20 Life lessons from Batman’s Zen

batman life lesson
1. It ain’t over till the fat lady sings.

Batman has won more fights at the last minute than we can count. The singing, the lady — it’s a good metaphor. But we actually mean this one literally. Leave an opera before the fat lady sings, and you know what is over? Your life as anything other than an orphan, that’s what. Learn to appreciate a little culture every once in a while — it just might save your parents’ lives.

2. Never trust a man who smiles all the time.

He is either trying to sell you something or trying to kill you.

3. There are two faces to every friend … and enemy.

Good and evil, friend and foe, life and death — there are two sides to every action, two aspects to every personality. Believe in original sin, but also in original virtue. And remember, most of all, that everybody has the capacity for both.

4. Some days, you just can’t get rid of a bomb.

A group of nuns, a flock of ducks, even a marching band — on a pier for crying out loud! Some days it’s as if the whole world is conspiring against you. Keep trying: The solution to your problem may be right around the next corner.

5. Anatomically correct isn’t always actually correct.

The fewer articles of clothing you have with built-in nipples, the better.

6. Always announce your presence.

“I am Batman.” “I am Batman.” “I am Batman.” Let the world know your name … and tremble.

7. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.

Batman’s graveside vow? “I will rid the city of the evil that took your lives.” Way to make sure you never have a day off, dummy. If you live to be a million, it’s a promise you could never keep, a thought that becomes an action, an action that becomes an obsession, an obsession that becomes a lifetime, a lifetime that becomes a Sisyphusian endeavor. Next time, aim a little lower.

8. Learn to trust.

But don’t just give it away for free. Be somebody’s father, be somebody’s son. Learn to trust at least two people with your life. Bonus points if these people actually depend on your survival for their livelihoods like, say, a butler and a ward. That said …

9. Be self-reliant.

Your ward, your surrogate son, your — excuse us as we strain credulity — Boy Wonder you keep going on and on about? Dude’s got a habit of disappearing when the stakes are highest, sometimes for decades at a time (and when he does show up, he’s Chris O’Donnell). And those girls you keep romancing? Let’s just say it’s probably best that you don’t get too attached.

10. When the Bat’s away, the Cat will play.

Turn your back for one second, and the whole city suddenly needs your help … again! The price of safety is nothing short of constant vigilance.

11. Always have a good alibi.

Strange bruises, a nonexistent social life — these things raise the question: What does Bruce Wayne do with his free time? So always have a good excuse. Note: Playboy Playmates or a boat filled with Russian ballerinas will not work for everybody.

12. Be smarter than your opponent.

Everybody’s got a weakness, even the seemingly unbeatable Man of Steel. Learn your opponents’, and you can be the most feared man on the planet. Also, always carry kryptonite.

13. Make your own luck.

Head’s, I win. Tails, you lose. Life can sure seem like a 50/50 proposition every now and then. Don’t like what you got when you flipped a coin? Flip it again.

14. Remember: The joke’s on you.

That guy with the cackle, the makeup, the cockeyed walk and sideways glance? He wouldn’t have to point out life’s absurdities so much if you would just crack a smile every once in a while. You’re a man in a Batsuit! Even a psychotic, homicidal, nihilistic, anarchistic clown has it right every once in a while: Life is an absurd joke that will knock you dead. Why so serious?

15. Be prepared … for anything.

You never know when you’re going to be dangling from a helicopter as a shark bites your leg. Do you really want to be the one to tell the Dark Knight that you left the Anti-Shark Batspray at home? A utility belt: Learn it, live it, love it.

16. Look to the skies.

Someone, somewhere might be trying to signal you. Be on the lookout for his signs.

17. Embrace your fear.

Monsters are real, evil exists and, at every turn, there really are creepy little nasties ready to go bump in the night. At its best, life is still a terrifying journey. It’s OK to be scared. Face your fears and project them outward. You’ll be surprised at how many things are frightened by us right back.

18. Forgive, but don’t forget.

We’re all products of our environment. What leads one to seek vengeance leads another to seek destruction. The villains we face in life really aren’t that different from us after all, give or take a lucky break here or a tragedy there. Have pity. Let them live. Don’t become what you seek to end. But, by the same token, never forget who they are — and what they’ve done to you.

19. The greatest enemy you face is yourself.

Stare into the abyss long enough, and the abyss stares right back. The Joker? The Penguin? Two-Face? Catwoman? The horrors of the outside world can never hurt you as much as you can hurt yourself; a pain that can lead to self-destruction if you let it. Cultivate an inner-strength.

20. The night is darkest before the dawn.

The universe can be pretty brutal — a collection of accidents in a very busy place. But out of the greatest tragedies can come the greatest beauties. Without the night, there’d be no sunrise. Without bad things, there’d be no reason for hope. Without death, there can be no rebirth. Seek to bring the dawn.

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