The Provost of Drexel University recently sent out a lengthy email that detailed his difficult situation as a native New Yorker living in Philly and cheering for the Phillies during the 2009 World Series. He used his situation as an impressive segue for introducing a new philosophy for Drexel’s different departments, which are now offering programs and courses aimed at general audiences. Or something like that. I was actually kinda mad to receive an email during the World Series that was boasting about the glory of growing up as a fan of the Yankees and skipped over those parts.

I’ll spare you his thoughts on the Phillies, Yankees, and Drexel in the interest of sharing an eloquent, interesting excerpt. It’s OK to think deeply on a Sunday…

“The great American poet Robert Frost writes, ‘Nothing in life runs unmixed.’ The challenge of living comes from its complexity, its multiple perspectives and possibilities for interpretation, its uncertainties. Solving an equation correctly is satisfying; it provides closure. A really good movie or novel or poem — or a complex scientific or engineering problem — prompts more questions than it answers, poses challenges that are not resolved easily or perhaps at all. Friendships and relationships do not run unmixed. Major life decisions do not run unmixed. The great art of living well involves learning to live with uncertainty, becoming comfortable with conflict, even becoming able to balance two competing theories or perspectives at once — or affiliations to two sports teams locked in fierce competition. That’s why it’s an art and not an exact science.”

Mark Greenberg, Drexel University

This series documents the creative process of bringing a Superhero to life. My Superhero is “Hydrator.” See my Birth of a Superhero – Preamble entry for more details.


Shoot, I pulled the door off again!
We are all familiar with super heroes, aren’t we? We all have our favorites, from Superman to Batman to Wonder Woman to the X-Men. We all have a superhero we think is the best. But how do we define best? Which super hero possesses the greatest super power? Which super hero possesses the super power YOU would most like to have? That is your task, define which super power you would most like to have and what you would do with it.

There are so many good superhero powers to choose from, but there is one that I have ‘adopted’ as an ongoing joke with friends over the past few years. The power is the ability to absorb or spread the water in the environment and objects around me, through hydration or dehydration. With this power, I would be able to draw water from one person and spread to another in thirst. I would also be able to absorb rain from the sky and redistribute the liquid in a more enjoyable-but-equally-beneficial-to-the-environment manner.

Not all uses of the power have to be positive, though. In a moment of villainous weakness — or in the name of vengeance — I could use this power to dehydrate someone and cause them pain, rendering them helpless.

A superhero power would not be fun without a restriction, as it would have no limitations and be completely unstoppable. Therefore, the one weakness or flaw to this power is that the manipulated water would retain its original temperature. Therefore, absorbing moisture from snow or ice would result in a terrible case of brainfreeze. Similarly, absorbing moisture from steam or a boiling pot would be rather unpleasant as well…

The genesis of this superhero power for me occurred when I participated in a research study at Penn State. I volunteered for the study with the hope that something would go awry and result in the development of a power, as this seems to be the setting that leads to many superheroes (The Incredible Hulk, Dr. Manhattan, Dr. Octopus, and I am sure many more than I could possibly name). The study required me to run on a treadmill while wearing a body suit lined with tubes of water on the interior. As I ran, the researcher manipulated the temperature of the water while recording different measurements in the breath I exhaled (I think it had something to do with the efficiency of the oxygen in my system..VO2, maybe?). Afterwards, I realized that the ability to manipulate and absorb hydration levels in objects around me would be the ‘most likely’ possible superhero power developed in case of an explosion or accident in the lab. I shared this with friends who, after making fun of me excessively, dubbed me “Hydration Man” and often make tongue-in-cheek pleas for help when the weather is unpleasant or they are thirsty. I prefer the new name, “Hydrator.”

COMING NEXT: Part 2 will include Thumbnail sketches of Hydrator’s logo (for his chest)