It’s not surprising to find an actor who could make you believe that a man
could fly. But to find one who can transcend not only his talent but
the stereotypes forced upon him, to encourage others in real life, is a gift that we should not take lightly.
In the bleeding edge culture of 2004, where everything retro is new again, unless it wasn’t retro to begin with, Christopher Reeve was living proof that we can all try to overcome our adversities.
Yes, he had money. But money is nothing more than a metaphor for opportunity – either you take advantage of it or you don’t. Reeve did, and he changed the world. Hopefully, for the better, with his encouragement of progressive scientific and medical thought, unencumbered by religion but bolstered by faith.
The part about his story that gets me down is that there are so many stories of failure today, there’s so much cynicism, so much that’s wrong, sometimes it’s hard to know where to look for hope.
Even the name that made him famous embodied hope. Whereas “super-man” was a literal translation of the german “uber-mensch,” with the potential negativity that Hitler wanted that to imply, Superman’s Kryptonian name
- created in the early or mid-1940s, I don’t remember which – carries even today a very different meaning.
The suffix “el” in Hebrew means “of god.” “Kal” is a corruption of or variation on “kol,” which translates as “everything” or “all that is.” So, “kal-el,” superman/clark kent’s kryptonian name, means “all that is god.”
Inspiration was written into the symbolism. The average, mild-mannered Joe
can become inspirational by virtue of will. More than that, the lowly
immigrant can be afforded this right, because the struggles of his
character embody the struggles of the Diaspora Jew and the assimilated
American of the late 1930s.
Telling you all that Christopher Reeve’s death is a loss of great sadness is hardly newsworthy. Lots of us, at some point, have looked to the man embodying the blue boy scout as a hero, a father figure, and even a point of ridicule – his heroics became nothing more than naivete.
But Reeve’s personal struggles changed the meaning of the symbol, and made it something that we can all relate to. Who among us didn’t think of our own fates when we heard the pretty boy Reeve was critically injured? Who among us, the children of the 80s, didn’t sit back in stunned silence, just for a moment to contemplate the fate of this iconic actor as we changed our Nirvana CDs for Dust Brothers? Who among us have had the abilities of everyone else, been normal, and then suddenly, horribly, been forced to look at those others, our former peers, envious and perhaps bitter?
May we be lucky enough to find another person whose life and livelihood are
so intertwined as to inspire us all, regardless of background, and may
Christopher Reeve find the peace he’s earned.