Episode 3.15: Destiny

It is a consistent theme both in my personal life and in this blog that science and faith are not mutually exclusive.  I think this episode really highlights how that can be achieved.  I greatly enjoyed the melding of the spiritual components and the physical components.  The former components are born out through the prophecy and through Kira’s actions and thoughts.  The latter are shown through the manifestations of the prophecy (like the comet/vipers) and the actions of the rest of the crew.  I love how Kira develops here.  Her faith guides her decisions and elevates her view of Sisko.  Her two selves, the secular and the religious mystic, are at odds here.  She tries to fit the prophecy into coincidence and not acknowledge her gnawing suspicion that there is truth to it.  Once she fully embraces the faith perspective, she is able to stand with her Emissary and guide the vipers through the temple without destroying it.  Chosen by the Prophets, she is in a key place to help the Emissary, and she can only be effective if she allows her faith into her professional duties.  In fact, to take it a step further, her effectiveness as first officer of DS9 is precisely because she is able to maintain the tension between the secular (Starfleet) and the religious sides of herself.

Kira lays out quite elegantly the picture of the Prophets working within the constrains of the natural world while simultaneously transcending the boundaries of that natural world.  The Prophets fully transcend the natural world by existing outside of the space-time continuum.  They are able to see all of Bajor’s time simultaneously.  Yet they work within the constraints of the space-time continuum to communicate with the Bajorans.  Trakor could never have possibly understood the scientific detail of the situation.  So the Prophets used metaphor to communicate some aspects of this complex truth.  The metaphorical elements, like the vipers, the burning temple, and the sword, all have physical elements (the comets, the selenium, and the shuttle, respectively).  Sisko perpetuates a dichotomy by seeing either the comet or the viper.  But to Kira, there is no dichotomy; there is no conflict.  It is both a sword and a shuttle.  The physical reality does not negate the truth communicated to the ancient Bajorans.

The role of faith in one’s life can be rather contentious in a modern, enlightenment-style thought.  Dax’s advice to Sisko very clearly lays out a mode of thought that is quite prevalent.  The thought goes that any sort of faith-based decision making is interfering with one’s actual desires.  Rubbish.  Being convinced of something is not being a puppet to that thing!  Her statement, “Make your own decision or let the prophecies make them for you,” forces this dichotomy that isn’t real.  The Bajoran Prophecies (or analogously much of scripture in most faith systems) provide wisdom, not dictate action.  Prophecy/scripture/etc can provide insight to enable good decision making.  It’s ironic and poetic that Dax’s advice actually caused the fulfillment of the prophecy.  In a narrow, scientific mode of thought, she and Sisko found excuses to reject the words of the prophecy at every turn.  First there were only 2 vipers, then the comet was out of range, etc.  Even as fulfillment of the prophecy mounted, there was the next excuse ready to take hold.  By pushing forward with decisions that ignored the prophecy, Sisko progressively brings it about.

There seems a particular arrogance to Dax’s perspective that ignores the spiritual nature of humanity.  For millenia and in countless cultures, faith has provided wisdom to humanity.  Modern scientific thought is barely 500 years old.  Knowledge and wisdom are absolutely different things.  And science only provides the former.  It is spirituality and human empathy that produce wisdom.  To cast aside any truth or wisdom obtained from a faith perspective seems quite irrational to me.  This is why Dax exacerbates me so much in this episode.  She cannot think outside her scientific worldview.  Kira, on the other hand, is much more humble in her religious worldview.  She incorporates the tension of it being both a shuttle and a sword.  She has the capacity to provide the most help to Sisko/Emissary, while Dax only makes matters worse.

An interesting side note.  Before Sisko encountered them, the Prophets had no concept of linear time.  Does “before” even have meaning to time-free creatures?  I like to think that it is Sisko who teaches the Prophets about linear time, but since they exist outside of time, the truths they learn from Sisko empower them  to reach backwards in time to give the ancient Bajorans visions of the future.  Without Sisko, the Prophets wouldn’t even know that there is a “when” involved while communicating with the Bajorans and that prophecy needs to happen “before” the event in question.  In a beautiful bit of science fiction and time travelling, I infer it is Sisko who causes his own Emissary prophecies by teaching the Prophets as he did in Emissary (Ep. 1.1).

Trakor’s Third Prophecy:

When the river wakes, stirred once more to Janir’s side, three vipers will return to their nest in the sky.  When the vipers try to peer through the temple gates, a sword of stars will appear in the heavens.  The temple will burn, and the gates shall be cast open.

Random Thoughts:  1) Trakor’s 4th prophecy is interesting.  It can either refer to Kira vs Jake in The Reckoning (Ep. 6.21) or the battle with Dukat in What You Leave Behind (Ep. 7.25/26).  I think it applies best to The Reckoning, though this is never confirmed.  2) I like the other faith figure in this episode, Vedek Yarka.  He passionately advocates for his path, and as he learns of the truth of the situation, he humbly accepts his failed interpretation.  He doesn’t go looking for some other situation to fulfill his interpretation.  He is guided by what he reads, not by what he wants to believe.  3) Some might counter that faith has also caused war, strife, and genocide alongside any purported wisdom.  I certainly don’t claim faith as a panacea.  We still need to learn truths about faith and like all things, faith can be wielded poorly by humanity.  And lets not forget it is science that has given us the greatest instrument of death, used only twice offensively in the history of the world in early August, 1945.  4) This episode is a direct result of the peace treaty recently signed.  5) Quark has an on-screen win by being prepared for the Cardassians without Odo finding out.  6) The 34th and 35th Rules of Acquisition!  6) One of my favorite statistics quotes seems to apply here: Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.  Attributed to Niels Bohr.  7) Orb of Change inspired Trakor’s prophecies.  8) Kira has a fantastic far-away look when she learns of the 3rd Cardassian.  I can see her realize that this prophecy will come true.  9) I like the acknowledgement that Sisko too has an agenda.  He can’t get away from the Emissary role, though he may try.  He makes a turn at the end of the episode here; he is now interested in the Emissary’s prophecies.  He’s a few steps closer to fully accepting this role.  10) Kira directly calls Sisko the Emissary.  No hiding now.  11) Obligatory homage to Scotty with the margin on repair estimates.  12) The corridor through the wormhole has long term advantages.  DS9 now is able to monitor the Dominion near the wormhole from the safety of the Alpha Quadrant.  13) The side story with O’Brien was amusing, but honestly, not much to comment upon.

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~ by Joshua Black on March 6, 2017.

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