Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A thought for another day

The Kitten is feeling much better, so much she was able to watch a few episodes of Supernatural and then Deep Space Nine. Watching with her, I became very aware how much the second season episodes of DS9 focus on mysteries, conspiracies, myths, and irrealities, and so also tackle theology, intrigue, self-awareness, romance, and paradise.

The episodes are very interwoven to highlight this theme: what is directly in front of us requires as much magic, illusion, deception, and fantasy to sustain as what we think the real to be. The mysteries require us to piece together all the different threads into a single narrative, but each episode highlighting this kind of logic also undermines the process of the narrative: every single episode with a mystery also contains a deceiving construct either intentionally leading us astray or unintentionally so. Either we are being duped so that someone can advance ahead in the political games of power, or we are being duped because we cannot think our way out of what we take for granted.

It has been a very long time since I've watched DS9, and when I did, I was a young mind not at all aware of how games-within-games, stories-within-stories work. I think it's the multi-layered narratives that make us more "adult," because it takes a mature and experienced mind to really figure out how social dynamics become political ones. Spies, detectives, and powerful political leaders and tyrants all have to think on multiple levels simultaneously, to outwit their opponents by fully becoming their opponents in their thinking, even in their values. It's this kind of reasoning that makes an episode such as "Paradise" so amazing, given how the Star Trek universe is intentionally a secular and atheistic one. By portraying the logic of a child-sacrificial, punitive God, the episode presents a theological justification for rebellion: more precisely, for anarchy—and the man who models this is Benjamin Sisko, who at this stage in the narrative is a company man through and through, and yet who is enough of a father to let his son choose a life outside of Star Fleet. Compare this reasoning to the argument against the Greater Good in the episode "Armageddon Game" (noting the title stresses it's a game), where Sisko again demonstrates fidelity to his principles as deliberately forcing the tyrant to make good on the threats. I don't think it is mere coincidence, then, that Sisko is black (there are also some racial undertones in "Armageddon Game" related to this).

When I think about the aspect of believing from the standpoint of how we tell these stories, making a pattern out of the chaos of events, I recognize this is also the theme I will be going with next semester in my philosophy class, a theme present in so much of philosophy: disabusing ourselves of the constructed pattern towards understanding ourselves as an invented thing. We have to leave behind the constricting narratives that promise happiness while denying liberty, pass through the moment of understanding what choice we have once we know everything is a lie, and learn to do the impossible: love one another. Philosophy not oriented in its principles towards increasing our understanding and practice of love is mental masturbation in the full sense: you are only fucking yourself, your own ego.

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