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Over the Easter weekend, I watched The Men Who Stare at Goats with my family. Fascinating, quirky movie. It’s based on a novel, which I haven’t read, so I can’t attest to whether the movie is true to the book.  The basic premise of the movie is that a special military unit is formed in order for the American government to determine whether war can be waged using psychic abilities (i.e. Can a goat’s heart be stopped merely by concentrating on it hard enough?)

George Clooney stars as Lyn Cassady, the most highly developed of the PsyOps soldiers. Ewan McGregor plays a reporter, Bob Wilton (does Ewan look like a Bob to you?), who wants to write a brilliant story in order to win his wife back and he stumbles upon this cuckooloo bunch of PsyOps guys. There is a priceless ironic exchange between Clooney and McGregor about Jedi warriors that makes the film worth watching just to see it.

The very last scene in the film, which features Bob Wilton sitting at a desk in a typical cubicled office, sticks with me in the same way that A Serious Man sticks with me. No, I didn’t swear at the screen, but the movie opens questions in my mind. As our society has gotten more obese and less active as a whole, are we more prone to exalting special powers in movies, TV shows, video games, and books? Are we powder puffs exhibiting magical thinking about physical and mental prowess because we’re powder puffs, or have human beings always desired super-human powers?

When I reach back into the fuzzy memory of having read Greek and Roman myths, it seems, perhaps, as though we’ve always wanted special powers, but it was the gods that ended up with them. Peeps with special powers appear in the Bible (Moses parting the Red Sea, Jesus’ stroll on water, healing the sick, dividing the fishes & loaves & etc.), yet these peeps were in some manner chosen by God to receive these powers.

Maybe it’s just me, but I feel as though the expression of the human desire for super powers has exploded and now encompasses the notion of Every Man and Every Woman being capable of achieving such if only they work for it (or are doused in nuclear waste). We’re powder puffs. We know it and we want to change, to achieve at least a certain level of physical, emotional, spiritual and psychic mastery, but we’re not willing to get off our lazy butts to do it.

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