By Leah S. Abrams
What I hope is that we learned, learned so very much, about how to make a different world rather than the familiar, severely broken one, how to live up to the promise of our species.
But we have been here before. Nothing, except maybe The Big Bang, and probably not even that because surely it too was replicating a previous event, is actually unprecedented. I am about as weary of that term as I am the word “pivot” and the most worn-out phrase of them all, “lean in.” How many songs, poems, essays, lectures, etc., etc. tell us how “it’s all just a little bit of history repeating”? (If the reader is interested, the writer hears the great Shirley Bassey in her head while typing that.)
At the cult favorite’s highly contested final episode of the early 00’s “Battlestar Galactica” remake, I wept, a good deal. Now, if you’ve watched a show or film with me, you know this is not all that unusual. Early on, I learned that the people who torment you for being too sensitive, crying too easily, will largely give you a pass on the behaviour if it’s in a dark theatre, in response to something seemingly external like, say, “E.T.” (And here the writer would like to thank Adam F. Goldberg for “The Goldbergs” episode addressing those of us who had a hyper-emotional response to the 1982 Stephen Spielberg hit.) The art that affects me that powerfully hits somewhere fundamental to my core, often a message I take as commentary on the human species at large.
I remember watching that last “Battlestar Galactica” episode and thinking I would opt for Captain Adama’s choice – just sit it out, alone, peaceful, quiet, with a stellar natural view, lost in time with recently deceased love-of-life. (Did I not warn you that there are spoilers? They remade the thing nearly two decades ago, so this is on you.) After all that battling and seeking, to come to realize there’s nothing most humans (or cylons) can offer that will bring the calm of solitude, of giving the brain over to the person who created joy, inspired, was your comfort and confidence and confidant, even if they’ve departed to another dimensional energy. For me, then, I imagined spending eternity with memories of my dad who died a couple of years before the show came out.
If I could, though, I also thought at that viewing, I would opt for the Starbuck out. To realize the pattern never ceases repeating, that the only way out for real is to let go entirely of the self, to accept that a thousand lifetimes will pass and the humans will keep not retaining the great lessons supposedly learned, doomed to be the species that willingly rejects its ability to transcend all its innate potential, forever choosing instead to give over to its most base selfishness and savagery. One may say it’s the chimp in us beating down the inner bonobo.
But the truth of it is that I’m still a bit of a Lee Adama – having seen the potential to do it all differently, holding onto the dreamer’s vision of actually creating a global society where cities and countries and borders are at last dispersed with in the great realization that they are a construct like so much of our lives.
Frankly, it is a shame that our global pandemic has not featured a universal required viewing of that “Battlestar Galactica” redux. There they were – years of warring and re-learning to literally save the species from extinction, a species thrown from its own planet, searching for this mythical Eden called Earth. Too many of us humans refuse to recognize just how close to the brink we are and that our supposed progression has largely amounted to over-population and unnecessary infringements on our planet, resulting in catastrophic destruction.
Chew on this offering from biologist Edward O. Wilson on if humans were to suddenly disappear: the earth “would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten-thousand years ago.” But “if insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.” Why do I raise this point? Insect numbers and diversity are declining at alarming rates: a decrease of 80% in numbers and 40% in diversity of New Hampshire’s beetles, Netherlands’ butterfly numbers down 85%, in Germany, a 30% drop in species in widely protected grasslands and forests. (Kolbert, Elizabeth; “Where Have All the Insects Gone,” National Geographic, 05-2020.)
There is only one answer for surviving ourselves and we learned, throughout this last year, that it is achievable. Already, though, I fear we are largely turning our back on the lessons. Our worldwide break from “flying the friendly skies” and clogging up roads and bridges every morning and night in some bizarre insistence that all the humans go to their little cubes at the same time, largely resolved our climate impact problem. I am not suggesting we stop everything for all time, but what if we were able to collectively celebrate that success, so inspired by its actuality that we came together and rose to our potential?
We choose to poison the planet. We choose to create societies around money and power, both made up by us. What we value, how we categorize and judge and demonize other members of our species? It is all made up by us. We have within us, and we have now seen real-time evidence of this, the ability to team up more universally to create a better reality for the entirety of our own species while simultaneously reversing our massacre of every other living species and our shared home, a planet revered above all else in “Battlestar Galactica.”
The more time marches itself along in the linear fashion we’ve put upon it, the more confounded I am by we humans. Over and over, we willingly battle; destroy; see things as winning over someone else, succeeding only when we can see another lose, suffer. Instead of realizing that the energy spent tearing others down could be rerouted to create what amounts to “paradise on earth” for all, we prefer to boost ourselves at the expense of others.
Still, like the younger Adama, I can’t quite let go of the glimpse of the possible. And I can’t quite help feel but the last year has taught me more about what is actually important and how our time could be spent if we weren’t in such a hurry to return to the constructs of martyring behaviour that leaves us at our worst, doomed forever to the repetition of global illness.