Several times today I’ve come across articles, passages in books, Facebook status blurbs, and news stories that each related to the idea of defining oneself. The question of one’s definition doesn’t seem a difficult thing on the surface.
At this juncture in thought, I came back to an episode of Babylon 5 where Delenn is taken captive on the station and subjected to torture to answer the question: who are you? Her tormentor is one who’s been performing his duty to ask this question of others for centuries. In the end the viewer discovers that his role has been penance instead of duty. Again, definition.
Delenn used the common definitions of name, race, planet, philosophy, gender, etc., all to no avail. With each rejected response, she was punished. If her answers were so wrong, what could this tormentor expect as a correct reply?
When the character, John Sheridan, was captured, trying to rescue his lady love, he was put to the torment so that she might come to the correct answer sooner. She did come up with it—the answer needed, the definition required.
When she was willing to relinquish her life for Sheridan’s, when she begged that he be released and she be punished for whatever ill had been perceived by the tormentor, she succeeded in satisfying his requirements. She had acknowledged that she was nothing without him, nothing of great value to the universe that couldn’t be replaced by another in the universe. She gave the answer necessary for freedom.
Looking back on that episode, I think about the meaning of her final answer and its appropriateness. Who are we, really? Are we more than the culmination of our words and deeds? If we ceased to exist in the blink of an eye, could not someone else fill that gap where we stood?
This idea doesn’t negate the one from “It’s a Wonderful Life.” It adds to it, if anything.
Our deeds, our interactions, color the lives of those around us. Those small impacts, tiny kindnesses, take on their own definition and purpose that exist beyond us. Those influences continue to influence beyond their initial occurrence. If we disappeared in the next eye blink, we’ve already given of and sacrificed a bit of ourselves. Those we’ve touched will fill in the gap where we stood.
I realized that our legacy is already in action. We have made our mark on the world and must stand by it. It has multiplied out of all recognition because we were here.
Our definition is the spirit we carry within us; one of caring, striving, sacrificing, giving, loving to a degree beyond ourselves. Our names, dwellings, or wealth mean nothing when we stand at the edge of the abyss. We can only leap joyfully into space when we acknowledge that we are defined by our spirits and what they hold.