How to Become Superhuman
By Brett & Kate McKay / The Art of Manliness
Consider this passage from Self-knowledge and Self-Discipline by Basil William Maturin.
Have you ever experienced such a moment? Suddenly you caught a glimpse of your infinite possibilities-time seemed to stop, your heart skipped a beat, your breath caught in your throat…perhaps you had such a moment when reading the above passage! And then the phone rang, the voice of a friend cut in, your hunger for a Twinkie made itself known. Just as quickly as the curtain was drawn back on your panorama of potential…the vision closed. And your ordinary life marched on, keeping you too busy to think, "What was that all about?"
So here's my proposition: Let's stop turning away from those moments and ignoring what we know to be true about ourselves and our potential as men. Instead, let's set our sights on becoming more than what we are, on becoming superhuman.
What It Means to Become Superhuman
Becoming superhuman, that certainly sounds interesting…but what does it even mean anyway? Is it a silly idea, something only reserved for comic books and science fiction?
I think we all know what it means to be human. That's easy. But while we throw around the word "super" a lot, you've probably never thought much about its meaning. So let's take a look at its entry in the Online Etymology Dictionary:
So if super means going over and beyond something, being superhuman means living a life over and beyond that of the normal, average person. Being part of the top percentage, the human elite, who refuse to accept mediocrity in any aspect of life.
Every Man a Superhero
Of all the superheroes in popular culture, I've always been most drawn to Batman. While many superheroes come by their superpowers through genetic blessing or freakish accident, Batman is a regular guy who gained his superhuman abilities on his own. He studied science, perfected his body, sharpened his mind and powers of deduction, and utilized technology. He became superhuman through his own effort, adding to his powers element by element.
While such a transformation might seem like a flight of unrealistic fantasy, it's really not. While we may never quite approach Batman's level of prowess, we can build ourselves into men whose abilities far surpass that of the average joe. Don't believe me? Consider Houdini. Houdini was an ordinary man who through the force of discipline and hustle taught himself how to escape from any handcuff, chest, prison, straitjacket or safe in the world, hold his breath for almost four minutes, fly one of the first planes in the world, endure freezing temperatures, untie knots with his toes, and charm the pants off of ordinary folks and dignitaries alike. He kept the goal of becoming superhuman ever before him and he attained it.
Becoming superhuman involves reaching for ever greater heights in all areas of our lives: physical, mental, moral, and spiritual.
The average man spends his days as a sedentary lump; the superhuman man strives to keep himself in peak physical condition.
The average man rarely cracks open a book after college; the superhuman man is dedicated to lifelong learning, constantly feeding his mind with books, magazines, and newspapers and studying a wide variety of topics.
The average man cheats and fudges here and there; the superhuman man makes his word his bond and lives every day with integrity.
The average man is content with surface pleasures and material goods; the superhuman man explores the greater depths of life through meditation or prayer.
Getting Started on the Path to Becoming Superhuman
So we should strive to become superhuman in all areas of our lives, but such a task sounds, well, super-overwhelming. The reason many of us ignore the kind of moment described in the introduction is that the vista of our potential is both beautiful and enticing and overpowering and paralyzing. It's a vast landscape that stretches outward and upward. "How will I ever be able to explore all this territory?" we think. Getting started seems too difficult, so we'd rather stay where it's safe and comfortable.
The key is simply to take the first step. Don't think about tackling every aspect of your life at once. Choose just one peak to climb, and once you've scaled that mountain, you will be strengthened and able to see things from a new view, leaving you ready to explore other areas.
But which peak should you choose first?
Deep down you know which one to pick. It has always stood in the middle of your life, inspiring you with its majestic heights while mocking you with the fact that you've yet to reach the top.
Still don't know which peak I'm talking about? Have you ever had this experience?
I know this has happened to me. I'll meet someone who has an amazing level of some virtue or strength, to the point they're truly radiating it, and when I encounter them and partake of their aura, it stirs a dormant desire within me; a part of myself I've shoved down and buried awakens to exclaim, "I too could live a life like that!" All the rationalizations for having been too lazy or too fearful to work on that part of myself evaporate in the presence of someone who could have made the same excuses but didn't. This happens a lot as it concerns my spirituality. I get spiritually lazy and then I encounter a man who radiates intense spirituality, and I think, "Holy crap, I am seriously missing out here."
It's a humbling experience; it makes your stomach sink and leaves you feeling kind of depressed. Why am I not like that? Why have I wasted so much time in my life? And from this sinking feeling, two outcomes are possible: you can keep on kicking yourself and pitying yourself until the demands of day-to-day life dull that prick in your heart and you forget about your desire, letting it grow dormant until the next time you encounter someone who uncovers it once more. Or, you can use that prick as motivation to take some kind of step, no matter how small, toward making that desire a reality.
If you've had this kind of encounter, then you know exactly what area of your life in which to start working towards becoming superhuman. It is your biggest mountain peak, the one that has always beckoned to you; it is your unique center and calling as a man; it is your place to begin the adventure of self-improvement. This is your foundation as a man: once you make that area of your life the way you've always wanted it, that will give you the power and confidence to tackle the rest on your journey to becoming superhuman.
Remember this maxim from Marcus Aurelius:
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