Thursday, August 23, 2012

Doctor Who Is My God

One of the last, great tenets that Christianity doggedly holds onto is the idea that all morality must come from God. Far better writers than I have demolished this notion but I want to speak to the idea myself. You see, my tongue seems to have gotten lodged in my cheek today and my snark factor is high. That said, I have a confession to make to all theists: my morality does indeed come from God...and Doctor Who is my God.

I wish to share my faith with you today which is based on my own version of "The Ten Whomandments" and is backed with the authority of 35 years of study and devotion. It goes a little something like this:

***spoilers ahead***

1. Never resort to violence first... How many times have we seen the Brigadier pull out a gun only to be told, "This isn't the way."? How many times have we seen the Doctor refuse to carry a firearm, much less use it. As he says in The Hand of Fear, "I think we should try much older weapons...speech, diplomacy...conversation." We don't have to tackle everyone and everything in life with all our guns blazing. Many times the simple, gentle approach is enough. Treat others the way you want to be treated.

2. ...but be prepared to make tough choices when all else fails. No matter how strong our morals or high-minded our purpose, some people will not work with us and will, in fact, do whatever they can to tear us down. The Tenth Doctor made a point of always giving the bad guys the option to stop hurting people and leave but he was prepared to deal with them when they refused. It's a sad fact but some people can't be reasoned with and they won't stop their destructive behavior. When this happens, we must make tough choices and be ready to accept the consequences of those decisions. Dealing harshly with others should never rest lightly on our shoulders.

3. The ends don't justify the means. We can become the monsters we hate. In Genesis of the Daleks, the Doctor had the option to destroy the Daleks before they became a widespread menace. He could not do it. If he committed genocide, he would have been a mass murderer just like them. Likewise, in Survival, he lamented his struggle with the Master saying, "If we fight like animals, we'll die like animals!" This was literally true but holds metaphorically too - when we choose the methods of our enemies, we become our enemies. What's the point of eliminating a threat if, in the process, we become just as vicious and corrupt?

4. Emotion is not a weakness. The Cybermen taunted the Doctor in almost every episode for having emotions that would not allow him to see his companions suffer. Yet the Doctor always maintained that his emotions were not weakness but rather a strength that made life worth living. In Earthshock he says, "For some people, small, beautiful events is what life is all about." It would be tempting for those of us with impaired emotions to buy into the Cybermen's idea that our feelings are a liability because they cripple us and make us vulnerable. Certainly, many of us have felt vulnerable or been manipulated because of our emotions. But the Doctor is right - emotion is what makes us human and gives us such wonderful things as love, compassion, and motivation. Our capacity for altruism and our ability to empathize help us form relationships deeper than any other animal could conceive of.

5. You can't save everybody. I love the Doctor's conviction that, "Nobody dies today!" It would be wonderful if we could save the world and always make things right. But the real world isn't like that. Not even the Doctor can always assure a perfect outcome. Over his life he has lost a few companions: Katarina, Sara Kingdom, Rory Williams (although he came back to life) but no loss was probably more devastating than that of Adric. We're so used to seeing our heroes always save the day so it was quite a shock to see the Doctor watching helplessly and in horror as the Earthshock freighter collided with Earth taking Adric with it. As the credits rolled in silence against the backdrop of his broken star, I realized that no one is immune to suffering and death and no one can save us all. No matter how hard we try, we can't fix everything and we can't fix everyone. Sometimes decisions have consequences and those are out of our hands.

6. It's ok to be different. The Doctor has encountered all shapes, sizes, colors, and kinds of creatures in his travels and he tends to treat them all with respect. Whatever stance he takes is based on their actions and not on their particular race. Likewise, he treats our beloved bi-sexual Captain Jack Harkness the same as he treats anyone else. He even allows Jack to hug him and give him a kiss without going nuts about it. The Doctor is secure in his identity and has no need to torment others simply for being different.

7. There is always a rational explanation. Magic is high-tech science, gods are powerful aliens. The devil - well, we don't really know what that thing in The Satan Pit is but it's bound to make sense one day. In Robots of Death, the Doctor quips, "Nothing is inexplicable, only unexplained." This attitude keeps us searching for answers in a world where answers aren't always easy to come by. And it reminds us that the authoritative, "easy" answers we've been given may not always be the right ones. Rather than have the arrogance of one who thinks he has all the answers, it's far better to admit that we really know only a little about our world and we will unapologetically continue to search for the truth.

8. Megalomania sucks. There is no shortage of creatures out there who want to "rule the universe" though I suspect most of them wouldn't know what to do with it if they had it. Lust for power tends to become an uncontrollable, consuming force whether one wishes to dominate a galaxy or just a conversation. Take Davros for example: his quest for power scarred him both inside and out. Not only did he lose his eyes, legs, and one hand but he also lost his capacity for empathy and genuine relationships. He became dependent on "lesser" creatures and, ultimately, on his own creation (the Daleks) who despised him. Megalomania might look cool on TV for a while but it has ugly consequences. If you want to control everyone in your home, your workplace, or your community then be prepared. People may fear you but they won't love you. They won't even really respect you. And there will always be those who are looking for your weakness and will take you down given the slightest opportunity. Piss off enough people and it's guaranteed that you won't be able to hold that power for long no matter how smart you are or how well you've done for yourself. Nobody likes a control freak.

9. Everyone has value. In The End of Time, the Doctor has to make a choice: he can surrender his life to save an old man or he can walk away and just let the guy die. He rages against this choice saying, "...look at you, not remotely important...but me? I could do so much more! So much more! But this is what I get. My reward." In a moment of self-awareness, he realizes that he has gone too far, he's lost a vital part of himself to his own pain and fury. He is not the man he thought he was. But here was one simple human who needed help...a person of value. The Doctor sacrifices himself to save this man saying, "Wilfred, it's my honor..." We likely won't ever be called on to give our lives for another person but what if we took the time to try to see the value in others? What if we struggled with our own faults before mindlessly searching them out elsewhere? What if our honor depends on being true to our principles, especially when it's no longer convenient?

10. Life can be fun no matter your destination. Most of us are not where we want to be and many of us will never get to see and do the things we've dreamed about. But that's ok. The Doctor reminds us in Kinda that, "...there's always something to see if you keep your eyes open." It's just as well that he holds to this philosophy because we know he rarely ends up where he plans. That's just part of the fun for him, though. No matter where he goes or who he travels with, he knows he will find excitement and adventure because his mind is open to new possibilities. Some of us don't get to travel too far but the world around us holds more mystery than we can possibly comprehend.  Don't be afraid to explore your reality. You don't have to understand it all in order to enjoy it. Let life knock your socks off every once in a while! Be amazed and share that with a friend.

Why are you still here? The universe is waiting!

*This post is reprinted from my old blog in its entirety and, of course, with my permission.