Tuesday, April 20, 2021

The Inner Light


I recently watched the Star Trek The Next Generation episode "The Inner Light" (Season 5 episode 25). This is far from the first time as it is one of my very favorites from the series. This time however it started me thinking and if you know me at all there are only two possible outcomes of my thinking: Very BAD things happen or very PROFOUND things happen. I guess you will need to read on to see which it was this time...

I always enjoy the episode for what it is on the surface. Picard episodes (along with Data episodes) are my favorites anyway. This one has a lasting impact on Captain Picard's character which they return to and reference later in the series. 

This re-watch though got me thinking about how truly great a gift Captain Picard was given. To be able to experience an entirely new life. To live a second complete life in a few minutes (25 minutes they say in the episode) and then be able to return to your own having learned a lifetime of life. Relationships, learning, and craft not to mention, at least in this case, not to have to suffer your own death, but to be brought back before that. Who wouldn't want to?

Then I started to think about what that might mean to you once you are back. People talk about the "road less traveled" well, how about the "Roads not taken"? The what-if's that everyone has, but mostly ignore. What if I hadn't met my spouse? What if I hadn't gotten married? What if we never had kids? What if I had moved away?

Of course, this is all along the same thought line as "A Christmas Carol" and "It's a Wonderful Life" and what if the life you got to live was one of your own, and not someone else's life. But the life you would have had other choices been made. To live that life in its (mostly) entirety and then be brought back to yours smarter for the experience (hopefully). How would that change the decisions you make from that point forward in your life?

It made me think quite a bit about the choices I have made over the many many years I have been on this Earth. (I do feel the weight of those years more and more). Would I honestly make the same decisions again if I had it to do over again or would I make different ones? How would actually experiencing a lifetime with the results of those different decisions affect my current thoughts?

One of the problems I see with both "A Christmas Carol" and "It's a Wonderful Life" is that they only got to see snapshots of what could have been, what it would possibly be like at that moment in time. What if they had been given a chance to live the entire rest of their lives instead (obviously Wonderful Life would be the exception to this question since he was shown what it would have been like had he not been there, but let's say he was given a chance instead to live a different life but see the results of him not being there for those he had been there for. I think that both stories would have ended differently.

In my own life, I am of an age where these questions start to damage the calm satisfaction one can have from years of marriage, children, and work. I feel the what-if's starting to plague me, the curse of the many things I wish I had done differently or not at all. 

I would go back and not be so stupid and immature. I would be a better husband, father, and friend. So many missteps and poor choices I simply hate to think about them, however, think I do. I wonder then, would it really be a gift to get to live an entire second life in a few minutes? Would I, knowing what I know now, do so many things differently or better in that second life only to have it ripped away and be sent back to the one I was so bad at?

I do not think that would be a gift. Not in my case. I am sure Jean-Luc Picard who has few if any regrets did consider it a gift, this is how it showed in the series anyway. I am not so sure most anyone else would.

One of the things I like most about TV shows like TNG, shows that are better at making you think than making you jump or laugh, is that they actually make you think without being preachy about it. There are a lot of shows on TV now, shows I enjoy watching for the most part, which seems to want to slap you in the face with their opinion of choice. They do not try to make you think about yourself, and how you feel about the topic, but instead to force an opinion on you, to simply say if you don't feel this way or that you are wrong and bad and evil. 

I prefer to be lead to a thought process, perhaps even a conversation between myself and friends, to come to my own conclusion about these topics. There have been a number of shows over the years that accomplished this well. Most of them didn't last more than one or two seasons. It appears shows that want you to think are not popular in America. What this says about the plurality of Americans is depressing. 

There is an old saying "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American movie-going public." It appears that this also applies to the American television-watching public.

And now, back to my reflections...

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