Hello Spiritual Seekers! And welcome to another “Examining the Spiritual Elements of Movies” episode of Think Spiritual Podcasts!
Except that today I’m actually going to talk about an episode from a TV series, not a movie. However, this particular episode was the first episode of the series and it was a double-length episode, so it really could be considered a movie of sorts.
And now that I’ve bumbled through the semantics of my podcast title and subject matter, perhaps I can move on and get started. I’m sure you would appreciate that.
What I want to talk about today is Star Trek: Deep Space Nine; a show that I love largely because of this particularly incredible message contained within its first episode. I do enjoy most of the characters and the long-form story arch and I absolutely love the primary theme music for this iteration of the Star Trek franchise—that is until the producers decided to increase the tempo of it in later seasons and ultimately ruined the majesty of it.
Once again, I digress from my main point.
As I said, my primary love for DS9 comes from this one specific theme that starts in the first episode and continues right up to the last. It is, of course, overshadowed by story and action elements quite often, but for the most part DS9s primary message was that the true human adventure was within one’s self. I think because the show took place on a space station the writers and producers actually had to have some kind of internal journey going on with many of the characters.
Another space-station oriented series also produced during the 1990s, Babylon 5, used similar thematic elements: possibly because it is highly likely that Deep Space Nine perhaps...um...shall we say...borrowed these elements from the Babylon 5 production bible.
Anyway, that is an entirely different story and has no bearing on the spiritual concepts of this talk.
When Deep Space Nine begins, we are introduced to the main protagonist: Benjamin Sisko. During a battle with an alien species known as the Borg, Sisko’s ship is destroyed. He manages to get into an escape pod with his young son, Jake, and many other crew members, but Sisko’s wife, Jennifer, was killed during the attack.
Three years later, Sisko has been promoted to the rank of commander and he has been put in charge of an old Cardassian space station that is in orbit over a planet called Bajor. The Cardassian occupied Bajor for decades, but now the occupation has ended and the Federation has taken over the station and rechristened it as Deep Space Nine.
And we learn very quickly that Sisko is not happy to be there and that he is, in fact, a very angry man. His anger boils and seethes within him and the actor who plays Sisko, Avery Brooks, does an excellent job of making this very clear when necessary. You can practically see him fighting down his emotions when particular scenes call for it.
As I mentioned, Deep Space Nine is in orbit around a planet called Bajor. Bajor’s inhabitants are a deeply spiritual race of people and their religion allows for some interesting story elements. While Star Trek series in general have always dealt with political and humanitarian issues, I feel that the use of spirituality in Deep Space Nine gave the series just that little bit more added depth and is perhaps why it is my favourite of the franchise.
Kai Opaka, one of the primary Bajoran spiritual leaders, is an engaging character and she understands that Benjamin Sisko does not wish to be on DS9 nor among the Bajoran people. She asks Sisko if he has ever explored his “pah” - his spiritual lifeforce. She tells him that she does not have the answers he seeks to solving DS9s problems. She tells him to look for solutions from within himself. She tells him that it is his destiny to find the Bajoran “celestial temple” and that he will be their emissary to the prophets.
Why the Bajorans believe that Sisko is to be the emissary and how that drama plays out during the course of the DS9 series is not important to this episode of Think Spiritual - for that matter, it’s been awhile since I’ve watched the series through and I simply can’t remember all the details, but the point here is that Sisko does find the “Celestial Temple” which turns out to be a stable wormhole connecting the Alpha and Gamma quadrants of the Milky Way galaxy.
It also turns out that there is an alien species inhabiting the wormhole—those that the Bajorans call the “Prophets” and they make first contact with Sisko.
The Prophets find Sisko to be very strange and the strangest part of all is that they have absolutely zero concept of linear time or linear existence: to them, all times are now and everything that was is and everything that will be is. No past, no future: all is now.
So, Sisko begins the rather laborious task of teaching the wormhole aliens about linear time and during this process, as the concept dawns upon the aliens, they continually bring Sisko back to the moment when he finds his wife dead during the battle with the Borg.
He asks them why: Why do you always bring me back here?
And they reply: You exist here.
Sisko says: I don’t understand.
The aliens emphasize: You exist here.
The scenes of Sisko’s life change, but eventually come back around to the moment he sees his dead wife: What is the point in bringing me here? He asks.
The aliens reply: We do not bring you here. You bring us here. You exist here.
And slowly it dawns on Benjamin Sisko that he never actually left the day nor the ship where his wife died. In his mind, within his self he exists only in that moment in time.
And once Sisko realizes this, once he understands that it is not linear, once he knows that he has never moved forward from that moment in time, once he grasps that life is not within his control, he finally begins to properly grieve the loss of his wife.
I wish I could truly express to you the power of this moment and the emotion I feel when I watch it, because to me it is one of the most (if not the most) profound scenes I have ever witnessed in any television show or movie.
You exist here.
Hero’s Journey and mythology time again, folks. Remember, you are the hero, you are Sisko and like Benjamin Sisko you often do exist within a specific moment or in various moments of time.
Sisko had not moved on from the moment he saw his wife lying dead amongst the broken wreckage. He was stuck in that moment of time and it was a choice that he made. He chose to exist there. Oh, of course he continued to live his standard corporeal existence. He ate, he slept, he took care of his son, he did his job: but inwardly he only saw his dead wife and it was eating him alive. Sisko made the decision to not move forward.
And as I said, like Sisko we do the same thing so very often. If something traumatic happens we can fixate on it so thoroughly that we never move from that spot. We constantly think: if only I could go back and change it.
For that matter, we can actually fixate on something good. We can remember that good time and wish for it again so much that we never move on. We can miss all the other good things that happen because we yearn so strongly for that other good thing that has long passed.
We can’t change the bad and we cannot permanently retain the good in this life. We live a linear existence and we must always continue to move forward and we must always live in the now or we will never experience life as it is. If we do not move forward, we will only be left unsatisfied and constantly wishing for what “could have been” or “what was”.
“Could have been” and “what was” is not what “is”. Constantly wanting what “could have been” or “what was” sticks you in a particular moment in time and it leaves you there unless you let go and move on.
Sometimes you need some help like Sisko did. Through their ignorance of linear time, the wormhole aliens help Sisko to begin to let go of that specific moment in time and to begin to move forward once again and actually exist in the now.
And I want you to do the same. I rather doubt you’ll find a Celestial Temple and some wormhole aliens to help you, but maybe my podcast on Supernatural Aid could help you to recognize the aid you have close by. I cannot give you what you deny your Self. You have to look for your solutions from within - sorry, just channeling a bit of Kai Opaka there.
I’m not saying that it will be easy and I’m not saying that you have to forget about your trauma or your good memories. What I am saying is that you have to leave those things in the past where they belong. Yes, let them influence you. Yes, let them shape you. Yes, let them define you to some extent (but not too much, please). All I ask is that you do not allow past events to control you. Do not exist back there in the depths of your memories. Move forward because moving forward is the only way to have a blissful life experience. Exist now because now is the only time that does exist.
And there you have it once again: the deeply spiritual elements that I see contained within the first episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
Thank you very much for listening today. I have been your host, Mark, and I truly hope the message of “you exist here” will someday mean as much for you as it does for me. I hope you do move forward in your quest to becoming a whole and complete you, I hope you continue to change your Self so that you can change your World.
I’ll see you on the next episode of Think Spiritual Podcasts.
Change your Self; change your World.