Poor Doctor Strange. Of all the superheroes, Doctor Stephen Strange is much maligned as silly, insubstantial, and way too reliant on a ridiculous sling ring. Whooshing your hand around to make a glowing circle is one of the zanier things an Avenger might do, which is saying something (considering Thor’s big boomeranging hammer). He can also make tea appear and age an apple–really quickly. Somehow, for some, this stretches the believability just too far.
You might feel sorry for him, if he wasn’t so darned handsome and clever and didn’t own an amazing floating snarky cape.
That said, I absolutely love him. I love him because he owns his silliness with gusto, I love him because I’m a #basic fan of the Cumberbatch (Sherlock hopped up on superpowers… yes, please!). But I also love him because I am him–in really every way that counts, a few nagging details (like goatee, actual powers) aside.
For those new to this part of the MCU, Doctor Strange is one arrogant SOB neurosurgeon until he has a car accident and loses the control of his hands. He travels to Tibet and eventually learns the mystic arts and becoming a sorcerer–but only by setting aside his assumptions about everything he knows.
I can be pretty darned arrogant at times too, as can all of us. After all, we get through this world by learning only a little bit and then acting on it. As we grow, we learn more and grow, but we’re still faking it til we make it all the way. And one might argue, we don’t actually know what we are “making” or what “it” is.
Again and again, like Doctor Strange, we find our assumptions are pretty darned wrong–or if not wrong, just representing a woefully small piece of the puzzle. When he first encounters the amazing, magical worlds beyond our own, he’s literally knocked on his butt. Through the coolest cinematic effects, we see him mentally soar through a universe full of infinite possibilities and then fall backwards into the room he was in. Suddenly, everything is huge and complicated and well, strange.
I felt like that in yoga class today. I tried out a new studio and a new teacher who delved deeply into the most basic poses, making them really, really hard. By encouraging me to try much more precise alignment, I found resistance that I didn’t know could be there. Who knew table top could be so challenging? Or cat/cow? And I thought I had planking down… not so, young grasshopper.
But really, that revelation extends far beyond yoga into every facet of our lives. We make simple assumptions about relationships that turn out to be just the tip of the iceburg. We think we have figured out who we are and then we discover weird feelings that don’t make sense. We think we know basic science until a four year old asks us all their multitude of questions–why is the sky blue, after all? What do we really know of the absurdly big outer space around us? What do we really know of ourselves, this spark of life inside organic parts–we don’t even know how we work. How big does it all get, how small?
When you realize how little you know, suddenly Doctor Strange is not so far-fetched. You don’t have to “believe” in the paranormal or in magic or even in religion to realize that. We’ve merely scratched the surface in so many, many ways. Like our favorite neurosurgeon, we must keep an open mind (ew. Ha!) and be ready to plunge into new realms of yoga and of this strange thing we call life.