Manassas Journal Messenger | Life lessons from Batman

While working at Duke University, Rabbi Cary Friedman met a woman who worked as a counselor in the Duke Medical Center. Friedman said he primarily saw her talking with families who were dealing with brain cancer.

Friedman said that he remembered saying to her how impressed he was at her ability to be delicate and sensitive in the face of horrible situations.

The woman replied that she had been there herself-she lost a 28-year-old daughter to cancer-and knew exactly what the families were going through.

“She could have disappeared,” said Friedman, 42, who also works as a spirituality consultant to the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit in Quantico. “Instead she used her experiences to help other people.”

This woman also reminded Friedman of Batman.

“He had suffered a cruel blow,” said Friedman, of Batman’s origin. Bruce Wayne made a vow to fight crime after witnessing the murder of his parents. Rather than become another victim, Bruce was determined to help.

Friedman discusses this lesson and more in his new book “Wisdom from the Batcave: How to Live a Super, Heroic Life,” due to be published Oct. 15 from Compass Books. Friedman said “the book describes a system of morality that comes from the Batman mythology.”

Chapter titles include “The Value of Hard Work” and “The Value of Friendship.” The chapter where Friedman writes about the woman at Duke University is called “How to Triumph over Adversity.”

The 116-page book also includes blurbs from some of the top writers to chronicle Batman’s adventures, such as Steve Englehart, Neal Adams and Chuck Dixon. They wrote about lessons and how the character has affected their lives. The book also includes illustrated examples from the comics stories Friedman discusses.

Friedman was a rabbi at Duke University from 1995 to 1999, where he taught ethics and religion. He said he would use Batman comics in class to distinguish problems between justice and the law, and introduce classroom topics.

“The kids would roll their eyes and groan, but it was entertaining,” said Friedman, adding that he would then transition to classic texts.

“This book is a record to the introductions to those classes,” said Friedman. He added that he plans to have links to classical sources on his Web site for readers who want to learn more.

Friedman, who lives in Passaic, N.J., isn’t limited in his crime fighting knowledge to Batman comics. Five and a half years ago he was approached to act as a consultant to the FBI’s department of behavioral science. He said that because police work is emotionally and psychologically draining, they have come to realize that the job is spiritually stressful.

“They confront evil and random suffering,” said Friedman. “It tortures them spiritually.”

Friedman built a curriculum for the FBI on the field of spiritual survival. He wrote a book titled “Spiritual Survival for Law Enforcement” in 2005. Friedman said the book fits existing spiritual frameworks, or helps create a spiritual framework for an officer who doesn’t have one.

“I’m very careful to avoid religious ideas or influences,” said Friedman, adding that although he is an orthodox rabbi, Christian evangelicals endorsed “Spiritual Survival for Law Enforcement.”

“Wisdom from the Batcave” is similar. Although Friedman occasionally mentions Jewish and other religious sources, the book is written from a perspective that is accessible to both religious and secular people.

Friedman also keeps the book accessible for those who aren’t familiar with Batman, explaining key moments and lessons in the hero’s history.

“I’ve had a lifelong obsession with Batman,” said Friedman.

As a child, Friedman would jump around on couches with a towel tied around his neck as a cape while watching the Adam West “Batman” show. Because he was so young at the time, Friedman said he missed out on the campy nature of the show, and took it seriously when Batman would rattle off obscure facts such as the dates of Beethoven’s death.

“I was in the library every week,” said Friedman.

As an adult, Friedman keeps a room in his home dedicated to Batman, where he works out and does his writing. He said that his wife, while a good sport, is not really into Batman. His six children, ages 19 to 2, “are going in the right direction.”

Staff writer Josh Eiserike can be reached at (703) 878-8072.


The Blessing of Family

While many fantasize about wealth and fame, Bruce Wayne fantasizes about family. Batman desires nothing more than to have his parents back, but has taken the circumstance and surrounded himself with a surrogate family: Commissioner Gordon, Alfred Pennyworth, Dick Grayson and many others.

The Value of Friendship

“It is impossible to overestimate the value of a true friend,” Friedman writes. Just as Batman has been there for Alfred and Robin, they have been there for him through all of his trials and tribulations.

The Value of Hard Work

Batman doesn’t get his powers from a yellow sun or radioactive spider. He spent many years training his body and mind. “Worthy goals require hard work,” writes Friedman. “Hard work builds character, even as it builds other skills or muscles.”

For more information

*, book tour dates will become available on the Web site

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