My friend recently introduced me to The Twilight Zone. The original ones from the early Sixties. There is a remake out now and I did some research and discovered there were two other reboots – one in the Eighties and one in the early 2000s. Seems like we have an appetite for new iterations every twenty years. Not to mention shows like Black Mirror and American Horror Story that, in part, owe a bit of recognition to what The Twilight Zone started.
What interests me about Science Fiction books and movies (and shows) is probably not a unique fascination. We like these kinds of shows because they tap into mystery. Sure they are strange and sometimes scary, socially conscious warnings and moral conundrums. But at the end of the day, it is the blinding uncertainty of life that we find both terrifying and fascinating.
How Real It Is?
It is no surprise I like The Twilight Zone stories. It is kind of strange that I never got into it before. I am a voracious reader and when people ask me what my favorite kind of book is, I often answer “Science Fiction”.
On the surface, science fiction is interesting because of its uniqueness. Reimagined worlds. Fascinating (and dangerous) futures. But I think the thing I love about science fiction is the sort of paradoxical way in which these fantasy elements speak to the truth of the world as we know it.
Certainty in our world is an illusion. An enticing one, but an illusion nonetheless. We are trying so desperately to “know” for sure. To have “our truth” become “the truth”. It is almost as if looking directly at a thing, ironically, has prevented us from being able to see it as it truly is. We are too close. It is too real, too familiar. We have adopted narratives and committed to our biases. We are well versed in siphoning every emotion and experience through those funnels and into the certainty we are sure they reinforce.
Then comes something odd and jarring, like a science fiction book or the well-timed question of a mentor, that challenges our preconceptions and helps us to more truly see what we were so sure we were already seeing truly.
This is my (and our) fascination with The Twilight Zone and science fiction in general. Not that it is showing what the world might become but that it is showing us what the world is. The stories are not warnings about where we are heading, they are warnings about where we are.
And these clever stories invite us to reexamine our perspective, to revisit life as we know it. They show us our blindspots, the uncomfortable truths we try so hard to ignore with the tyranny of the urgent.
Clarity Through Confusion
How is it that this is the case? Why do we need these work arounds to trick us into considering the complexities of life. The answer in a word is: mystery.
The discomforting truth is that life does not have a lot of solutions. It isn’t meant to. Life is a series of questions to consider. Science Fiction reminds us of those questions.
We don’t like confusion. Uncertainty. Mystery. But it is the very essence of life. The very core of the human experience. We demand it and clasp it to our own peril. We seek the freedom of solving all of life’s uncertainty only to make the illusion of control our shackles.
The reality of mystery does not need to terrify us. It is not something we have to lament. I mean, we do have to lament it, but that is not the full and solitary response. Mystery is also the cause of much beauty – things like a kiss or the composition of a sonnet, the way we feel when a symphony plays or standing on the edge of The Grand Canyon. Mystery is the only way to enjoy something bigger than ourselves.
So press in. Don’t be afraid of the questions, at least not cripplingly afraid. Life is found in them. Clarity in human life requires an acceptance of uncertainty. Welcome those parts of your life that invite you into this truth.