Would you like to know what it’s like to hang out with superhumans?
When I took my first ‘real’ job, (one where I showered before work and put on nice, clean clothes instead of showering after work to put on my nice clothes), I had the privilege of working on Capitol Hill about 12 feet away from a man that was making a serious run for the Office of President of the United States.*
It’s quite true that there was a very thick wall between us, with no adjacent door, but I was there in the office nonetheless, answering the phone, running errands, and later handling constituent requests and writing some speeches.
As a small-town kid, this boss was my first exposure to a ‘superhuman’—someone much larger than life—who dominated any room by the force of his presence and intellect; who was quite used to people standing up when he entered; and who was The Center around which everything and everyone revolved.
I was hired by his personal secretary, who’d seen something in me that I’d yet to see in myself. She had a talent for this. When she finally ushered me into the inner sanctum to meet my new boss at the end of her hiring process, he greeted me like he’d been waiting there on The Hill all of his life for me to finally arrive. He came out from behind a big mahogany desk to shake my hand and to look me up and down with the air of a new convert who’d just responded to his alter call. Every square inch of wall space— floor to ceiling— was filled with pictures of him with other famous people. There were bronze statues, gold-trimmed flags, and diplomas from the Ivy leagues. Six minutes later, I floated out of that big office totally aligned with The Mission—said mission being his personal advancement and the advancement of his ideas—and ready to do just about anything for that cause. This would be the last moment he ever spoke to me.
As the weeks and months went by, I came to experience an open secret in that office. There was a key staffer who’d been working there 20+ years who’d never been told— even once in all those long years— that he’d done a good job. My boss never looked up from his papers when I came in to give him a report. Never. It wasn’t just me—it happened to everybody. I’m just boring to him, I thought. He’s moving on, I thought, and the small issues in my report—like the levee for flood control back in the district and the government contract for a local employer—were simply below his pay grade now. And there was that little matter of an eggshell temper that kept us all tiptoeing around.
It turned out that the lovely woman who hired me was the one that was orchestrating the whole affair, keeping up all appearances; drying the tears of the other staffers; making excuses; and never, never, oh my… never, interrupting the boss’s orations or giving him a bit of feedback or any piece of her mind. Instead, she demonstrated an intense loyalty that had no boundaries, or limit, or breaking point; as if her life and his were somehow intertwined in a cosmic agreement where he would appear as Superhuman, and she would patch up all the gaps. Together they would become one Whole Great Man.
And then the day came.
I was coming to work one evening after school on the newly-opened Metro subway system. The air-conditioned subway was like a dream to me compared to my long and humid walk across town in the Virginia summer. There was a terminal stop right at Capitol Hill so I didn’t even have to step outside. Exquisite luxury for 75 cents a ride. The loving assistant had convinced the boss to give the new subway a try (it really was much more convenient than driving), and at this moment he was attempting to leave the office to board the train for home. This was his first time on the train, and he couldn’t figure out were to slip in the little ticket that opened the turnstile gate.
I suppose a better man than I would have rushed to his aid; would have shown some compassion. But instead, I just watched. What I witnessed was the famous temper, now on display, untempered by even a single bit of self-effacing humor that might arise in a mature man witnessing his own comic foible in this scene of a President-to-be who couldn’t make it through a simple subway gate. Nor was there any admission of inadequacy, or even a request for help. Instead, it was just the crashing and slamming into that turnstile— trying to get it to turn by force of will alone, until a middle-aged black woman took the ticket out of his hand and slipped it into the little slot, and he was freed. He didn’t look back to thank her.
The next day the patient Assistant told me that ______ had experienced a hard time in the subway. It was her fault. Could I drive him home (he would be sitting in the back seat) and then take the subway back to the office?
A pattern to be repeated.
What I experienced in that first job was a pattern which I would see repeated many times—
- While entering the home of a world-famous southern religious conservative to mediate a dispute between members of his toxic family—a home so filled with fragile porcelain that one could not walk the floor for fear of breakage. Behind the glass menagerie: a bad marriage, two kids violently angry after a long childhood of being used as props in a fake story, and the very secret ‘other man’ sitting in the kitchen, in whose arms the Great Man died;
- By the radiant Christ-like spiritual teacher who was given everything he wanted by me and all the other followers, and who took it all and much more in his secret life role as a sexual abuser;
- In the form of the nationally recognized multi-million dollar attorney who was so secretly afraid of her case and client that she had to take me off into a quiet corner in the first moments of our professional encounter, to threaten me in low tones with a malpractice lawsuit if I didn’t immediately compromise my integrity and do exactly what she wanted;
- As the tyrannical guru figure (now so often repeated that it’s almost a cliché), who acts as if his supply of sycophants is truly inexhaustible. He outcasts all who might take issue with him, or who require that he grow up enough to enter into authentic relationships with other human beings.
The superhuman pattern has about four main themes. Theme number one is the presence of a true talent and genius that surpasses the norm—a peak skill approaching the Carnegie Hall level in some narrow line. This skill has a great attracting power.
Theme number two is what I can only call THE INTENSE FRAGILITY. The fragility of the superhuman is well-documented in myths and legends from every culture. Every Achilles has his heel.
Yet, in my experience, this is fragility is not just some fatal flaw or chink in the armor. It’s more all-pervasive. The entire Field around the superhuman is fragile. It’s intense—saturating everything and making Mr. Superman simply exhausting to be around after a while. This intense fragility arises out of the fact the Superhuman myth is always a lie. It’s exhausting to maintain this story with all of its elaborate props. Super-humanness is simply not an available way of being human. The superhuman can never be what he (or she) projects. It’s disallowed as a fact of nature. This fact is known by the entire inner circle.
Theme number three is the intense pressure that our hero puts on himself by creating the mythology that the line of the future runs through him, and getting others to buy into that idea. I’ve seen this so many times. The superhuman does not see his thoughts as a range of hypotheses, some better than others, thrown into the great mix and re-mix to make a helpful contribution to the larger situation, but rather as The Way. The superhuman’s start-point—that the arc of the future can run through a single individual or set of ideas— is, in my view, simply incorrect. The future isn’t going to get created that way. Instead, the leading edge is actually a field phenomena, an insight that I hope to develop much more deeply on these pages over the months to come.
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And let’s not forget theme number four— the presence of that Patient Assistant who is holding the whole show together.
The truth be told, I don’t have much patience for superhumans at this point. I’ve been there and done that. For me, involvement with The Super-boys (in my case, they’ve mostly been men) has been an adolescent stage that just happened to last about 40 years. I fully acknowledge my role in it all—how I fed the whole thing with my projections, and needed the validation of a superhuman as much as he needed me. I now look back on this adolescent stage with deep appreciation and gratitude: grateful to have been in the presence of people who dove deeply into a line of development and made the necessary sacrifice; grateful to have been around the potent force of initiators and fire-starters; grateful to have been in the presence of those able to articulate what was emerging in the Field and make it more real by it’s clear articulation; and grateful to be stimulated by enough cognitive dissonance to develop the personal force necessary to escape the gravitational field of the Superhuman Mythological System, and begin to emerge into a more humble, self-authoring place. And finally, I’m grateful to be now filled with a sense of mission, which brings us back to that lovely, patient Assistant.
From my perspective, it’s that patient Assistant who carries the seed of our future. We have a collective potential to move beyond the failed superhuman mythology, toward a place that is more fully human. I believe that we are on the cusp of a moment when more and more of those patient assistants will stand forth and begin to lead. It’s about time.
The peak skill of this supporting person is probably nothing they could put on display on the stage of Carnegie Hall. Instead her talent lies in recognizing the genius of others, and in her ability to make a commitment to that genius. In more spiritual terms, this same talent could expressed as the ability to see the divine light in others, and undertake the mission to expand such light through all available means. This skill set is a solid cornerstone on which the future can be laid. Why? Here’s someone who sees the whole situation (they are already holding it all together), and has made a faith commitment to the best potential in that situation. Indeed, it might be said that they are willing to get married to the situation’s potential—to write a blank check to it’s future, a future that is always in-the-making; a future that has to be first believed in order to someday be seen.
We have someone here who does not require all the time-wasting genuflecting and adulation, or the expense of the Big Show. A simple acknowledgement from time to time will do. She typically has a bodily feel for what has to be done on a practical level to take the next step, then the next and the following. She can then look back and say “Oh. That was the way to do it!” And finally, she has the beginnings of Field Consciousness—and could easily wake up to the fact that all possibilities exist within a shared field of potential—and make a commitment to hold that field and shoulder on despite the difficulties.
Of course, this journey into leadership is fraught with difficulty. But real change is one of the most hopeful things we can think about. We must wean ourselves now from co-dependency. We must not tolerate further abuse. We must withdraw our projections. We must be willing to be uncomfortable a good bit of the time as we stretch, try, and begin to think like a leader. Just doing that old, familiar, concrete servant’s task will no longer do. This new role is much more complex. Our bodies, minds and spirits must become stronger. We must survive the antibodies of those who don’t want us to change, some of whom may be very close to us. And there is that little matter of lack of self-confidence that has to be stared down—might I say gunned down—in the street at high noon and vanquished for good. There are some old habits that we simply must outgrow.
There are many already engaged in this work, and when such a one steps out of the long shadow of the superhuman and into the light of their own genius, I hope to be the first to stand up when they enter the room, no matter how small that room may be.
As I begin now my new career as a teacher and ontological coach, I intend to dedicate myself to the genius and the light in others, and get married to it right here and now. Here’s my replacement to ‘superhuman mythology’—my proposal for a new story line: If I enable the genius in others, I will expand it in myself. If I work toward the prosperity of others, I will create prosperity for myself and for my family. If I can see the divine light in you, I’ve upped the odds that it will become brighter in my own heart. Do you think that Jesus had (and continues to have) his impact by igniting the light in others, or by being a rock star bathing in the light? How about the Buddha? This new way to the future has its own depth tradition. I claim this path now.
Please let me know what you think. I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a reply below.
A special thanks to Jonathan Fields http://www.jonathanfields.com/ for inspiring me to start a blog. Thanks man.
* Right here at the outset, I’m going to establish a policy not to name names, so don’t ask. My hope is to illustrate universal ideas, principles, and shared tendencies by wrapping them in a personal story, not to gossip about particular people, many of whom may have grown or changed radically by the time these words reach you. Real change is possible, and I have no intention of delimiting anyone by placing them in a past category. And besides, my impressions from a particular perspective at a particular point in time can never describe the fullness of another human being.