Jean Luc Picard: A hero who inspires hope for humanity
Jean-Luc Picard is a hero. He has been a leader, an explorer and a teacher to those around him. But he's also much more than that. Jean Luc Picard reminds us of humanity's hopes and dreams for the future by giving us stories that challenge what it means to be human as well as set the bar higher when it comes to measuring the value of what you choose to do with your own life.
Jean-Luc Picard was put on trial by the Q Continuum after they discovered that he had broken their laws and interfered in the development of a primitive race (The people native to where Captain Picard's crew were exploring for new life). He did this because his crew, under his guidance, decided it would be best if they showed the people of that planet how to make first contact with other races and spread knowledge about the universe. The trial was a way for the Q Continuum to show Picard that he is not invincible and can be punished for his actions, even if they were meant to do good
At the end of the trial, Q tells Picard that, "we are always watching", letting Picard know that all his actions from then forth would be weighed in the balance for the future continued existence of humanity. Think of that for just a moment... Most people today have a hard time behaving themselves in the context of believing there is already an omnipotent being weighing the souls... Now imagine the fate of all humanity resting on you making the right decisions. Talk about pressure!
The thing I would like to look at with you from here though, is how did this affect Picard since in the show, he does not pay much attention to this experience in subsequent episodes where Q was not involved. With that in mind, I would like to look at questions such as : Did knowing he was being watched change his actions? How might seeing the fragility of our existence influence his world view?
To answer these questions let's first look at how Picard acted after meeting the Q. Picard is known for his "no win" scenarios, in which he faces impossible odds but still manages to come out on top. After meeting the Q, Picard is suddenly put into a number of these situations, each time being asked whether or not humanity is ready to join the galactic community.
Picard's response was always the same: that humanity is a flawed species, but one that has the potential to do great things.
Interestingly, this answer in turn poses yet another question: if Picard believed humanity was capable of being more than it currently showed itself to be, what exactly did he think we were going to achieve? This series of events led us up until the finale episode in which Jean Luc decided he had to fight the Borg.
This choice to fight the Borg is important because, fighting the Borg was a way of showing that humanity is capable of more than just being a bunch of animals trying to survive. It also showed that Picard believed in his crew, and thought that they were worth saving. This willingness to fight for others is what makes Jean Luc such an inspirational character – he never once gave up, and he always tried to fight for those that couldn't do it themselves. Picard's willingness to stand by his principles is what has made him such a great character – as well as one of the most important examples of how humanity should act when faced with an unknown future.
As a father, I spend a lot of time looking at this uncertain future and wondering if we (humans) can face this uncertainty and act as boldly as Picard, or rather than saying "can we", perhaps it is better to ask "will we?". After all, history has proven to us that in the face of overwhelming odds, that we can band together and take action to make incredible things happen, but it has also provided ample examples of us simply failing to act at all...
Which takes us to our next insight into the mind of Captain Picard, how might have seeing the fragility of our existence influenced his world view?
We can find a hint to this in his own words: "All I have seen teaches me to trust the creator for all I have not seen."
Picard's view of death is also an important factor – he was famously known as being unwilling to break the Temporal Prime Directive. This could be because Picard saw time as something sacred, and also as something that should be respected. This idea of respect for time, is what I think lies behind Picard's view on life and death which is a gift given to us by the creator, which we are responsible for protecting until our own end.
For me, this is best illustrated in my favorite Next Generation episode, The Inner Light, which is in part based on verses from the Tao Te Ching. In this episode, Picard is given a second chance after being hit by a probe that downloads all of the history and culture of the planet of Kataan into his mind, causing Picard to perceive experiencing the life of a Bajoran living through the final years of the collapse of their civilization. During this time Picard lives a second lifetime that he spends with his wife, son, and close friends in his community, all the while watching as things decline around him. The rains stop, crops fail, people die and unlike onboard the Enterprise, technology never is able to save the day.
The effect of this is devastating on the captain. Picard comes back to the Enterprise confused and disorientated. He can't understand how his crew mates are so quick to put this life behind them, until he realizes that they don't know what happened to him – almost as if it never took place.
Picard lives with these memories for the rest of his days on board the Enterprise because for him, they are as real as the life he is living now.
This episode shows us that Picard understands that life is precious, and that no one knows when their time might come and ultimately the hubris in living as though we will always be here. I pose that this understanding makes Picard value every moment he has, and also drives his willingness to fight for protecting life, both in the singular, as well as on the level of entire civilizations, a trait that yet again history shows us humanity up to this point, has lacked.
In the end, I hope that you too have found Jean Luc Picard to be an important example of how humanity can face the future head on, and what we can accomplish when we band together. His character has inspired us to believe it is possible to maintain hope in the face of overwhelming odds, and that by standing by our principles, we can make a difference in this world as we continue to face uncertainty.
If my take on the lessons we have to learn from Captain Picard has inspired you, please leave us some comments telling us in what ways you agree, and if you disagree with my stance, please let us know as well! The Star Trek universe is a place full of rewards for all of us so thank you for sharing this experience!
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