Who Are You Not to Be?
by Susan Mokelke

Note from the Editor: Susan Mokelke is an intensely driven human being, a woman of strong convictions and deep beliefs who spends countless time developing a global alliance, 2000&One, that fosters the ideal of unity. Susan also works for Turner Designs, Inc., a manufacturer of optical instruments--fluorometers and luminometers--for the environmental, scientific and industrial communities.

"Klaatu barada nikto." As a child, I remember practicing this phrase conscientiously after watching the science fiction classic The Day the Earth Stood Still. After all, who knew when you might need it to stop a futuristic robot from destroying the Earth? The movie's portrayal of the noble alien, misunderstood by humans afraid of the unknown, stuck with me, and I remember vowing that I would try to react to such a visitation with more understanding.

I love science fiction--from the innocent human-centered episodes of early Star Trek to the later paeans to aliens, such as ET and Close Encounters. By looking at ourselves from the "outside," the best science fiction expands our viewpoint and allows us to see ourselves from a different, more enlightened perspective. Through the eyes of those unfamiliar with humans, our petty cruelties and small-minded acts, as well as our potential for courage and giving, can be seen clearly. And perhaps such clarity will lead to change.

In my Grandmother's time, her father destroyed her copy of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds, ordering her not to read such "trash." He was afraid radical ideas would corrupt her in some way.

Though I disagree with his methods, such concerns are very real. What we allow into our minds, the things we dwell on, most certainly have an effect. Science fiction makes you think--it should make you think, really think, about reality. That's the whole idea--by presenting a novel viewpoint, one that bounces up against our ordinary mindset, we are encouraged to examine what we know and believe, so that we can become better people.

Recently, I watched a television movie called Them. The premise in this case was classic. There were evil space invaders plotting to take the planet and enslave humanity for their own selfish needs. Since there are really no new plots, the originality comes in how the plot and characters are handled. I found the show moderately diverting in that the characters seemed to be likable people. The disturbing part to me came at the end. It was revealed that the aliens would conquer us by curing cancer and disease and by cleaning up our polluted environment; and it turned out that the aliens were responsible for these things in the first place! This is where it becomes important to think. I have difficulty with anything that attempts to put the responsibility for our problems on something "out there." We are responsible for the state of our world; we created our mess. We are the ones who have to clean it up.

We, and the precious living Earth, are not going to be saved from our folly from the outside--whether the outside influence is motivated for good or ill. I am convinced this is so, because life is about learning and becoming more conscious. Our problems goad us forward, forcing us to move beyond comfort, beyond the self. At the same time we are being driven from behind, we are being pulled forward by that which we love--drawn to preserve the natural beauty, the wondrous variety of creatures, a future for our children.

It is in the struggle to save the things we love that we become. It is not easy--it cannot be easy because it is not the easy things that make us strong. Humans are forged in fire--remember our origin in the cosmic fireball. We are designed to care deeply and to undertake amazing things out of this caring. When we are on the right track, we will receive help and inspiration from the Universe--grace, as some people say.

For me, the movie Phenomenon is one such source of inspiration. It is about the potential for love that resides in each one of us. It is about responsibility, creativity, and deep connection. It is about what happens to us when we are faced with the new and the strange--the fear, suspicion, impulse to exploit, as well as the love, understanding, and hope engendered.

For much of the movie, we think we are dealing with an alien visitation. In the end it turns out to be something much more than a mere visitation, yet truly inspiring in its reality. We are faced with an advanced human, a human using more than a tiny portion of the brain, and the possibilities are both thrilling and terrifying. To think that such potential resides in each one of us!

Quoting Marianne Williamson, in his 1994 Inaugural speech, Nelson Mandela said:

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?
Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory that is within us.
It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
Science fiction allows us to think about the present reality. In stepping back and looking at ourselves through different eyes, we can see that we have the potential to become more than we thought possible from our limited viewpoint. Who are you not to be?

What can be imagined, can be embodied right here on Earth. As one Star Trek Captain commands: "Make it so!"

Published November 2, 1997
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