For in the multitude of middle-aged men who go about their vocations in a daily course determined for them much in the same way as the tie of their cravats, there is always a good number who once meant to shape their own deeds and alter the world a little. The story of their coming to be shapen after the average and fit to be packed by the gross, is hardly ever told even in their consciousness. -George Eliot, Middlemarch
I watched a lot of the TV show, Battlestar Galactica, yesterday. John, Christa, Mitch, and I cruised through the second half of season two on Netflix. Lots of couch time and Christa was mostly napping. The premise of the show is one which should hardly lend itself towards wish fulfillment. It's set sometime in the future with just under 50,000 humans left in existence. They have escaped the destruction of their home worlds by automatons called Cylons that seek to wipe out humanity. The remaining humans live furtively on a colony of spaceships.
The Galactica is the military ship with them, and the show follows the members of its crew. A small crew of "Viper" pilots are the fleet's defense against Cylon raiders. They constantly face death, hardly sleep, have lost most of the people they know, and don't believe in the legendary planet, Earth, that the president is searching for. And in addition to their military troubles, the people in the fleet still have civilian conflicts: lack of supplies, political unrest, dealings with the black market. Even though so few humans are left, people still occasionally shoot each other.
It shouldn't be a scenario I would want for my life, and yet sometime in the five-ish hours I watched it yesterday I got a little jealous. These characters got to be heroes. The Viper pilots live together and drink together and get pissed at each other and know each other. And then they go out and die or live in the service of saving humanity.
And what do we, American college graduates entering adulthood, have to look forward to? As far as I've seen, the giant norm is to work about 40 hours a week in order to watch the number on your online bank account go up. A race for property to sit down in and a retirement package to be dripped intravenously. A successful life is to gain security after security and to keep an opaqueness that, if you're lucky, comes across as serenity.
And it seems to me that childhood has prepared us for something better than that. I used to sit in our towel closet for hours with the light on imagining one thing after another. We had fairy tales and dinosaurs and myth. And then we had pirates and Peter Pan. Narnia. Tolkien. And then we had dreams of travel after we were done with school and that constant struggle to buck the yoke of authority imposed on us by parents and teachers. College, Whitworth, at least, allowed us to indulge in subjects that were interesting and expansive instead of simply technical or job-related.
And now we're out. There is no more parental authority and yet I don't know what I can do except to tie my cravat and go to work with the rest of them.