The latest Spider-Man movie, Spider-Man No Way Home, has a very stoic theme. The overall theme of the movie is well captured in Aunt May’s final words to Peter Parker “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility.” These words are based on Winston Churchill’s statement “Where there is great power there is great responsibility.” (though similar statement’s have been made since ancient times). In the 2002 Live action Spider-Man movie (and previously in the comic books), these words were spoken by Peter’s Uncle Ben. However in this movie, these words actually become the theme.
This saying is also reminiscent of the words of Yeshua:
From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded;
and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.
You may have noticed by now that I am very into referencing media and pop-culture that I have seen throughout my life that I can relate to the teachings of Stoics, and one of the icons that come to mind is one of the world’s most known superheroes, Spider-Man. You see, a typical story involving this protagonist will usually include a very popular quote, which you may have heard before “With Great Power, comes great responsibility”.
In a superficial level, this may sound only relatable to those that we consider to have “Power” such as government officials, leaders or any other type of person that we would consider “powerful” or even just influential. What we don’t consider is that we all have a level of power in the lives of those around us, we all have the ability to either make the lives of those around us pleasantly easier or painfully difficult. Think about the people that you live with, how many things can you think of that you can do that would make their day easier to go through, or just harder to go through? Think about what the close people in your life can do to make your day or make it a lot harder to deal with, stoicism teaches us to control the emotions coming from the actions that are not under our control, but naturally we are designed to feel and actions will ultimately define our natural emotions throughout our lives.
Roberto’s blog got me to thinking, we each have “great power” in that we each have a Yetzer (freewill).
I was thinking recently about the electromagnetic force, and how much stronger it is than the force of gravity. Have you ever had a dryer sheet stick to your shirt with static cling after coming out of the dryer? Think about that. The electromagnetic force from those two small items, is overcoming the gravitational force of an entire planet! Likewise every freewill decision we make, alters the course of an entire universe. The fact that we have that kind of power, is why me must have such a healthy respect for providence and live in harmony with nature.
This is the theme of the movie. Peter Parker’s identity is out. The world knows he is Spider-Man, and it has created havoc in his own life, as well as the lives of his friend’s. Peter goes to Dr. Strange hoping to change reality so that the world no longer knows he is Spider-Man. The result of tinkering with the universe creates severe consequences.
Spider-Man’s girlfriend M.J. offers the wisdom of the movie, saying that her philosophy is “If you expect disappointment, then you can never really be disappointed.”
This is very much like the words of Marcus Aurelius:
Say to yourself in the early morning: I shall meet today ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, uncharitable men. All of these things have come upon them through ignorance of real good and ill… I can neither be harmed by any of them, for no man will involve me in wrong, nor can I be angry with my kinsman or hate him; for we have come into the world to work together.
And Seneca taught that anger was the result of an unpleasant surprise, and can be avoided by anticipating such surprises.
And this is all part of the core stoic philosophy of accepting the universe in which we live and living in harmony with it.
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