The adventures of Lycra Lad

You’ll be happy to know that there have been more sightings of Lycra Lad. For those who did not catch my last column, Lycra Lad has come about by changing from jogging to cycling. This has meant the mandatory wearing of lycra. Is it a duck? Is it a Harley? Faster than a speeding mullet, invisible to the naked eye, all you can hear is the gentle tinkling of his bell and he’s gone in a flash! I think Lycra Lad could become the next superhero.

We need superheroes. They save us from doubt; from ourselves. Superheroes come in all shapes and sizes. There are those we imagine, that live in the sky or on mountains somewhere. Then there are those we manufacture as gurus in our own mind. Gurus give us answers to our fears like the inevitability of death, taxes and that Kylie Minogue will keep on making records. Personally, I have always been suspicious of people (especially myself) who claim to know ‘the truth’. Over the years I have had lots of patients who would say, one way or another, ‘Hey, let’s not worry about all this therapy stuff. Just tell me what to do’.

We give sports people hero status. The Tiger Woods phenomenon is fascinating. His prowess at hitting a little white ball with a stick was a huge impetus for people, particularly kids, taking up the sport and filling the coffers of his sponsors who provide the balls and sticks. Let’s hope that his role modelling does not extend to an increase in the share price of call-girl agencies across the globe! Political leaders can spend a little time in the superhero sun. But they tend to have a shorter shelf life than sports people. Mind you there aren’t that many fine political leaders around right now. Like many leaders, Rudd and Abbott both need extensive personality transplants. However, the party faithful will believe that their leader will take them from the ‘shadow of the valley of climate change’ and promise us the known universe.

It’s interesting that our political leaders fall from grace quite easily even after doing amazing things (Winston Churchill comes to mind). But our sports heroes can do no wrong, even when they have done a lot of wrong things that would result in the average Jo and Joanne being tarred and feathered. It’s the same with our gods and gurus who can do the most dreadful things but then continue to be revered by the faithful. We easily forgive the dark side of our superheroes, such is our need for them, such is our existential anxiety.

There is a scene in Life of Brian in which poor Brian is surrounded by the multitudes who think he is the Messiah. When cornered, Brian tells them that they don’t need to follow anyone, that they don’t need a Messiah. He screams, “I am not the Messiah”. Someone in the crowd says that only the true Messiah denounces himself and everyone yells, “He is the Messiah”. In exasperation Brian gives in and says, “OK, I am the Messiah” and they shout back, “He is the Messiah”. How can you win?

His mum, though knows the real truth. In another scene, the crowd are outside his house and they tell his very surprised mother that they want to see the Messiah. She too repudiates the Messianic claim with, “No he’s not. He’s just a very naughty boy.”

The answers to life’s fears and questions are really to be found inside ourselves: the guru within. There are even more uncertainties in taking on board someone else’s view of the world or escaping the issue altogether by adopting a superhero. Lycra Lad has only one superhero: his mum.

Dr Stewart Hase is an Adjunct Fellow with Southern Cross University and a consultant psychologist.

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