Thursday, April 4, 2013

Latent Image

A little break before the last post in the Victory series.

I am a Star Trek fan. I remember when I was a kid our family watched reruns of the original series, although I was very young. Then Star Trek: The Next Generation came out. We watched the first episode live through a massive unwieldy contraption on the top of our house called an "antenna". This was back when the best shows were on TV channels called "networks" which broadcast their content for free, sort of like radio stations. It was before DVR and even, dare I speak it, before DVDs. So every Sunday night our family would gather around the ol' cathode ray tube and watch the starship Enterprise go where no man had gone before. It was the only show we watched as a family. Our parents tightly controlled what we watched on TV. So naturally when Star Trek: Voyager came out we started watching that one too. That is until the second in command showed the captain how to find her spirit guide. I think it was a lizard or something. In The Next Generation it would have turned out to be an alien trick or even a first contact situation, but in Voyager it was real.

After that there was no more Voyager for me until the age of DVDs and Netflixx. A year or so ago I watched the first four seasons on borrowed DVDs. Just this week I started watching the last three on Netflixx, starting with season five. The episode called Latent Image peaked my political and philosophical interests a bit. Voyager is a really good show. Shows don't get seven seasons unless they are good. But it has also never hidden it's obvious ideological persuasions. When those persuasions come too close to the surface, the show is less enjoyable for me, even somewhat vulgar. But sometimes the ideology shows through when the authors aren't trying, and that is quite interesting.

In Latent Image, the doctor, a computer program who has evolved sentience and is represented by a hologram, finds out his memory of a certain incident is being erased every time he tries to recover it. Turns out, the event being erased from his memory was one of those famous redshirt deaths. The doctor apparently has a bit more moral issues with the death of a hitherto unknown character than everyone else. But it's because he had two people in his sickbay who needed a life-saving operation, and he only had time to save one. So he made the choice to save the main character instead of the redshirt. He is wracked with guilt that what he did was wrong, to save the one he knew and not the other. His memory was erased by the rest of the crew after he became so agitated over what he'd done he could no longer function properly. But after he finds out, they decide to help him through his existential quandary instead of taking the easy way out and just erasing it from his memory again. In the climactic scene he sits in a chair accompanied by the captain, who is reading a book. The captain narrates:

"Our doctor is now our patient. It's been two weeks since I've ordered a round the clock vigil. A crew member has stayed with him at all times offering a sounding board and a familiar presence while he struggles to understand his memories and his thoughts. The chances of recovery? Uncertain."

The doctor expresses his diseased thoughts: "The primordial atom burst sending out its radiation, setting everything in motion. One particle collides with another. Gases expand, planets contract, and before you know it we've got starships and holodecks and chicken soup. In fact, you can't help but have starships and holodecks and chicken soup because it was all determined twenty billion years ago!" He winds around like this, ending at the thoughts and feelings that started all this: "I can't live with the knowledge of what I've done. I can't." He turns to the captain, only to find she has fallen asleep. He wakes her up, rants a bit more, and then tells her to go get some sleep. She leaves behind a book, Dante's book of poetry called "A New Life", written about the woman he loved and lost, where he concludes that the purpose of both his joy and sorrow, an experience shared by all humanity, was to give human beings a taste of the love God has for us. The doctor begins to read.

It struck me as the perfect analogy of the end of the progressive worldview. Faced with all the same difficult questions humanity has struggled with for thousands of years, they have nothing to offer. They yawn, look from side to side wanting to be anywhere but here, and if pressed reach into the latent image of our Christian heritage without acknowledging their debt to it, after which they leave the room. They have no answers to the world's real problems. Their solution is to forget them, ignore them and fall asleep. Christianity has forgiveness for what we've done, not from other humans but from God Himself, the Almighty and All-Knowing Merciful Judge, who asks only that you trust Him, a trust without which no one could accept His judgments anyway. He asks very little, and offers great forgiveness. Next to that, progressivism has only materialism and evolution. Get past it somehow. Forget. It's a disease. You need treatment. There's no meaning in the universe anyway. It was all bound to happen. You had no choice so stop trying to find any sense where there is none. Your questions are meaningless. Your struggles are nothing more than evolutionary holdovers from millions of years ago which have outlived their usefulness. Progressivism is a house built on sand. We must only wait for the rains to come down and the floods to come up.

"God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God."

Now that's whack.