I’m reading the third book in Brandon Sanderson’s The Reckoners series. In these books, Sanderson describes a version of our world in which a mysterious orb one day appears in the sky and miraculously grants superhuman abilities to a percentage of the world’s population.
Some people develop really cool powers, like the ability to generate force fields or create flames from thin air or heal themselves if they become injured. Others develop frivolous powers, like the ability to transform any ice cream into a flavor of their preference. No matter the power, there is a universal trait that develops among all those endowed with powers. Whenever a person uses his or her superhuman abilities, that person becomes corrupted. They are overtaken by what is described as the darkness. The result is a world in which the superhumans – referred to in the books as Epics – rule the whole of humanity, enslaving those without the ability to effectively defend themselves and killing those who refuse to yield. The only way an Epic can avoid corruption is to abstain from using his powers.
I find the entire concept fascinating. For years, I’ve been convinced that all members of humankind truly are gifted with super powers.
I wonder if there isn’t a correlation in the real world between super powers and corruption. But I think Sanderson’s story actually portrays the opposite of reality. I believe a person wards of the darkness by *using* his or her powers. In fact, it may be the only way to keep the darkness at bay.
And just like the Epics in Sanderson’s novel, some humans – people like Einstein and Martin Luther King and Emily Dickinson – have grandiose powers, while others are granted less spectacular abilities. Most of us fall into that second category.
But if it’s true that a human must use his unique abilities in order to chase away the darkness, then it doesn’t matter whether those abilities seem significant to us. It doesn’t matter if our contribution is big or small. It only matters that we contribute.
It seems we humans are all are infected with the same thought disease, the symptom of which is a pesky voice in our heads that says, “Something must be wrong here. I’m supposed to be more important than this. I’m supposed to matter more.”
I believe that’s the darkness talking. As long as we’re obsessed with the yields of what we sow with with our abilities, we are subject to corruption. And the obsession may be keeping us from our actual abilities.
Steven Pressfield writes about Adolf Hitler’s affinity for painting – a passion he failed to pursue. Had he developed his skills as a painter rather than pour his energy into a maniacal attempt to take over the world, I wonder what sort of artist he would have been. I wonder if he would have produced works that would be purchased in art galleries for millions of dollars. I doubt it. I imagine Hitler the painter would have disappeared from human consciousness, his work appreciated and remembered only by those closest to him. But millions of people would not have been senselessly killed. There is power in a willingness to accept what is, even if that means accepting obscurity.
I have a superpower I plan to use today. It’s a small power, significant to only one person. I’m going to take my little boy to a Pokemon card trading party, and I’m going to do my best to have a good time. It is unique, this power; only I can employ it. And though it matters to no one but this one child, I think the use of my ability sends shockwaves through the darkness which seeks to swallow us all.
What’s your super power? Whatever it is, be it big or small, please use it.