I saw Black Panther last night in IMAX 3D. I love a superhero movie! With no spoilers, I can tell you that this movie is for EVERYONE. The message is simple:

Be who you are.
Remember where you came from.
And, most importantly, be a light unto the nations.

There is plenty of digital ink out there about what this movie means, how important it is in society right now, how empowering it is, and how universal the appeal is. It is all of those things and more. Instead of a trailer, here’s a little featurette about the warriors of Wakanda.

When I left the theater I was struck by the popularity of superhero movies in recent years and I was reminded that during the Great Depression people in the US went to movies and listened to radio plays to keep their spirits up. Through the years since then, people have turned to these kinds of hero stories when the world seemed to be a dark and scary place.

Joseph Campbell wrote about the Hero’s Journey pattern in many of humanity’s stories and many people have translated his thoughts into a self-actualizing phenomenon to show people that they can be the hero in their own stories.

Today the world is again (or still?) in crisis: corrupt politicians, lack of leadership, economic instability, refugees, war or threats of war. As I typed that list, I realized that these crises could be in any country. I was thinking about Israel, but it might just as easily be anywhere else.  So it’s no wonder that I would rather sit in a darkened movie theater and be inspired by a hero who reminds us that courage is defined by your ability to go forward even after you fall and even if you are afraid.

Today’s superheroes are often imperfect. Long gone are the days of good is good and evil is evil. Black Panther is a great example of this. The beloved father and the ancestors made a huge mistake and it is the villain who points it out and tries to right the wrong. The hero is heroic because he accepts the lesson and moves forward in a positive way.

It’s not that the real world is lacking heroes. We see them every day. They are the quiet ones standing between danger and innocents under attack. They are first responders who go toward danger and keep calm when chaos is all around. They are people who see something and say something. They are the ones who give a word of encouragement to someone who needs it. They are the people who lift others up to join in success. They are the helpers and the givers. And yes, they are also imperfect.

Hero seems like a weighty title, but it doesn’t have to be. If we can all be heroes in our own stories, then perhaps we can also take a page from the superhero movies coming out these days: the world is in crisis and it’s up to us to save it.

Use your gifts to make the world around you better.
If your gift is very powerful, use it to do great good.
Every day you can choose to do good.
And remember, no one expects perfection.