Benjamin Keyworth

Supplemental - New York Times: Room For Debate


The Opinion Page - Room For Debate - New York Times, 12 October 1983

Nature or Nurture? How the Powered Become the Powerful

Introduction: The official recognition by the UN General Assembly of the Legion of Heroes has shone fresh light onto the extraordinary talents of the Legion’s members. Like Olympians and entrepreneurs, the question of how much of their success comes from hard work and how much comes from luck is now being asked of those whose superhuman abilities seem to have so far eclipsed everyone else’s. Have they simply trained harder? Or is there something intrinsic which these remarkable individuals are just born with?

You Get Out What You Put In: An Old Adage Holds True In The New World The Uncomfortable Truth of Gifted People

When Harsheel Singh was eight, she contracted polio, a disease which at the time was still rampant in her native India. The virus bowed and buckled her legs and left her unable to walk without the aid of crutches. Yet two decades later she would not only break the unassisted human landspeed record but would become one of the most iconic figures within the Legion of Heroes: “Zephyr, The World’s Fastest Woman.” Harsheel did not achieve these feats through luck or through being born a certain way, but rather through sheer will and determination, and an irresistible drive to be the best at what she could do. She trained religiously, refusing at every step to accept the prophecies of failure from her doctors and family who proclaimed she would never walk, then never run, then never achieve her dream of being the fastest person alive. Through hard work and perseverance, she proved every one of them wrong.

Singh’s journey should be an inspiration to us all, and a lesson that greatness is not given but earned. We often forget that our superhuman powers are not only “super” but “human” as well – and like all aspects of ourselves become mighty through commitment, training and discipline. It is easy to dismiss extraordinary people such as those in the Legion as simply having been “born that way”, but an examination of their ranks shows that this notion is simply untrue. More than untrue, a belief in “the hand you’re dealt” is a crutch which the lazy rest on to relieve themselves of taking responsibility for their own inaction. Because after all, if Harsheel Singh can do it – why can’t you?

There is a trope in children’s television shows that all characters – big, small, smart, strong – must all be, overall, equal. What a person lacks in one aspect, they inevitably make up for with hidden talent in another; and conversely when a person (normally a villain) appears naturally gifted or successful they inevitably have a counter-balancing weakness to “make up” for it. So the geek turns out to be a great dancer, the plain Jane a science whiz, and the muscular bully riddled with anxiety – almost as if each person was given a set number of “points” at birth but had them distributed to different attributes.

This, sadly, is wrong. The obsession with latent equality is a childish, fantastical notion which we as adults must discard in order to face reality: that some people are simply born better. It is an uncomfortable truth to face, one which runs counter to our natural desire for fairness, but the simple fact of the matter is that be it from genetics, fate or just plain luck, there have always been those born with gifts no amount of hard work or proper parenting can match. This is perhaps disheartening, but that does not make it false.

The Legion of Heroes stands as a shining example of this. Can anyone honestly say that Captain Dawn, with “The Power of a Hundred Suns”, earned his phenomenal strength through the sweat of his brow? Or that The White Queen, Elsa Arrendel, demonstrated anything less than prodigal talent from the moment she manifested her powers of cold? Certainly there is no denying the benefits of dedication and proper instruction – but at the end of the day, no matter how they’re played, a pair of twos is a pair of twos, and a royal flush is a winner.



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About the author

Benjamin Keyworth

  • Australia

Bio: Born and raised in Newcastle, Australia, Ben is a lifelong writer currently studying his Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Technology Sydney. An avid fan of the weird and wonderful, he has wanted to be a writer since he was five years old (before which he wanted to be a dinosaur).

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