Totally Tuning In: “The Twilight Zone” and Telos

“Youth!
One day you have it and then,
Poof!
It’s gone with the wind;
It’s akin to the end!”

- K’NAAN

 As a kid, every New Year’s Eve and Day went the same. I’d watch “The Twilight Zone” marathon with my grandma and then bang pots and pans to proclaim the dawn of a new epoch. That same marathon occurs every Fourth of July. Well, I haven’t watched it in years, mostly because I’ve been a stubborn young adult too busy with his own petty concerns to return to his childhood passion. However, these days I’m doing research in Massachusetts. My roommates all went home for the holiday because they’re from this barren and desolate land of inadequate hot dog buns and incorrect pronunciation. So alone, hot, and without meaning or purpose, I turned to that ancient paragon, that timeless rock of science fiction entertainment: “The Twilight Zone.”

So what makes this vignette worthy of a blog post? Well, first of all because I’m in the midst of mind-melting research that makes any attempt at profundity an exercise in futility, but secondarily because those twenty-two minute, black-and-white episodes have taught me something. They have reminded me of the importance of finding one’s future in the value of the past. Call me nostalgic and Procrustean, but I saw an episode all about a government that eliminates God and books and calls men obsolete because of their perceived inefficiency and otherness. Before my libertarian buddies need to change their underwear, I don’t see this as the natural outgrowth of the Obama administration. However, I do see it as the possible future of our planet due to an increased internationalism, the suppression and privatization of religion, and an unabated obsession with technology. I saw another episode (a very famous one) in which pig-like people use plastic surgery and other cosmetic techniques to change the “ugly.” In this vignette, I see reflections of a society obsessed with appearance in which people feel pressured to change how they look, to homogenize themselves to reflect a certain Kojèvianism. Yet another was about releasing Satan into the world in the name of justice, mercy, and truth. Need I say more?

What does this mean for me? It means a renewed sense of who I am and where I’m going; it means a renewal of a desire to see the good in the world. Through a childhood love, I have come serendipitously to my own non-Nietzschean amor fati. What’s this mean for you? Well, I’m hopeful that I’ll reach a few fans of the show, but more importantly I am hopeful that it’ll encourage people to look into their pasts for treasures whose soft glow can illuminate the future. What is to come is necessarily in darkness and even the brightest lantern of the past cannot tell us what is to be, but it can prepare us and guide us: “What has been, that will be; what has been done, that will be done. Nothing is new under the sun!Even the thing of which we say, ‘See, this is new!’ has already existed in the ages that preceded us.” If nothing else, such an exercise can be an excuse to indulge ourselves in a bit of nostalgia, but at its greatest it becomes a reason to open the tombs of the past, digging through what has been to understand who we are.