My Favorite Golem

(c) Marvel Entertainment – Fair Use

Over at The Philosophical Fighter, Joshua Clements has posted a thought-provoking piece on teaching martial arts. However, his observations also apply to coaching and even classroom teaching.

Clements uses the metaphor of the golem to make his argument that teachers play a vital role in shaping students. In Hebrew folklore, the golem was a creature formed from clay, given life and purpose by its creator, normally a rabbi. Like a rabbi, a teacher imparts much more than rote knowledge to his students. As Clements puts it:

“As teachers and coaches, we also have the opportunity to sow truth and life into our students. We help inscribe emet [Truth] on their minds while simultaneously breathing life into their dreams, their passions, and their growth.”

The golem myth reflects the Genesis account of the creation of Adam, who was also formed from clay. That same myth inspired one of the most complex and beloved Marvel Comics characters, Benjamin J. Grimm, aka, The Thing, whose powerful body appeared to be made of rocks.

As Thing, Benjamin J. Grimm often clashed with the serious, logical Reed Richards (aka, Mr. Fantastic). In contrast to Richards, Thing was emotional, a little crude at times, and haunted by guilt and self-loathing. While Richards the scientist approached problems objectively and dispassionately, Thing was ready to clobber them. Fans often sided with Thing, the down-to-earth (!) everyman, against Richards, the highbrow academic.

The inevitable conflicts among the team sparked some memorable stories. Their personalities reflected one of the four classical elements they represented: Air (Invisible Girl), Fire (Human Torch), Water (Mr. Fantastic), and Earth (Thing). Despite their dissimilar temperaments, they managed to unite and overcome their challenges.

Yet another lesson we can learn from the golem.

12 thoughts on “My Favorite Golem”

  1. Hey, I never made the connection of the Fantastic Four symbolizing the elements. Neat! And I remember the conflict among the group. I think the Human Torch was also quicker to act — contrasted with the scientists Mr. and Mrs. Richards. And I enjoyed the Thing’s battle yell: “It’s clobberin’ time!”

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Dave Williams,

      The contrast among the FF was rendered perfectly. Yes, the Human Torch was a bit of a hot-head, much like Thing, though the two hardly ever agreed on anything. They had their own little adventures together in Strange Tales.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the shoutout, Mike. I had never made the connection of the Fantastic Four with the elements, but that makes so much sense now. I also love your terminology “down-to-earth everyman” versus the “high-brow academic.” I was an HVAC technician and mechanic for 12 years before shifting gears and becoming a writer. Now I work at a college running the Tutoring Center and am about to start teaching communication there as well. In so many ways, I try to bridge that “everyman/academic” gap. Our students don’t care about knowledge until they see how it matters in the real world. Sometimes, we have to do a little clobberin.

    Liked by 2 people

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