216: Quizzes with a twist on heroism: What kind of heroes are they? And you?

t’s Tuesday, time for a ReadTheSpirit Pop Quiz, and today we’re going to add a twist in our week-long theme on “heros.”
    First, we’re going to share two quizzes with you on superheroes.
Then, many of our readers like to carry ideas from ReadTheSpirit into small groups or maybe share them with friends, relatives and co-workers. So, we’re also going to give you an open-ended quiz on: “What kind of hero am I?”
    Finally — don’t miss the end of today’s story because we’re going to slip in a mini-review of an important PBS documentary this evening about a very different kind of heroism — the heroism of the homeless who, despite terrible conditions in daily life, often manage to toggle together communities even in the midst of what we might consider a heap of trash.


    Here’s a link to a very popular quiz about the religious affiliations of superheroes. We devised this quiz as part of a series on the spiritual side of comic books — and we’ve found readers coming back, again and again, to this particular online quiz.
    We welcome you to share our quizzes with others. You can cut-and-paste our quizzes, print them, Email them, share them with friends. We ask that you credit us in these copies and include a link to our site, please. That helps to fuel our project and allows us to continue sending you material like this.
    The point is: Please, take the quiz yourself and, please, share it.


    There’s so much creative energy in comics and graphic novels these days that we’ve returned to this theme regularly at ReadTheSpirit.
    In April, we devised a quiz on the origins of superheroes. It’s amazing how much religious tradition and mythology are woven into the mystic creation stories of these global celebrities.
    If you’re not a fan of comics — and haven’t visited a movie theater this summer — you may be wondering about the cultural significance in this rising tide of comics and superheroes. Are they really that influential?
    Well, consider that the No. 1, top-grossing movie around the world, so far in 2008, is “Iron Man.” And, based on the fact that Batman racked up an all-time-record of $158 million in revenues in his opening weekend — the “Dark Knight” may be headed toward toppling the “Iron Man” total for the year. Eventually, we could close out 2008 with a couple of superheroes standing atop the annual list of highest-grossing movies around the world.


    Here’s a spiritually reflective “quiz” that you can try yourself or with friends. And, please, if you’re not too modest about this — send us a Comment or an Email and let us know how you responded to this challenge.
    Get out a sheet of paper and sit down with a pen to reflectively consider the overall query: “What kind of hero am I?” On a deeper level, this is a challenge involving discernment and vocation — pondering both our talents and our sense of calling in life. So, there is a serious sub-text to this challenge.
    Generally, though, I think the best spiritual exercises involve creativity — and even a warm smile as we look up into the skies and meditate. So, you’ve got paper and pen. Get going. Get smiling. Answer the following 10 questions:

1.) Heroes have powers, whether they’re supernatural or, like Batman, they’re fine-tuned skills coupled perhaps with technology. So, what are your powers?

2.) Heroes are color themed. What are your colors?

3.) What’s the name of your superhero?

4.) What’s the design of your hero’s uniform?

5.) What’s your basic mission?

6.) Nearly all heroes have weaknesses. Remember the ancient Achilles and his heel? So, what’s your weakness?

7.) Who’s your main enemy? Or do you have several?

8.) Of course, you’ve got to have a sidekick. Superman has Jimmy Olsen. Batman has his butler. Peter Pan has Tinkerbell. Who’s your sidekick?

9.) What about accessories? A few heroes like The Hulk strip down to the bare essentials, but most heroes have something extra — a cape, a hat, wrist bands, a shield, a utility belt.

10.) Finally, who do you protect? Your city? Your “people”? The whole world?


    Remember the wonderfully challenging POV documentary we recommended last month about contemporary responses to slavery? “Traces of the Trade” touched off quite a few reader connections and led to further coverage of the modern abolition movement with Dr. David Batstone.

    Well, POV is full of thought-provoking films this summer. Tonight (check TV listings for times and local channels) “9 Story Hotel” by Israeli filmmaker Ido Haar explores the lives of some very different heroes: homeless heroes, refugees, struggling young men who live in what amounts to a community built in a trash heap.
    At first glance, this hour-long documentary may appear to be about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict –- but the story actually floats on a far different plane. To create this unusual film, Haar set out with a hand-held camera to spend time with illegal Palestinian laborers working on an Israeli construction project by day — and living as homeless refugees by night. He focused on their lives around campfires and their tiny, makeshift shelters hidden high in the rocky hills around the building site.
    At first, it seems to be a story specific to the Middle East. But, this really is a story about millions of poor refugees around the world who live in precarious homes often toggled together of debris discarded by the rest of us. Although we never leave the construction site and the hillside hovels throughout this riveting hour, the truth is that it’s a haunting slice of life that reminds us of John Steinbeck and Woodie Guthrie –- and should remind us of the countless families who live atop our vast trash heaps in slums in Africa and Latin America at this very moment.
    These guys aren’t heroes to any political cause — we don’t even hear them talk about politics. They’re everyday heroes to each other, because despite terrible conditions they manage to help each other feel like they’re part of a family.
    We don’t even realize how much we’re warming to these workers’ lives until a fire breaks out, destroying the little heap of trash that they call home –- and we understand what one of the young men means, when he weeps over the ashes of their community, telling a friend sadly, “Those days are gone.”
    The film already has been honored both at film festivals and with a nomination as best documentary by the Israeli Film Academy — the Israeli version of the Oscars. See it and ponder the multiple levels on which this snapshot from a far shore will touch you.

    Want to TIVO “9 Story Hotel”? Here’s the Web link to set your Tivo. If this link was helpful to you, or if you simply watch the movie at its regular time tonight — tell us what you think. Add a “comment” at the end of any of our stories — or Email ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm directly.

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