I know that obviously there are a great number of things we can learn from Captain Picard and Star Trek: The Next Generation in general. Even a thing or two we might learn from Riker 😉 But “Tapestry” was on this past week and it struck me as particularly interesting.
In case you’re unfamiliar, Captain Picard suffers an electrical shock from the computer and since he has an artificial heart he’s dying. It turns out that when he was at the Academy a cocky, arrogant Picard picked a fight with a couple of aliens bigger and stronger than himself and he got stabbed in the back – right through the heart. They were able to save his life by giving him the artificial heart which is why he was so affected by the shock 30 years later. Q shows up and gives him the chance to change this regret from his past. He relives that moment in his youth and is responsible and disciplined, doesn’t get in a fight, doesn’t get stabbed. But 30 years later he’s not the captain. He’s a junior officer living a dreary existence. A man bereft of passion and imagination. [He] never had a brush with death, never came face to face with his own mortality, never realized how fragile life is or how important each moment must be. [So his] life never came into focus, [he] drifted through most of [his] career never seizing the opportunities that presented themselves. [He] learned to play it safe [and he] never ever got noticed by anyone.
So, Q gives him a second second chance and Picard goes back, foolishly picks a fight and laughs at the knife through his heart.
I liked his courage to do something foolish.
In fact, I liked that he embraced the foolishness of his past. When he wakes up on the table in sickbay at the end, he’s still laughing. He practically relished being stabbed through the heart because it would grant him the chance to live his life; a life of risk and turmoil and grief and courage and adventure. Living his particular life was more important than not dying. I would rather die as the man I was than live the life I just saw.
The question before us then, is what choice will we make looking forward in our lives rather than backward?
Do we, in our every day, choose to live with risk and courage and accept the turmoil that comes in pursuing adventure? Because it doesn’t come easily. Sometimes great things are required, choices and sacrifices and instability which is how we discover profound bravery within ourselves. It’s worth it if you know it’s worth it, you know.
Jean Luc Picard: There are many parts of my youth that I’m not proud of. There were loose threads, untidy parts of me that I would like to remove. But when I pulled on one of those threads it unraveled the tapestry of my life.