But what if someone had given him Affinity Stones instead of the Infinity Stones?
Instead of giving him immense power attached to his fist, why didn’t he get immense power from his heart?
This is the power of affinity.
A synonym for affinity is empathy.
While not as awe-inspiring as the Infinity Gauntlet, affinity is much more potent.
We don’t need to go off on some epic, cosmic quest to find these five stones either. They’re within reach. Add a little effort and soon you’ll be able to wield a much more effective weapon than Thanos.
And you’ll be able to save lives with it.
The Avengers: Infinity War
Infinity War is the culmination of ten years of Marvel movies.
It also seems to be the big send off for a few of the stars.
The contracts of Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, and Chris Hemsworth are set to expire after the next Avengers film. It would make sense the producers would want to milk the characters, and the actors, before that happens. Whether new contracts will come up is still highly speculative.
Personally, I could go either way here. The movies have been fun to watch, and it’s nice to see these characters taken seriously. Not like what they did with Cyclops of the X-Men, but we’ll get into that later.
The departing of the big names could leave room for the up-and-coming stars. You know, give someone else a shot to garner a big name.
And while these characters are favorites and draw large crowds, there is an expiration date on characters likability. So it would be better to go out on top.
Why not in a big movie with lots of fighting and uber-dramatic death scenes?
The Avengers, aside from their popularity and marketability, are also playing on the mythos of the comic books.
Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, War Machine, and all the rest, are heroes that inspire. Well, not just them. It was the writers who made them inspiring. The heroes were just a vessel for that.
Superheroes, with their colorful garb and memorable personalities, are suited to fight bad guys in a spectacular way.
Those who read the comic books were drawn to the story. The dynamic nature of brightly colored panels, snappy dialogue, and the underlying plot of good championing a cause against a nigh-unstoppable bad guy made them iconic.
Who wouldn’t love that?
When Hollywood went looking for another sub-genre to capitalize on, comic books were a perfect target.
So the epic battles that were once drawn out on a page and understood by a select few were turned into a money-making machine for the big production studios.
And that’s where we get the Marvel movies.
A few from from DC as well. They’re slow to catch up.
The World as It Is
The Avengers exist in fiction.
Costumed superheroes are confined to the page and the screen. The bad guys they fight are also confined there.
That doesn’t mean the real world is without people willing to go to great lengths to hurt other people.
Luckily they don’t have access to the Infinity Stones or a gauntlet.
They are no less destructive though.
And while it’s entertaining, and inspiring, to watch flawed characters fight and win against the bad guys on screen, we’re left with a world without superpowers.
Though that seems depressing, there’s actually a good side to it.
Let me explain: Thanos, though he’s doing something evil, is really trying to fill a void in his heart.
Much the same as people who try to hurt other people- they’re missing something important. The pain from that emptiness is so great they’ll even put others lives in danger just to find a way to fill that void. Or it’s guilt motivating them to do it. Or anger at an injustice.
I’m not excusing bad behavior or violence against anybody.
For us to combat this we must first understand the motivation behind it.
To stop people from willingly hurting each other, we must first know why it is they seek to cause pain.
To do that, we need empathy.
The 5 Affinity Stones
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”
― James Baldwin
To fight this kind of pain, this kind of evil, we don’t need weapons that shoot bullets or blast or maim or wound.
We don’t need weapons at all.
We need tools to touch the heart.
This is the feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for someone who’s dealing with affliction. It’s also accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate that affliction.
Compassion is an amazing thing. I think of Mother Teresa who worked in Calcutta, showing compassion for people who’d been cast off by their own society. She didn’t see them as unworthy, but in need of compassion because they were human beings.
Check Your Bias
It’s hard to realize we see the world through a tinted lens.
This doesn’t mean we’re inherently bad, just human.
I have these biases and I wish I could say I can see every situation rationally all the time. But I can’t. And what’s harder still is putting aside my biases to look at a situation objectively. It’s a daily struggle.
I’d rather do that than continue with false assumptions. There have been too many times where I jumped to a conclusion only to realize I was wrong.
Being receptive to new ideas is yet another hard thing to do, but the good news is we don’t have to accept them. Simply listening and not jumping to conclusions is helpful to being open-minded. It also doesn’t hurt to know people will think and believe something different than you.
The unselfish concern for others well-being is a skill that takes some practice. There are those who are naturally gifted at it and there are those who aren’t. Like any skill, it takes practice to truly hone and incorporate it into your daily actions. Altruism isn’t letting others just walk all over you, but knowing when you can help them and to what extent.
This seems like the easiest one, but it’s not.
Listening involves more than being quiet. So often we listen to hear what we want to hear or to listen for the pause in conversation so we know it’s our turn to talk. Listening to what’s being said is another skill that takes practice. There are entire books written on the topic.
These five stones are much more powerful when put together.
They require a delicate balance of give and take, push and pull. Unfortunately, there’s no book to teach us how to use them, or wise old scholar who knows exactly how to use the five stones and is willing to instruct us on their uses.
There may also be more than five stones. But five’s a solid number, so we’ll stick with five.
The True Nature of Their Power
The Infinity Stones pull together cosmic energy and focus it. When brought together and placed on the gauntlet, they exude that power. Thanos, as proven in the film, could punch, slap, point, and the glove would react accordingly.
Power would shoot out and destroy.
The Affinity Stones react differently.
They don’t go on a gauntlet and they don’t focus energy. At least, not in the way the Infinity Gauntlet does.
Instead, these stones do the opposite.
When we work to understand someone else and exercise the five stones, we’re not focusing power on a target.
We’re giving it away.
Affinity is understanding. The ability to see from someone else’s point of view.
In other words, empathy.
Empathy does amazing things. When we’re open to it, we find we’re not alone in this world. Much like the James Baldwin quote from above, we begin to see that everyone else is dealing with something. Their pain may not be like our pain, but it’s pain nonetheless.
Sometimes it’s easy to think that others pain is not as bad as ours. Therefore, we should get special treatment, or the other party doesn’t quite get what real suffering is.
Pain is pain.
The person sitting across from you at the table may not have reached the level and unique aching that you’re experiencing, but they do feel pain. And as all humans are apt to do, we don’t want to feel pain.
It’s human nature.
Where to Find Affinity Stones
These Affinity Stones, as powerful as they are, don’t sit in a vault somewhere.
They’re within reach. All we have to do is work to understand the person sitting next to us.
I understand that that, in and of itself, is not an easy task either. People are complicated and they make irrational decisions. They do frustrating things. The news is full of examples.
And while talking to other people can be a task, there are other ways.
Much more entertaining ways.
Books are full of other people’s experiences, points-of-view, and stories.
By reading these stories we’re given a chance to see through different eyes. It’s not a perfect way to gain this experience, but it’s the next-best thing.
Beyond reading a book, you can do more to spread empathy and help someone else find their own affinity stones.
You could write about your experiences as well.
By sharing our own stories, we’re giving others the chance to read and understand us in a unique way. It’s a little self-serving, I agree.