The Best Superpower Is No Superpower

By:
brozik@gmail.com

People, it’s whatever year it is and yet the debates still rage — as they have for hundreds of years — over which would be the best single superpower to have. Flight over invisibility? Superspeed versus accelerated healing? Mind control or weather control?

Stop arguing. We have the answer, finally: There is no superpower — not one — that you’d actually want to have, if it were the only superpower you had. Any such so-called superpower would be more bane than boon.

Flight. So, you — like almost everyone else — think you’d like to be able to fly? You really wouldn’t. Certainly not if you simply woke up one morning (or in the afternoon, after a particularly refreshing nap) and discovered that you could launch yourself upward and propel yourself through the ether at will. Not if that were the extent of the superhuman abilities you’d inexplicably gained…because there are a lot of things in that ether that are bigger and stronger than you are, and you’re bound to hurl yourself into one sooner rather than later. And when you do collide with a 787 Dreamliner, you’re going to suffer the sort of concussion that will send you plummeting back down to Earth in a hurry, where you will be reminded, painfully, why humans don’t fly. And even if you do manage to flit around for a while without getting caught in a tree or a jet engine, do you know how cold it is at, say, 10,000 feet above sea level (the altitude at which a bald eagle flies — at 65 mph, no less)? It’s 20 degrees Celsius colder than it is on the ground, which is a big difference. When you imagined yourself being able to fly, did you picture yourself wearing a parka?

Invisibility. How totally cool would it be to be invisible? You could sneak into almost anywhere undetected and undeterred. You wouldn’t even have to sneak! You could just stroll into places — bank vaults, locker rooms, meetings you’re late for — unseen. You would have so much fun being invisible to others! For about two hours. Because that’s probably the longest you could go without being run over by a truck whose driver couldn’t see you, or beaned in the head by a baseball thrown by someone who couldn’t see you, or pushed out of an open window by another guest at a dinner party who couldn’t see you. Invisibility is just plain dangerous. You see?

Superspeed. Being able to propel your body forward — and even backward for that matter — at extreme velocities would be even more dangerous than being able to fly, if you weren’t protected by some sort of force field, which you wouldn’t be, because you get to pick only one superpower, and you picked superspeed. There are an inconceivably great number of things of all sizes all over the place that you do not want to run into while moving very fast. You know why a “high-speed collision” is more dangerous than a regular-speed collision? It’s because of the high speed. And as your speed increases, your time to react to and avoid dangers decreases to zero. Which means you’ll probably run into serious, probably lethal, trouble pretty darn quickly.

Accelerated healing. Unlike almost every other single superpower, the ability to heal completely from any and all wounds won’t kill you, by definition. But you’ll have the exact opposite problem: You’ll live forever. You will be unable to die! You’ll still be here when the entire not-superhuman race is gone. You’ll be all alone, though. And cutting off your own limbs just to watch them grow back will have long since stopped being entertaining.

Weather control. Being master of the elements would be a novelty for exactly as long as you could keep your superpower secret from anyone who feels comfortable asking you for a favor. Because once it gets out that you can make it rain, every friend who doesn’t want to go to his kid’s soccer game will be asking you to help him out. But then anyone who had beach plans will be asking you for a sunny, cloudless day, with just a hint of a cool breeze. And so on. All the time. You will never not be controlling the weather, and if you have a parent who can make you feel even the slightest bit guilty, then you’re likely to find yourself micro-manipulating her personal climate to keep her constantly comfortable, lest she remind you that she used to change your diapers and wipe your nose whenever you were under the weather.

Mind control. On the other hand, being able to play with other people like so many fully articulated action figures would be pretty awesome, and there really is no downside. So maybe mind control is the superpower to have, after all. Your mom might be onto something.

 

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