In The Dark Knight Rises, Batman has been “gone” from Gotham City for eight years. After the death of Harvey Dent (Two-Face), many consider Batman a villain, and Gotham hasn’t needed him. The police have violent and organized crime under control. Bruce Wayne is a recluse.
Until a new villain, known only as Bane, arrives in Gotham. He plans to first tyrannize and then destroy Gotham with a nuclear detonation. Bruce Wayne comes out of retirement and becomes Batman again to protect the city, and is betrayed into Bane’s hands. Bane cripples him and dumps him into a prison that’s essentially a hole with only one way out—straight up.
“Why didn’t you just kill me?” Bruce asks.
“You don’t fear death,” Bane says. “You welcome it. Your punishment must be more severe.”
Bruce is willing to die, so death won’t hurt him as much as seeing Gotham turn to dust. Bane leaves a television active so Bruce can watch the plot unfold.
Even while he is in the prison and claims to fear death, Bruce says, “I do fear death. I fear dying in here while my city burns and I’m not there to save it.”
It wasn’t death he feared at all. It was dying, forgotten, in a hole, rather than dying a hero, in the process disappointing everyone who depended on him—losing his ability to be Batman.
Bruce Wayne, unlike most people, didn’t need to stop fearing death. He didn’t fear death. He feared life.
After his wounds heal, Bruce makes two attempts to climb out. Anyone who wishes to escape ties on a rope (to keep them from dying when they fall) and tries to climb the curved, vertical wall.
Both of his tries fail. He’s running out of time before Bane concludes his reign of terror by killing everyone.
Finally the man in the next cell tells Bruce the secret. He has to climb out the way the only one who ever succeeded, a child, did—without a rope. To succeed, he has to be willing to risk complete failure because the fear that comes with it will make him strong. It’ll make him fight harder than he otherwise would have.
Sometimes you have to let go of the rope if you want to succeed.
When Bruce leaves behind the safety net of the rope, he’s able to make the jump. He’s also able to realize that Alfred (his faithful butler) was right when he accused him of being afraid of living and moving on beyond Batman. Batman was the rope, the safety net, in his life.
Not all safety nets are bad. My husband and I keep an emergency fund in case we have unexpected expenses. When I rode horses, I always wore a helmet.
But I’ve also cut some safety nets because I’m better, stronger, and happier without them.
Grief can be a safety net. So can anger.
Because my mother-in-law has been divorced four times, my husband and I agreed before we got married that we’d only consider divorce in the case of adultery or abuse. Without divorce as our safety net, we had to be certain we were making the right choice, and we’re forced to work hard to keep our marriage good.
Blogging and being on social media cut my writer’s safety net. Now if I fail, I do it publicly. And if I quit, you’ll all know it. I don’t have the safety net of anonymity anymore.
What safety net might be holding you back from a happy life?