Monday, January 14, 2013

Remember Me Like This

Warning: Nerd talk ahead.

Yesterday I finished watching all seven seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.  My sister was right - once I got through the first two season, the show, its characters, its themes, got deeper and more compelling.  It dealt honestly with issues of faith, love, suffering, ethics, war, peace and the compromises we make to bring about a future we want.  Gul Dukat was one of my favorite characters even though he was TERRIBLY EVIL; that actor managed to make him compelling, charismatic and even sympathetic.
You know you've watched too many episodes in a row
when you start to think, "Dukat's actually good looking.
Even more than that, Dukat was one of the most compelling characters on the show because he was one of the most complicated.  Throughout the series you saw him carry out acts of great evil and acts of great compassion, and we the viewers were hurt deeply by his betrayals because WE KNEW HE WAS CAPABLE OF BETTER.  He had PROVED he was capable of better, but chose otherwise.  That's great writing because it's what we all experience in real life.  No one is actually all good or all bad (sorry Aragorn).  Life is much closer to Game of Thrones than it is to Lord of the Rings.

The finale of the show was sad, but I didn't cry until close to the very end when Odo and Kira were saying goodbye to one another.  Odo had chosen to return to his dying people, to heal and lead them off the path of destruction.  That choice meant he would leave behind the woman he loved.  
FINALLY.  It only took 7 seasons.
She let him go because she loved him.  Before Odo rejoined his people, he shape-shifted to appear he was wearing a Tuxedo.  That was the way he wanted her to remember him, that was the last image he wanted her to have.  "Remember me like this."  I cried - not just because two people who loved each other were letting one another go.  I also cried because the separation that I experience from Cliff has none of the gentle release and honor that Odo and Kira underwent.

If only we actually had the ability to determine the anchoring images we leave in people's minds.  There are times when I can call to mind the good, the beautiful, the sacred images of Cliff.  But when I am especially angry and betrayed (STILL?), Cliff seems more like Gul Dukat: one who could have chosen better, knew to choose better, and instead wielded his choice like a weapon that severed me in half.

There is a maudlin moral to this: that we must be careful about how we live because we can never be sure what moment in time will become the image that someone brings to mind when they seek to remember us.  But it is more than that - we are all constantly being barraged by choices, choices that will define not only our lives but the lives of unknowable others around us. We do not have the benefit of a good writing staff to find meaning in the suffering or joys of life.  We only have each fragile moment presented to us and we have to be deliberately and unfalteringly AWARE of who we are choosing to become.  Gul Dukat was at times sympathetic and compassionate, but the totality of his choices made him evil and destructive.  The totality of his choices put a metaphysical asterisk by any act of good he did.

May you live a life that leaves behind images of compassion, sacrifice, love, forgiveness and grace.  May you live a life that does not require asterisks by your achievements.  May you be able to say to those you love "Remember Me Like This" and believe that they will. 

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