Superheroism and my own neurosis aside, my BRATS participation has had an interesting influence in my life. As a religious professional, I was always somewhat guarded in my relationships, even with those in my church, especially perhaps with those in my church because they had the most contact with me. Responding to Poe’s invitation and experiencing the embrace I did from other BRATSTERS helped me feel I belonged to this community in a way I hadn’t felt I had belonged in other towns and communities where I served.
The persona (Batman knows something about this) a clergy type has to don is not easy to manage. I knew that others had expectations of me to be a super spiritual power, or at least, to lead a heroic moral life. Understanding that neither uber morality or spirituality was in my skill set, I chafed against those kind of expectations. When I discovered that there were folks who didn’t mind if I used the ‘F’ word or called Republicans a bunch of assholes, I grew more comfortable in my skin and started gliding along in life a bit more easily.
Now, to be honest, it wasn’t the BRATS event or quasi-community that led me to my burnout and career change. That inevitability has far more to do with my own constellation of hypomania, fondness for THC, and my frustration with institutional Christianity. In fact, when my career imploded and I was on my own without much clarity about the next step, the BRATS way or the Bisbee community didn’t prove much more helpful than the church triumphant. Family, friends, a good therapist, and the grace of God got me through that battle. Gossip and meddling and triangulation exist in any community and a small town or a church or a self-selecting association of lunatics on art carts is not free from those too human characteristics.
Now that I’ve found some stability in a new career, have a relative grip on my dual identities of priest and teacher; superhero and insomniac, I appreciate that I live in a community that can be home to such a phenomenon as the BRATS event. It has some dedicated leadership and structure, but it’s a relatively open association of individuals who want to express themselves in varying degrees of creativity and like to have traffic stopped on their behalf.
I almost didn’t build a cart this year. Too busy with work and other pursuits, I’d been feeling a lot of pressure to be more more organized, disciplined, and focused-these are never my strengths. I also, at the beginning of the school year, abandoned all my nicotine sources at once and have been quite a grump for several months. One student in particular can attest to this fact and wishes that I would just ‘get back on the damn nicotine.’ I don’t want to. I want a life of freedom, in as much as that is possible in our complicated world with so many tensions and priorities pulling at our capes.
I know freedom. I knew it seven years ago when I surprised myself with the level of enjoyment I had rolling the one seat church down the road. I’ve known freedom when I’ve come up with ideas for others BRATS such as a concrete mixer turned into performance venue featuring my new found love, the guitar. Whether a cathedral, a Batmobile, or any of a host of ideas that so many wonderfully creative people have, it’s a blessing to belong to a group that welcomes expression.
I want a revolution for our land, not one with guns and bloodshed, but one no less meaningful and impacting than our inaugural revolution. As a people, we have come too far and have too much too loose not to fight the villains of greed and ignorance and prejudice. Art and creativity and intelligence, harnessed by people-however frail- with compassion and insight and commitment to the common good, can live heroic lives and triumph against powerful opponents.
Batman is too much an elite to be a democrat, too introspective and complicated to be a republican. He’s a guy who, even though he’s got a few loose ends in his belfry, wants to do good in this world, wants to make a difference in the community of which he is a part, wants to use his time, talent, and treasure to put bad guys away and help the weak ones get stronger. It was great to be him for a few hours. Now its time to get back to being me, to continue to reconcile the differing voices within, to worry less about book sales, blog hits, and more toys. I need to worry more about Gotham and Bisbee and these United States.
“Holy Shit, Batman! That’s a mouthful.”
“Yes, it is Boy Wonder. Now, let’s get upstairs and find Alfred and see what’s for dinner. Maybe we can help him with the dishes.”