Ever wish you had a superpower? Ever imagine what you’d do, how you’d change the world, if you had a superpower?
This month we asked the Chefs: What is your desired superpower?
Joe Esposito: I dream of awakening with the power to project mindfulness.To project mindfulness would be to point to someone, online or IRL, and have that person suddenly become fully conscious of self, ego, emotions, and the various roles we play, often under the intoxication of anger. Someone who is caught up in a rant would suddenly say, “But why am I so angry?” Another person might instantly have an insight into someone else’s point of view and deescalate a disagreement. Projected mindfulness is particularly effective on sanctimony, which spreads like COVID-19.
To project mindfulness would be to point to someone, online or IRL, and have that person suddenly become fully conscious of self, ego, emotions, and the various roles we play, often under the intoxication of anger.
Alice Meadows: I suspect I won’t be alone among the Chefs in choosing omniligualism – the ability to understand and speak every language, including non-verbal ones — as my desired superpower. I didn’t actually know it had its own word so I’m one teeny tiny step closer to being an omnilinguist than I was!
As a teenager I was passionate about language learning, studying French, German, Spanish, Latin, and even Ancient Greek. Although they’ve all mostly fallen by the wayside (a huge downside of being a native English speaker is that much of the world knows your language and would rather practice their own skills than endure you attempting to speak theirs!), I remember how empowered I felt when traveling to a country where I spoke enough of the local language to get by. I love the way that knowing a language brings you closer to its culture(s) — film and literature, food and drink, politics and society, and more; the way it enables you to fully participate in those cultures, engage with people from all backgrounds, and feel like one of the locals. Imagine how amazing it would be to experience this wherever you go and whatever you do — and how many challenges and problems we could solve, how many new ideas and opportunities we could share, if we all understood each other’s languages. But then again, if we were all omnilingual it wouldn’t be a superpower, would it!?
I suspect I won’t be alone among the Chefs in choosing omniligualism – the ability to understand and speak every language, including non-verbal ones — as my desired superpower.
Rick Anderson: I’ve spent more time thinking about this response than I expected I would. There are so many obvious and really good answers, but I’m going to stick with the first one that came to mind. In recent years I’ve become more and more aware of (and more and more discouraged by) the growing number of people who seem willing to treat others abusively in the name of some specific version of the Greater Good. The Greater Good in question is almost always, to my mind, genuinely good, and something that is worth working and maybe even fighting for. But I’ve never been able to convince myself that being abusive of individual people is really justifiable in the name of trying to bring about something good on behalf of the collective. So anyway, here’s the superpower that I would choose if I could: I would increase the oxytocin level of every person in the world by 35%.
I would increase the oxytocin level of every person in the world by 35%.
Tim Vines: My superpower would be psychic: the ability to know why someone holds a particular opinion or belief. In the movie version it would be like a holodeck where a montage of the events and conversations that led to that opinion forming would play out, and you’d know exactly what to say to either change their minds or compel them to a particular action. You’d have to be careful to use it for good and not for evil…
My superpower would be psychic: the ability to know why someone holds a particular opinion or belief.
Judy Luther: To my surprise, I loved the movie Wonder Woman, although the genre is not my favorite. While she had many superpowers, including deflecting bullets, I’m most intrigued with her ability to defy gravity. While this is the American version, there are other examples in Asian films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon where they are fighting as they dance in the tree tops. Disney’s new movie Mulan (to be released later this year) depicts a young woman who poses as a man to serve in the Imperial Army to defend their land. The trailers show her making jumps and flips across distances through space. For a brief period, I took aikido which is a Japanese martial art of self-defense that users the attacker’s energy to redirect their motion. To watch the experts do forward rolls through the air was an incredible and amazing experience. So, mastering the energy of space to move through it – what we might call flying — would be my choice of a superpower.
…mastering the energy of space to move through it – what we might call flying — would be my choice of a superpower.
Lettie Conrad: This is a question I’ve considered off and on in my life, at times I’ve actually given it a great deal of thought! As a kid I always wanted to fly. In college, I became enamored with Star Trek and, with it, wishes for Vulcan powers of mind melding and logical thought. Up until recently, if you’d asked me this question, I would likely have said I admire the magical capabilities of Time Lords a-la Doctor Who, transcending what can feel like arbitrary constructions of time and space. But, today, I would wish for a superpower might enable the body / mind swapping of two people, e.g., Freaky Friday (the original 1976 version, of course).
I would wish for a superpower might enable the body / mind swapping of two people
I would wish for the ability to give someone the experience of another person, to “walk in their shoes” even for just a matter of minutes. In the last few weeks, it seems we’re at risk of deepening the contrived divisions that have driven a growing polarization over the last few years, evidenced by nationalistic political tendencies of governments around the world. It seems we have let our compassion muscles go weak, we are lacking a sense of human connection and kinship with humanity — we want to blame others and defend our turf instead. Despite language, religion, culture, appearance, we are all equally vulnerable and struggling against the coronavirus. I would give a Jeannie-style wink or maybe wield a Wonder Woman lasso to body-swap two people in conflict or maybe our world leaders or even the everyday decisions that mean we’re helping or hurting the fight against infection, in hopes of building up our capacity for love and instilling our decisions with the super-human power of compassion.
I want a superpower that will allow me to infect humans, slow them down, and make them think what really matters in our lives.
Haseeb Irfanullah: As it appears, human beings — despite their individualism and selfishness — have collectively developed a superpower, which can be called “self-destruction”.
It may sound too cliché, but our rampant hunger for economic growth — from individuals to countries — is destroying our neighbors, our nature, our future. It is destroying us. All this madness and greedy competition or having more; we are defining luxury as necessity.
Indeed there are less poor, hungry, or ill people in the world now than centuries ago, but the gap between the poor and the rich is so wide now.
The whole world is now more connected than the blood vessels in our body, but still we are so lonely as individuals.
At global level, we are preparing mega-plans, funding it to make our development “sustainable”. But at the same time, we are ignoring science, ignoring urgency to act — whether stopping the destruction of the nature or climate crisis.
To justify our stands and self-interests, we now give logic to invest in deadly wars, call corrupted people and regimes our friends, and ignore explicit human right violations.
So, inspired by the Novel coronavirus, I want a superpower that will allow me to infect humans, slow them down, and make them think what really matters in our lives.
Eating, reproducing and being alive is the life of an animal; it cannot be a human life. Then, what is the purpose of our lives in this world that we have created? Please tell me, seriously.
Ann Michael: Like Lettie, when I was younger I spent some time wishing I could fly. I’d imagine seeing the world from that big picture view. Seeing how it all fits together and getting a different perspective on how it works. Then I focused on mindreading for a bit. Wouldn’t it be great to understand more about why folks do what they do and building bridges to help us all work more collaboratively?
But reading many of the responses above and reflecting on my own desires, something occurred to me. Thinking about which superpower you want and what you might do with it is a lot like the lottery question: What would you do if you won the lottery? Because the next question to ask yourself when pondering the lottery question is: Why can’t I do that now? or What part of that can I do now?
If my purpose in flying is to see the bigger picture and the mechanisms at work, I can seek that view even without a cape! If my purpose in reading minds is to understand people’s drives, concerns, and motives to build strong, respectful, collaborative teams, I can also do some of that now. I can choose to listen, to consider the context and challenges of the person in front of me, to try and visualize walking in their shoes.
So now it’s your turn (and I’m adding in a bonus question).
What is your desired superpower? AND
What can you do to experience some of its benefit right now, without it?