Seeing that it’s Christmas, and I’m going through a midlife crisis, I thought I would further comment on the magic of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” That magic: the Re-vision of a person’s life has been played out on a number of TV shows. That 70’s Show undid a kiss, Moonlighting a meeting, etc. Each show played off the idea that life could be revised differently, playing to our many regrets. All of us have wondered from time to time how life might have been different if we’d chosen another option.
Here’s Star Trek’s version of the Capra classic, and whether you are a Sci fi fan or not, or a Trekkie, the message in this episode is broad enough to speak about the human condition.
In “Tapestry,” Captain Picard is killed on an away mission. His artificial heart is damaged and it fails him. He meets up with Q as an afterlife. Q is the Trek Universe’s answer to God–an amoral, irresponsible, uncompassionate God. Omnipotence with no ethics. Clarence with no caring. Q offers to change one aspect of Picard’s life, and he uncovers a pivotal moment when Picard loses his real heart in a fight with badass aliens, when he was a young officer. Picard never realizes that the moment is pivotal. Q transports him back in time to play out that moment when he was stabbed. Q forces him to either accept death, or find a way not to get stabbed and see what his life would have been like with a real heart instead of an artificial one.
Picard replays the days leading up to the argument, to the fight, to the stabbing, to avoid violence. To do this, he has to stop his friends from defending their honor, and in doing so, loses his friends–but gains his life. Q transports him back to the future–or to the present. Picard finds that he has a completely different life. A life void of risk, completely safe. And by playing it safe, Picard has become a Lt. Astrophysics analyst, who transports data back and forth to senior officers.
If you want the whole episode, go to Youtube and begin here.
But I think the end has the meat of the message. Watch here.
The difference here is not that Picard is pivotal in the lives of others. Undoubtedly he was. But that our risks bring about a person who can lead. Our risks, or lack of them, define us. George Bailey’s sacrifices define him. Picard’s daring defines him. What defines you?
For another take on this idea, here’s a heartwarming video by Garth Brooks called “Standing Outside the Fire.” Pardon me mixing Star Trek and country music, but the themes are nice together.