I’ve just published a photo-essay on neweurasia (please forgive the lousy quality of the photos) concerning urban blight and nature in Bishkek. I find the interaction between the architectural embodiment of Soviet ideology and the Schellingian force of the environment fascinating, as their collision is forging a symbiosis of form and growth, a new ecology of sorts.
While wandering around taking these photos, however, I made another kind of discovery, one more personal than philosophical/aesthetic. I was wandering around behind an apartment block just off Frunze Street when I found a recently-painted mural of what at first appeared to be fairy tell characters from Russian and American (particularly Disney) traditions.
However, toward the very end of the mural, something caught me eye. As I approached, I discovered two very different kind of characters — the world-recognizable Spider-Man (right), and much to my surprise, Spider-Man 2099, a future version of the Wall-Crawler who had his own comic book series for a few years in the early Nineties, as part of the Marvel 2099/World of Tomorrow line-up.
Two thoughts occurred to me. The first was, of course, curiosity: how did this highly obscure cultural figure — unknown even to most Americans — end up all the way out here, in Kyrgyzstan? Probably some random issue made its way to Central Asia, perhaps in the backpack of a Peace Corps volunteer, and struck the imagination of one of the mural artists (although there could be countless other explanations).
The second was, yes, a feeling yet again of what we in the Baha’i Faith call a divine confirmation, another hint that Central Asia is where I need to be. That’s because, although I once (rather over-seriously) described myself on this blog as wanting to be a “Batman of knowledge”, I’ve actually always identified much more with the Webslinger — his struggle to balance the different aspects of his life, his desire to serve humanity, his attempts at empathy, his brilliance coupled with incompetence, his perpetual underdoggedness, his girl issues, so on and so on.
However, when I think about it, I may identity slightly more with Spider-Man 2099. He was probably one of the catalysts for my interest in post-humanism/trans-humanism; his real identity, Miguel O’Hara, had a slightly more realistic blend of idealism and emotion than Peter Parker; the future version of New York City — a satire, really, of post-Reagan America — was somewhat more relevant to me than that typically portrayed in the present-day series; and so on.
But there’s another aspect. My father bought the subscription to Spider-Man 2099 for me (as well as for Doom 2099, the future version of Dr. Doom and a character with whom I also felt a deep resonance), and we used to read and discuss the series together. I think Spider-Man 2099 was the successor to an earlier personal tradition, from a few years before in my youth, when we used to watch Dr. Who and Danger Mouse while eating salted carrots and celery.
And so, I wonder: in my two years here in Belgium, I stumbled upon so many little connections to my mother — relating my experiences here through the lens of her influences upon me was one of the ways I transformed and came to own my sojourn in this country, and simultaneously, how the divine or the cosmos sought to communicate its intents to me. Thus, if Belgium was hers, might Kyrgyzstan end up being my father’s?