I was given the task of selecting a superpower for myself. I’m not going to tell you who gave it to me. I have a secret name or two as well, but I’m not telling you those, either. Some things are just not meant to be revealed. I should note that I am the one who decided to keep the names secret, and I decided that long before I knew that the Quiché people in Guatemala also have names they don’t tell anyone. However, they have many other customs that I don’t have; I just wanted to bring up the part about the names.
Now as far as the superpower, as you might imagine, being given a choice was a bit daunting. First, I wanted to try on a few for size, so I did. You might be interested in some of the options I considered, which helps understand my choice.
I immediately rejected the power of being able to turn things into gold. Fortunately, poor King Midas taught us that you can’t eat gold and there’s no sleeping soundly in a metal bed. Anyway, gold’s not my style. I prefer silver, but that’s also not important because the Midas touch was never a serious contender for a superpower I would choose.
The first serious idea I came up with was being able to fly. Not like Superman, because I’m afraid of heights, get real vertigo, hate planes, etc. I just thought being able to buzz around my back yard or to the store might be fun, as long as it was no more than ten feet off the ground. That was when I was around five, I think. Now that everybody has drones, it’s not even very original.
One superpower that sounded interesting, really appealing, was reading people’s minds. What control you could have over everybody if you knew what they were thinking. Then I came to my senses: If I spent all my time reading the thoughts of others, I’d forget which thoughts were my own. Then I wouldn’t know who I was. Plus, wandering into people’s heads that way felt a little like being a voyeur and, don’t forget, people can have very boring or scary thoughts. I have enough of those myself and don’t need somebody else’s issues, so scratch that.
Time to focus on real options, ones that work for me. That’s what I told myself.
Today is a very, very rainy day, which made me think that being able to make it rain and stop raining might be a cool thing to know how to do. Or even make it snow or make the sun or moon come out - those could be added to the mix. Just call me Mistress of the Weather! It could be quite lucrative, too. Then I thought how big the demand would be and that I’d never get any peace, with all the people, and especially the governments, vying for my services. Somewhere, any time of day or night, there would be a need for weather control. That could turn into a living (pardon my French) hell. It might mean having to go all around the globe tweaking the weather - unless that could be done virtually, using zoom or google hang-outs. Also, if it meant flying all the time, having to get on those awful planes, I wouldn’t be down with that.
This might be the moment to mention that I have also considered the ability to bring people back from the dead. Lots of us would like to do that. When I say people, that includes animals, because I still miss my first and only dog, a beautiful red spaniel, and my first cat, a fluke of nature because she had seven toes on each paw and was buff colored. I miss Mom and Dad, too, and always will. I wonder what it would be like to be a hundred years old and still have both your parents.
The reviving people thing had to be nixed, for a couple of reasons. The biggest drawback is that it would really cause problems of overpopulation. A smaller one was having to decide the age at which you brought somebody back to life. Maybe reviving the deceased isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Anyways, I have conversations with my parents all the time, so it’s not like they’re actually gone.
Jesus, with all due respect for Christianity, already had that power and some people could be offended if I were to usurp his role in helping the Lazaruses of the world.
Time to give some serious thought to the matter.
Do you want your superpower to benefit humanity or just you? It’s an important question, because it’s pretty selfish to want to be able to do something that’s only good for yourself. Should you be more altruistic? I did have an idea for that: What if I could stop all wars? Surely that would be a good thing to know how to do.
No more war!! Shades of the 60s and 70s. No Vietnam, for example. But Vietnam is not an issue now. The Palestinians, Yemenites, and indigenous peoples of the Amazon could benefit from my being able to stop war. This ability might be a very strong contender, especially since there’s not a lot more time to decide. There’s a bit of a complication, though. In order to stop wars, you have to guarantee that war won’t be good business, that greedy, unethical people won’t be able to profit from it. That way they’ll stop manufacturing excuses to go in and bomb places they can’t even find on the map, in order to bomb them off the map.
You know that’ll never happen. Washington, D.C. would go out of business. Nobody would run for political office any more.
That’s true. The government would fold up and have to put a ‘For Rent’ sign out front. Perhaps a more creative thing to be able to do would be just to know how to make everybody happy. They’d have to know how to be happy without gobs of profit and zillions in the bank. That could be a stretch for a lot of people who were brought up thinking that money can buy happiness. Still, it is worth pondering whether happy people would ever feel the need to wage war, to kill others. Not as likely.
While still keeping this option open, I feel the need to run down a few more before making the final decision.
Shapeshifting? Why would I want to do that? It could be loads of fun, true, but could get a bit repetitive, turning into a rabbit, a crow, an opossum, a tree, a stone. (Not that many people would choose to become a stone, although I have, on occasion.) The drawback here is that lots of fairy tales tell of spells that turn people into toads and such. Plus, what if you got stuck with a shape you didn’t like and couldn’t get back? Could you be absolutely sure you could return to your original form? I kind of think shapeshifting should remain with the fairy tales. I can find a power that doesn’t make me nervous to use it.
(You are running out of time to decide. Hurry up.)
Telekinesis? Nah, not all that exciting. I mean, what can you actually do other than move objects around without touching them? Earthquakes already do that. Why move things, like, say, heavy furniture? Unless you want to clean under them, that is. It might not even qualify as a superpower.
You’ve only got time for a couple more, then you’ll have to choose. Otherwise, you’ll lose out.
I know we’ve talked about it before, but what about bilocation, the ability to be in two places at once? The point is, a number of saints have this power, so it’s not original. Maybe, too, you have to be Catholic to believe in the ability to be in two places at the same time. I was raised Methodist, so it might be hard for me to justify wanting to do that, bilocate.
I should note that I took the liberty of looking up the term to see what it meant, so maybe I could get inspiration from other examples. Well, I made the mistake of looking for ‘superpower’, which shows how important knowing how to spell is. A superpower is one of the elite countries in the world with lots of wealth and so lot of weapons (wealth = weapons, don’t forget). That brings us too close to the war thing again, and so isn’t my style.
In an effort to find some guidance, I looked again online, for ‘super power’ and found some lists. Sadly, a lot of things that people consider cool actually hold no interest whatsoever for me. Enhanced strength, senses, flexibility, mentifery… Mentifery? You mean when you think of something and it becomes reality? That’s enough to shut off your brain. We could get trapped in our nightmares. I know I would. I’m already weirded out by 3-D printing that makes guns or boats out of pixels. I love animals. Does that mean my house would turn into a zoo?
There must be some super power or superpower I can choose and be able to live with. I might like omnilingualism. I mean, anybody who knows me immediately realizes how much I like languages and how many I’ve studied. I’ve forgotten how many languages there are in the world, but can look it up for you if you give me a minute.
Knowing how to speak with every single person in the world sounds really appealing. It’s not a skill to advertise very widely, though, because then you get calls constantly to serve as a translator or interpreter, and some of those jobs are unpleasant. I’ve done it, and when you’re in jail interpreting Spanish and English for prisoners who are Mexican but don’t know Spanish well because they know Nahuatl, Tzotzil, Mixtec or Purépecha better, and you have to tell them they’re going to jail for a long time because they’re in the country illegally… that’s a hard thing to do. Or telling a Brazilian she has a terminal disease. Too heart-breaking.
Still, you wish you knew Georgian (from the country near the Black and Caspian Seas, not the state). You wish you knew Dutch. You’d love to be able to speak Welsh and Quechua and Farsi. Now that might mean moving around a lot, and as we already discussed, if it involves flying, I’m not all that enthused. Nevertheless, there may be potential to this, so a little focus might help make the right decision.
(This is your last chance. You have about one minute and a thousand words in which to come up with something. Do it!)
I’m looking out the window now and it is pouring. Or raining cats and dogs. Or pitchforks. If I knew all the languages in the world, then I could describe that. Not control the weather, since that’s already been discarded, but describe it.
I want to play with it. Take the wetness and shift its shape. Listen to the pounding, splattering, spluttering, gasping drops as they hurl themselves onto my lovely back deck. In Maine. I want to get inside each little bit of drippiness and hurl myself or be hurled, at an echinacea or winter savory, the potting shed that glows golden yellow in the dark air at noon, or at the squirrel stealing the seed from the bird feeders.
A little drop of rain never hurt anybody (except maybe the Wicked Witch of the West), so I’m not proposing violent action here, in case you think I’ve changed my mind about wanting to stop wars in the world; I still do want that, make no mistake). Yes, I can envision myself taking the rain, or ginkgo leaves, cobalt blue glass figurines or quince jam (homemade, by me, by the way), and doing something with them.
What could a person possibly want to do with those things? Or maybe with sounds, like the one a happy chipmunk makes, or the Androscoggin River creates down by the old bridge, or the creak of the steps going up to the Pejepscot Historical Association? What could I do with the power to take the scents of nutmeg or jasmine or cedar and string them up in my bedroom where I could borrow pieces of them at night in order to sleep better? (Lavender is also good for helping you o sleep.)
There’s a related option of taking the sound of Mere Brook, which runs right along the back line of my property, and juggling it to make a bracelet or ring, pulling it up carefully, of course, until it fits properly. Coffee perking - oh, that really pops - could be something that could be shaped into a page of a book or daubed onto a cardboard canvas, then hung on a wall.
If there were any hugs available, those could be fluffed up and used for dancing. If there were some cool lightning bolts, they could be gathered up and made into a special dish for supper. Oh, the possibilities are endless. Finding just the right spices for lightning is a challenge I’d welcome. I’d only add a dash of thunder if the people eating with me wanted it.
Now that I think about it, there are a few high peaks to throw into the mix. Now, moving mountains isn’t the easiest task, so that could be done using film and the internet. Just look them up and have at it. Move those mounts, breathe the non-existent air at ten thousand feet altitudes, silence the roar of crowds, outline a cat or a herd of cats on a sunny street in Rome.
I am still just trying this on for size, because you only get one chance at the gold ring (not the golden touch; we’ve left that to Midas, poor fellow). You need to choose well. I mean, what if I could also take, the bearded part inside the iris petals and use it for something else? Or name every flower, tomato and kale plant in my garden? I could create a big stage, like Shakespeare had, and pretend it was the whole world.
(Didn’t Shakespeare already do that? Say
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts… ?)
Shakespeare? Hmmmm…. He did end that monologue from As You Like It with:
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
That’s a reason for not trusting just one source. I feel confident that I can take second childishness and turn it into one big party. It’ll be full of gleaming colors, oozing favor, seductive caresses, combined with the perfect mixture of sweet, sour, soft, hard, light, shadow… you get the picture. I can get some assistance with my project from a few other experts (I’m not proud) for the finishing touches. Bringing in Dürer, Tina Turner, Alicia Alonso (the ballet dancer), the Brontës, Julia Child, Pablo Casals and Amália, among others, would liven things up.
In fact, while we’re at it, why not invite everybody to the party? They could all bring the sounds, colors, movements, spices, and textures they wanted. The only requirement would be that they leave any war-like rumblings at home. If they wanted to fly in, that would be their decision. As people know, I am afraid of flying. In planes, anyway.
So… you choose the super power or superpower that is basically just throwing one big party for anybody who wants to attend?
Yeah, what of it? Besides, can you really imagine - or would you want to live in - a world without dance, art, literature, music, all those things? Can you really? So if you don’t mind, I’m going to put on my super power outfit and start creating humanity. You know that’s something that’s a bit lacking nowadays. Make art, not war!
Be human, don’t kill! Make a party in your back yard, dance until you drop, think cold and hot, gentle and rough, sour and gushing - all the things that help you know who you are.
Flying in planes and dropping bombs can never give that to you.
Start writing. I have.