I think just about everybody has fantasized at least once about having superhuman powers. You can test this theory the next time you are with a group of friends and the conversation starts to lag. You’ll fill a good hour (easy) by simply asking: “If you could have any superpower, what would it be?” You probably know what your answer would be because you and your friends have already discussed it. Admit it.
There are literally thousands of characters in the Marvel Universe alone, which suggests that there are plenty of powers to choose from, but in my experience, most people select from a very short list. Your conniving, suspicious friends will generally opt for Invisibility so that they can do stuff without getting caught: stealing your vintage Iron Butterfly album, for example, or listening in to find out what you’ve all been saying about them behind their backs (that they’re conniving and suspicious—duh). The jocks will go for Super-strength, because, I guess, it’s cool to pick up heavy stuff and throw it—and also to not get hurt when doing something more obviously practical like, say, trying to run through a wall. Your hyper-motivated, overextended, busy types will generally opt for Teleportation or Super-speed (something like that), the better to get stuff done. (Boring.) Then there are the fun-loving goof-offs who pretty much choose Flight every time, because—hello!—flight?
To be honest, I’m not all that interested in those kinds of conventional superpowers. For one thing, they’re kind of played out, ruined for the rest of us by summer blockbusters and CGI. More to the point, it seems like when you’re endowed with Super-strength or Spidey Sense, you have to fight crime and wear spandex. No, thanks.
Me? I’m much more interested in just plain powers. For example, the power to Repel Mosquitoes. Go backpacking in the summer and leave the DEET at home. No more long sleeves on a hot day. No more scratching your welts till they bleed. No bug nets. It would be tremendous.
Or maybe the power to Say the Right Thing. I’m already imbued with the power to Insert Joke Here, which, as you may have observed, is too often associated with the power to Say the Wrong Thing. I’m just looking for a bit of a course correction, in other words. It’s not asking too much, I think.
But if I could choose only one, I would gladly endure the bug bites (well, not gladly) and foot-in-mouth disease if I could just get a small portion of what I think may be the greatest power of them all. I’d go so far as to say that it’s the Ultimate Superpower—a true game-changer if deployed with any degree of scalability. I refer, of course, to the power to Bring Out the Best in Others. I’ve witnessed it in action, and it’s amazing.
In real life it looks something like this:
- Hang around humans.
- Believe with all your heart that each one is stupendous.
- Let them know over and over until they start to believe that it actually might be true.
It’s a logic-defying, gobsmacking, incomprehensible . . . well, superpower. There’s really no other way to describe it. Because see, I’ve hung around humans. And we’re mostly not stupendous. We are full of glaring flaws and hard-to-ignore shortcomings. It’s impossible not to notice. But we have a friend who does this all the time—effortlessly, it seems. She gives you more credit than you deserve (“That’s one of the things I love about you . . .”) and sees you in such favorable light that while sharing a plate of tacos you find yourself yearning to be a better person. It’s as if she can only see your true potential for good, so that somehow, post-tacos, you feel yourself moving closer to that imaginary ideal. Or trying to anyway. It’s the only truly transmittable superpower I’m aware of, and it lifts and inspires everyone around her. Without her even realizing it, I might add. She almost certainly wouldn’t be aware that we’re talking about her right now.
It’s a magnificent, remarkable gift. She makes the world and the people in it better while simply going about her day. Unlike Flight or Invisibility or what-have-you, it’s the sort of superpower that could actually save the world if the rest of us could just figure out how she does it and start using it on each other.
Just think of it. There might not be any crime left to fight—and we wouldn’t even have to wear spandex.