After an examination of lessons to be learned from Superman, it’s only fair during this time of Batman v. Superman hype to spend some time with the Dark Knight of Gotham. Interpretations of Batman seem to varying much more wildly than Superman. After all, this is a character that has both the endearing camp of the Adam West series, pioneer of the grimdark era of comics The Dark Knight Returns, and the fourth wall breaking lunacy of Batman: The Brave and the Bold as equally recognizable and significant eras of the franchise.
With that in mind, instead we’ll be looking at five quotes from various comics that contain helpful wisdom for you to take down the metaphorical homicidal clowns in your own life. There are many, many more lessons to be learned from the avenger of the night, but that could probably be a book in itself.
“Sometimes only madness that makes us what we are.”—Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth
Batman doesn’t temper his compulsion to dress in black and beat criminals to a pulp with his bare fists, and Gotham is (arguably) a better place for it. To embrace your own ‘madness’ is to embrace what makes you unique, and therefore more true to yourself. When you accept yourself, wacky quirks and all, you are freed from the pressure to conform. Happier people draw in friends like an amigo magnet. Your madness is your freedom.
“When I’d finally mastered my fear, I went out to learn how to be strong enough to face it. To gaze into it and accept it for what it was … without flinching.”—Batman, Secret Origins of the JLA
Be like Batman: Take fear head on, take what worries you head on, and realize it was never dangerous to begin with. We inflate our fears within our minds and amplify the stress we carry. When you confront your fears, you often discover they were either not as dangerous as imagined or highly unlikely to actually happen. So go ahead, accept the ‘danger’ of rejection and ask that boy/girl you crush on out. Would you disappoint Batman? I didn’t think so.
“It’s a good tonic, altruism. Nothing helps one put problems in perspective like allegiance to a higher cause.”—Gotham Knights
To focus on our worries and fears is to think inward. Those thoughts dilute quickly however when we shift our thoughts outward by thinking of the problems and struggles of others. After all, volunteering has been linked to higher levels of happiness and wellbeing. You can start small with a focus on altruism. Start with at least one good deed per day and hunting for volunteering opportunities near you. You’ll be surprised how fast things start to turn around.
“Sometimes people influence you not so much by what they mean to you as by what you to mean to them.”—Gotham Knights
Batman knows he is a symbol who influences people on all sides of the moral spectrum, from those who admire him to those who fear him. If you find yourself in a position of admiration, take it seriously. Knowing that someone else looks up to you or considers you a role model is an effective motivator to better yourself as a person. There are higher stakes to your successes and failures, the glow of your admirer’s eyes when you triumph and the stinging disappointment of letting them down. Act accordingly.
“No miracles. No mercy. No redemption. No Heaven. No Hell. No higher power. Just life. Just … us.”—Batman: Absolution
Gotham City and the DC Universe as a whole is a mysterious, dangerous place, fraught with psychopaths, monsters, evil geniuses, galactic conquerors, and thieves clad in polka dot unitards. Batman lives the peril and mayhem every day, yet he still stands strong and fights for what is good in his world. This world, our environment, our societies, our relationships, and our own selves are all we had. All of these things are fleeting. They can be destroyed or taken easily. This may sound nihilistic, but it actually highlights the value of the things we have. Fight to keep them. Fight to improve them. Fight to protect them. Fight to perfect them.
There are, of course, many, many lessons to be learned from almost any one of Batman’s many incarnations. Hell, even Batman and Robin teaches us a valuable lesson: How not to make a Batman movie. Take some time to revisit your favorite comic, movie, or TV episode of our erstwhile Dark Knight and see how you can apply the genius wisdom of The World’s Greatest Detective to your own life.