects himself to the slow self-sacrifice that is the path to a living death, a life trapped in somebody else's box.

Wolverine, on the other hand, can only look to himself for the answers. He has no gods, no nature, simply his own existence. From this Wolverine must create his meaning, his responsibility, and his answers for himself and by himself.

I, for one, am a Wolverine. I live for myself.

1 Comments:

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5:54 AM  

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