Sometimes we need these.
I’ve entered an odd time in my life. I’ve always considered myself optimistic, hopeful, positive. Recent events have tried those aspects. Political seasons generally do, but it’s more than that; Financial, career, relationship, and family stress has all driven into me something that is new. Compounded with the political and economic climate, as well as the actual climate, this new thing has nestled inside of me, and I have found it terribly difficult to shake loose. It’s always there, from the moment I wake up, to the moment I go to bed.
A deep, dark, gnawing fear for myself, my loved ones, and the world in general. When I’m not afraid for my own economic livelihood, I’m worried about our country’s, and the fallout that will bring. When I’m not stressed about my own relationship health, I am worried about the health of our globe in a way that is newer, darker, and more unshakeable than ever.
I guess there is an underlying level of anxiety running through our whole culture, and our generation. We need to work on helping each other through it. The only way through troubled times is together.
Bertolt Brecht had a problem with entertainment as it existed, in that it gave the audience a sense of catharsis. The problem with the catharsis was that the audience was imbued with a fall sense of conclusion, though the problems persisted. He had a point, of course. But there also comes a point when the problems are so daunting, so exhausting, that you cannot even muster the necessary hope needed to act. Sometimes we need that bright bit of light, artificial though it may be, to help us on our way.
I’m going to continue to stick to TV, and TV I deem “nerdy” with this post. I realize that of the popular mediums, television is probably the most dismissed, its legitimacy the most held in question (not counting The Wire, apparently). But it is the area I have the most familiarity with, and the most appreciation for, other than books.
This is a needlessly long introduction to this list, and I apologize. Without further ado, the five most hopeful episodes of Nerdom.
SPOILERS WARNING: This blog post describes some series finales: Battlestar Galactica, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Star Trek: The Next Generation
5. Battlestar Galactica, Sometimes a Great Notion
HAHAHAHAHA yeah I’m completely kidding, of course. The real episode is Daybreak Part 2 & 3, the series finale.
I’m not totally sold on how BSG ended, especially the mysteries of the opera house and the Final Five, but it’s no doubt an optimistic episode.
The idea is, this has all happened before, and will happen again. There is a presence, God or Gods, guiding us. Maybe, maybe we’ll get it right, and if not this time, than next time. Maybe the Angels are real, and will help us on our way.
Baltar: God’s not on any one side. God’s a force of nature, beyond good and evil. Good and evil, we created those. You wanna break the cycle? Break the cycle of birth? Death? Rebirth? Destruction? Escape? Death? Well, that’s in our hands, in our hands only. It requires a leap of faith. It requires that we live in hope, not fear.
4. Community, “Environmental Science”
For a sitcom, Community has a tendency to be kind of dark. This episode isn’t necessarily any more positive than any other episode, but the song really clinches it as an episode that fills me with this strange light, and hope. There’s no clear message, really, except for the message of, surprisingly enough, community, that persists through the show. And to me, it’s something very silly, and very touching. That gives me hope: humor, pathos, and community.
It’s not the same without the real video, but I can’t find it currently.
3. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Chosen”
Another series finale. Once again, not a perfect episode, by any means, but a wonderfully successful end to my favorite show ever. It wraps up the shows Evil is conquered, and the good win. Willow’s arc is complete, finally becoming the good witch she always was, channeling earth magic, etc… And the shot of the girls becoming slayers, well, that always chokes me up, honestly.
Buffy: So here’s the part where you make a choice. What if you could have that power, now? In every generation, one Slayer is born, because a bunch of men who died thousands of years ago made up that rule. They were powerful men. This woman is more powerful than all of them combined. So I say we change the rule. I say my power, should be *our* power. Tomorrow, Willow will use the essence of this scythe to change our destiny. From now on, every girl in the world who might be a Slayer, will be a Slayer. Every girl who could have the power, will have the power. Can stand up, will stand up. Slayers, every one of us. Make your choice. Are you ready to be strong?
2. Doctor Who, “Vincent and the Doctor”
It’s weird that such a tragic episode can be so uplifting. And yet, it is. That a person can be so depressed, so tormented that he takes his own life, and yet still finds the beauty in the world to give us such art, and whose vision still inspires us today, is beautiful. And hopeful. We can never know exactly what Vincent Van Gogh was really like, of course, but what matters is what the episode says about art, beauty, vision, and hope in the face of despair.
Van Gogh: Hold my hand, Doctor. Try to see what I see. We’re so lucky we’re still alive to see this beautiful world. Look at the sky. It’s not dark and black and without character. The black is in fact deep blue. And over there! Lights are blue. And blue in through the blueness, and the blackness, the winds swirling through the air… and then shining. Burning, bursting through! The stars, can you see how they roll their light? Everywhere we look, complex magic of nature blazes before our eyes.
1. Star Trek the Next Generation, “All Good Things…”
It just makes sense to have the season finales be hopeful, right? And man, what a positive message: Humanity is already a utopian society, free from war, illness, and greed. But Q tells us that we are still only beginning, that our species is going to go even further in the universe, to unknown lengths. We will become something greater and more magnificent than we ever could have imagined. This last episode had no great villain to defeat, no evil army. Just science, and the immeasurable creativity and strength of the human mind.
Q: The trial never ends. We wanted to see if you had the ability to expand your mind and your horizons. And for one brief moment, you did… For that one fraction of a second, you were open to options you had never considered. *That* is the exploration that awaits you. Not mapping stars and studying nebulae, but charting the unknown possibilities of existence.
Cpt. Jean Luc Picard: So, five-card stud, nothing wild. And the sky’s the limit.