Another Origin Story
I wish you all could have watched Avengers: Endgame with me. Next to me was a hulking young man in his 20’s (no pun intended but a happy accident nonetheless). He was openly crying during the last twenty minutes. His companion just kept handing him napkins from the concession bar to wipe his eyes. Such was the way this film swayed us all in Row D and made our hearts as swol as he was.
In preparation for the epic conclusion of this cinematic saga, I watched or re-watched about 10 Marvel movies in six weeks. While I cannot claim to have an encyclopedic knowledge of either the DC or Marvel multiverses, under the tutelage of my always generous boyfriend, who notably hits pause whenever I need him to even if I ask the same question 2 or 3 times, I was able to travel the Marvel movieverse connecting the dots throughout so I would be ready to see the last chapter (and so I’d never again make him or my kids wince as I casually mention Wonder Woman and Superman and Batman as if they were Stan Lee’s next door neighbors). As interwoven as so many of the time and storylines are, I got a lot straightened out in my head. So I was ready.
Even though I cried just as hard as my neighbor (if you haven’t seen it, don’t worry about the long running time and having to go to the bathroom, because you’ll be dehydrating yourself with all the crying), there has been a secondary and concerning effect of my immersion into the Marvel multiverse.
Like when I was sitting in construction traffic the other day and had to fight the urge to roll down the window and hold out my arm, lost in a fantasy that my hammer was on its way back to me and that I would soon be bashing myself free of the interminable line of cars waiting for a STOP sign to change to SLOW. Or, when I was at Trader Joe’s and they were out of several of my regular items, and I immediately longed to open an energy portal by Cheeses of the World and travel forthwith to another TJ’s location where they had exactly what I needed. Or, when New Hampshire broke a record this April for the most amount of cloudy and/or rainy days. Friends, if I was like Captain Marvel it wouldn’t matter who needed saving. I would have been in San Diego in 1/75th of a second. With no luggage fees or security lines either.
To be a real comic book hero, however, one must be worthy of one’s superpowers. One must meet a threshold of caring for the entire of humanity. And regrettably, I don’t think my need for organic lemonade qualifies me in this regard.
While I was coming to terms with the fact that evidently I am a woman of hidden shallows, I had a realization.
Essentially, every comic book hero or heroine has three criteria that must be established in order to activate their superpowers and deliver themselves solidly into the struggle for truth and justice. Each Marvel origin story draws from these components to combine synergistically in different proportions.
~ Loss or a traumatic event, or both. Think about how many characters have lost one or both parents. Or who never had parents. Or who lost a partner. Even in the case where characters are already gods and goddesses and were born with their powers, they are often beset by loss.
~ Exposure to radiation or magic, or injury, often combined with access to high technology, causing the transformation of the physical body, or the acceleration of an existing genetic mutation.
~ A catalytic event that actualizes the acceptance of one’s superpowers.
Of course, if you’re a comic book movie fan, you’ve already figured this out. But it was a revelation to me.
And so, put on your rainbow toe socks and cue “Silly Love Songs” by Wings–I invite you to travel with me thousands of miles away and several decades back in time.
We’re going to Israel, 1976.
In September of that year, shortly after my parents’ divorce, my father accepted a fellowship to do post-graduate work at the Technion in Haifa, moving our family there temporarily.
It was a hard adjustment for me, my brother and sister, but our time in Israel ultimately turned into the best year of my entire childhood.
On paper, it doesn’t make sense. We were still reeling from the trauma of the divorce, as well as suffering from the introduction of my stepmother into our lives, who had started physically abusing us even before my father married her.
Then there was the whole moving-an-entire-world-away-and-having-to-learn-a-whole-new-language thing, but surprisingly, after only a few bumps, I began to enjoy the Israeli public school I attended. I loved my classmates who had been in the same class together since kindergarten and who welcomed me warmly. I easily embraced the differences in our new lifestyle, like going to school on Sundays and having Jewish holidays off from school. I studied a lot since I had to keep up with all of the American curricula I was missing so I wouldn’t have to repeat 5th grade again when we returned. We also didn’t have a car, TV, or telephone, but it never felt like I was stuck indoors or had no time for fun.
I felt inexplicably at home, wherever I went, whether I was on campus, in town with friends, visiting the kibbutz where an American colleague of my father’s and his family lived, or traveling all over the country.
Realistically, there was a good chance I wasn’t as safe as I felt. That part of the world in the ’70s was not considered a country club by any means. We were allowed to walk everywhere locally on our own but going downtown without an adult was strictly forbidden due to the fresh memories of recent terror attacks on public transportation. Bomb shelters were everywhere, as were soldiers armed with automatic weapons. One night on the kibbutz the civil war in Lebanon got so close to the border that the army moved their anti-artillery guns into the apple orchards (where we had been picking earlier that day), to send a message about what would happen if the fighting encroached any closer. Shells broke over our heads 5 and 6 times a minute all night long.
And while my stepmother’s rage was held somewhat in check by my father’s frequency at home while he studied and wrote, being alone with her was terrifying.
So how on earth was it possible I experienced a contentedness living in Israel that I’d never felt during my childhood in Los Angeles?
Our trip to Jerusalem was our last big adventure before we returned home. We spent over a week there, sightseeing from early morning until dark. I remember quite a bit of that trip, but no memory has stuck with me more than our visit to the Wailing Wall.
It was getting close to sunset, and the day had been hot, one of the first really warm days that indicated spring was well and truly giving over to summer. By the time we made it to the viewing area above the wall, I was tired and dusty and hungry for dinner.
We were going back to L.A. soon, and I started thinking about how much I did not want to do that. I was suddenly more than tired, and the sharp uncertainty of the future pulled at me–the true weight of my sadness which had stayed below the surface for months overtook me. Israel had been a soft landing after a horrible loss, and while I was too young to know it wasn’t an actual nirvana, it had felt like it most of the time. A normally loquacious kid who had a lot of questions about everything we’d seen, I stood quietly and listened to the sounds of the men davening down below by the wall, their prayers rising up against the darkening sky.
What happened next was just one moment out of the hundreds of thousands I had lived that day. It lasted literally as long as one or two beats of my heart. The sunset, at a right angle to us, had gotten very beautiful all of a sudden with brilliant golden margins appearing around the clouds and the sky erupting in pastels. It caught my attention.
And I turned to look directly at it.
On August 22nd, 1929, steps away from where I stood, three Jews and three Muslims were killed when fighting broke out after a Muslim prayer service on the Temple Mount. Tensions between Arabs and Jews had been building all summer over who had the true claim to pray there. Rumors spread and by the next day, Arab youths began accosting students walking to the Yeshiva Knesset Yisrael-Slobodka in nearby Hebron. Soon mobs were attacking Jews outright, and with only one British policeman assigned to Hebron, there was nothing to stop them. A prominent rabbi in the area, Rabbi Slonim, was approached by rioters and told to surrender all of the students at the yeshiva, in return for the safety of the Sephardic Jews that lived in the area. He refused and was murdered on the spot. The attacks continued for three days. Homes were ransacked, synagogues destroyed, and 67 Jews were murdered, including a dozen women and three children under the age of five. The almost 500 remaining Jewish survivors, many of them saved by Arab families who sheltered them in their houses, were permanently evacuated by the British.
The small group of Sephardic Jews that lived in Hebron spoke Arabic and had co-existed mostly peacefully with the larger Arab community for centuries. When they were joined in the mid-19th century by Ashkenazi Jews fleeing persecution in Eastern Europe, tensions began to foment over the newcomers who, although Jewish, brought their unique customs to the region. When the Yeshiva opened in 1925, it became a focal point for fears that the school was a front for Zionist immigrants.
In a telegram sent from the Consul General in Jerusalem to the State Department immediately after the massacre, Solomon Goodman and his brother Emanuel are named on a list of those who were “slightly wounded” in the riots. Other American Jews are listed as “unhurt”, “seriously wounded”, or “deceased”.
Sol was sent by his parents to Hebron that summer to check up on Manny, who had been at the Hebron yeshiva and who may or may not have been goofing off. Solomon was there to make sure his younger brother was taking seriously the privilege and opportunity to study to become a rabbi in the Holy Land.
During the massacre, the brothers were attacked by a group of Arabs, at least one of whom was wielding a pipe. Sol threw himself between the pipe and Manny and was beaten severely trying to protect his brother.
Given most of the alternatives and the death toll, the news that they were “slightly wounded” must have been somewhat of a relief for the brothers’ family to receive. It is, however, grossly inaccurate in Sol’s case. Unless losing one of your kidneys and the resultant kidney disease is considered “slight”. Never again healthy enough to work, his own career as a rabbi was sidelined.
He did marry and have two children, but died in 1950, leaving my father and his baby sister fatherless.
When my Grampa Sol died my father was 11, just a few months older than I was when I stood at the very spot where the events began that would make him a hero.
As I watched the sun setting over the Western Wall, something happened to me. It was as if every single cell in my body surrendered its despair and began to vibrate with peace. I felt so suddenly and entirely different than how I had been feeling just one second earlier, but I hardly had time for this to register before I became aware of the presence of a something, or someone, who was transmitting a powerful, unconditional love toward me.
This was new. I felt loved, and protected, in a way I had never felt before in my life.
I was still captivated by the gorgeous sunset and yet as inspirational as that was, it was not the source of what I was feeling and I knew it. I felt claimed by a force for good that was pure, and personal to me, and although I felt known to it in a way that was completely reassuring, I knew it was also interested in the highest good for the greatest number. Like a constantly flowing infinity loop of energy, this force had entered my heart and joined with my own ability to love, returning back into to the world increased, where it was met by more love, which would return to me again.
There were so many things that my 10-year old self did not understand that day.
She did not know what spiritual experiences were, or that she’d just had one.
She did not know that she had been energized by that spiritual experience in a way that accelerated her gifts.
She did not know that she was an intuitive, or that over the course of the next decade she would be guided toward the books, experiences, and people that would lay the foundation for her understanding of her role in the world.
She did not know that one of her guardian ancestors was her grandfather, who she was named for and whose memory she would keep alive through her work.
She did not know that in just over a decade, on her 21st birthday, she would be ready to begin.
The very first week we were in Israel, my normally frugal father took us to a bookstore in downtown Haifa. The reality that we were facing life without a TV for a year was upon us. We were there to buy as many books, art, and school supplies as we could possibly want. We’d always used the library, so the concept of buying books was dramatically extravagant to me, and I had to be encouraged to pick out enough and not to skimp on any supplies. After I had what I thought I needed, my father told me to look around and make sure there wasn’t anything else I might want. I anxiously glanced up and down the shelves looking for something, anything to buy.
And that’s when I saw it. It was a laminated paper bookmark with all the glyphs of the zodiac on both sides. I had no idea what the pictures meant, but they were colorful and pretty. I picked it up, unsure of how to justify the purchase. Bookmarks weren’t something one bought. We’d always just made them in school craft projects or used scraps of paper. I looked up at my father and asked him, “What do these symbols mean?” as if knowing them would justify its purchase. He shrugged. He had no idea, he said.
I put it in the pile of things to be rung up anyway.
A couple of years after my big awakening on my 21st birthday, I was in my father’s garage going through boxes consolidating some of my things to take with me to my new apartment, when I found the bookmark in among all my other memorabilia from Israel. Only this time when I picked it up, I knew what the symbols were. Each sign of the zodiac was represented: a ram for Aries, scales for Libra, a fish for Pisces, etc.
Over the previous decade I’d practically cleared out the “ESP” section of any library I had access to, and as we were then in the middle of a supposed “New Age”, I also had plenty of metaphysical and spiritual bookstores to explore as well. I had begun doing private sessions by then and would soon start teaching my first classes about intuition.
But I’m not an astrologer. What was actually marked by the bookmark’s appearance and reappearance in my life was a perfectly timed reminder that my presence was requested on my own path. It was less about the actual symbols and more about the pull I had followed to become myself. The bookmark was not a direct call to action.
At least I hope so. Because if I am actually Astrologica, Psychic Queen of All the Realms, and I was supposed to pick my logo out of that bookmark (naturally it would have to be the scorpion tail, since that is my sun sign anyway and would look absolutely awesome in metallic silver on a black bodysuit), then I have failed to fulfill my calling in a pretty major way.
That aside, I believe what comic book characters are actually showing us through their journeys is how the human spirit is compelled to heal through helping others. Their journeys are shaped by their commitment to the highest good for the greatest number, and that is what I have aspired to not just in my work but in how I live.
I mean, technically I do meet all of the qualifications for superhero status. I experienced loss and abuse as a child. I grew up in the smog- and secondhand smoke-filled basin of Los Angeles (not wearing sunscreen or seatbelts either by the way). A spiritual experience opened my heart at the exact right time in the exact right way to so I would not only be aware of my powers, I would be motivated to use them.
However, if there is anything I’ve learned in the 30+ years I’ve been working with my clients and teaching about intuition, it’s that we all have cataclysmic losses in our lives. We all have something about us that makes us unique and special. And we all want the power to make the world a better place by vanquishing the actions of those among us who are unfair, cruel, and selfish.
So I suppose what I’m saying is not that I’m a superhero.
I’m saying that we all are.Back to all posts