Where do you live?
Star Trek fans will love this analogy from writer Sheila Jacobs as she grapples with some real life parallels
I expect no one was more pleased than I was when Freeview channel Pick recently started to show repeats of the 1990s classic Star Trek spin-off, Deep Space Nine. (If you’re not into Star Trek, you’ll probably stop reading at this point but if you're curious, stay with me!)
I’m a bit of a Trekkie. I like the original series with the iconic Captain Kirk, and the Next Generation is pretty entertaining. Even Voyager has its moments. But Deep Space Nine? Now, that’s in a league of its own. Overall, there’s a great story arc, with the Dominion war; the shapeshifters who don’t trust ‘solids’ – that’s everyone else – themes of distrust, fear, persecution and oppression. In the end, there’s no real triumph over enemies. But there is a hope for new understanding between races. This all gains momentum over seven series. It improves as it goes along – great writing, great characterisation, all set around a world that has been enslaved by an oppressive force for many years.
Deep Space Nine (DS9) is a space station that belongs to the planet Bajor. The Bajorans have been slaves to the oppressive Cardassians for fifty years, but now they’re free. DS9 is administrated by the Federation (comprised of humankind and various other species), and the (first black) commander is called Benjamin Sisko. A wormhole, a passageway to another part of the galaxy, opens up near the station, meaning trade and possible friendship with new species. And of course, new troubles too: plus conflict, tension and surprises; all of which makes for good fiction. There are so many deep themes here. I’m sure you can already see some.
The very first episodes of the re-run had me gripped because of something in particular. Sisko has lost his wife, Jennifer. When he makes contact with the aliens who live in the newly discovered wormhole, he finds they are very different to human beings. They communicate by taking the forms of people he knows. And he finds himself consistently in the place where his wife was killed. He cries out; he doesn’t know why the strange life forms keep bringing him to the same place; the most terrible event of his life. But they tell him that they aren’t doing that. They tell him that this is where he exists. Then Benjamin realises that he has never moved on from Jennifer’s death. He lives there.
This always speaks hugely to me. I often find myself living in the past. Because I am a book editor, I look back and see my story and wish I could edit out much of it – the bits I got wrong; the bits where I didn’t respond well! I think we are often in danger of ‘stopping’ in time, especially where something massively impacted us. Somehow we go on living, and yet we don’t. There are many reasons we may find ourselves dwelling in yesterday. Perhaps we are comfortable there.
Experts tell us there are cycles of grief – but grief doesn’t always have to be around someone who has passed away. We can grieve a relationship that didn’t work; a dream that has died – many things – as well as someone or something we lost, naturally or tragically.
Benjamin didn’t realise that he was trapped in the past. Sometimes we don’t realise it either. But in realising we are ‘stuck’, at least we can ask the question: Do I want to move on? Where do I live? Where does my mind frequently ‘rest’? It’s worth thinking about.
Star Trek Deep Space Nine is on PICK at 6pm
Sheila Jacobs is an award-winning author of 18 books to date, including Humbug and Happiness (DLT), and a freelance editor, working for several Christian UK publishers. She loves encouraging new authors, and has had an eBook published, An Editor’s Brief Guide to Writing (Malcolm Down). Her dystopian novel Watchers has just been published as an eBook (Malcolm Down). Sheila is a day chaplain and retreat leader in a retreat house, where she is hoping to run a series of writing workshops in 2021.
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