You are probably off-track right now. Maybe a few steps, maybe a few miles. But that feeling to course correct even a little? It’s real. Just wanted to let you know. I’m off track too. Constantly. It’s hard to talk about.
Prophets, bad guys, and superhero masks can help.
Some definitions to start.
Prophets don’t predict the future. They wake you up now to let you know you’re already off course. They have a way of making you think about where you’ll end up later. In the really big picture, prophets are rare and usually only visible in hindsight. Small-picture prophets are more common, but usually take on various non-fancy forms. Forms like…
Bad guys (or villains, or…), who are always focused on today. Big-picture evil has long-run sustainability issues for obvious reasons. But all bad guys have a way of taking your eye off whereever you’re headed because they cause such a ruckus in the moment. They have a lot of range too – from petty energy drainers to supervillains. Which brings up a good time to mention…
Superheroes (or regular old heroes) who are good bad-guy solutions. They keep you on track by keeping the bad guys off the track. But they also don’t exactly exist. Luckily, their masks do, and I think this is the key.
Figure out the track you want to be on. Which is harder than it sounds, but it’s also essential. It can also help to differentiate between your short-term, medium-term, and long-term tracks since life isn’t a straight line.
Once you know your tracks, you can start to look out for your prophets AND your bad guys. These are the people who want to tell you you’re off the track out of kindness, and the people who want to knock you off of your track at various levels of malevolence.
Finally, don’t expect any literal superheroes to show up and save you. Look instead for what a superhero is represented by: a mask. A mask with power behind it to be more clear. Power to course correct. And sometimes you’re going to need to wear the mask while other times you’ll have to realize someone on your journey is dawning one.
Last thought: there’s some cold, dark truths behind every mask. You have to figure out which one’s serve the mission to walk down your longest track. Extra Killing Joke vibes, Ok? Also in some combination of Carl Jung and John Prine, “Shadows!”
Ps. huge gratitude to Tom Morgan whose piece (and book suggestions in) Prophets, Revolutions and Superpowers has had me thinking extra hard about this topic, and Justin Castelli’s Daily Notes obsessing over the subtleties of “pursuit.”
Pss. if you don’t know The Killing Joke, this is your warning to not watch the trash animated version where they destroy the original plot in an effort to pointlessly extend the story for theatrical release. Get the book, it’s Watchmen and V for Vendetta good. Is Alan Moore our modern Jung???