Babylon 5 Season 4, Episode 4.

Primary Plot: The Vorlons begin using a planet killer to destroy entire worlds where the Shadows have influence.

Secondary Plot: Sheridan plots to remove Kosh II from the station.

Tertiary Plot: Londo finds out that Emperor Cartagia intends to let the Vorlons destroy Centauri Prime with their planet killer, marking his ascension to godhood. Also, Cartagia has one of G'Kar's eyes plucked out.

Fourth Plot: Sheridan proposes marriage to Delenn!


Return to the Babylon 5 Episode Guide.

On the day after my grandfather's funeral, I went to visit blubelle, an engagement that was perhaps turning away from my family at the time, but that was also an engagement I had made previously, and one I sought out for spiritual meaning. It was also an eight mile walk from Sherwood, which is the furthest that trimet runs, and Newberg, home of George Fox University and blubelle. I spoke to her briefly enough, but it was worth the eight mile trip. And the eight mile trip back. And after that sixteen mile round trip, after a funeral, after hearing some unexpected jazz singing, I had one thing to think about, strangely enough. And that is the old problem of why socialized roads aren't a problem for people, and in response to that, I wrote out A libertarian paradox. I still don't quite know why that was forefront in my mind after such a long weekend, but it must have been meaningful.

And the argument still was meaningful for me, as I tried to determine how to parse the world down into agents and field, and whether such a thing as a level playing field was possible, or even meaningful. I've been rather critical of the idea on the whole, because I've seen from the covering of Celilo Falls and The Cascades of the Columbia that it is not possible for autonomous agents to exist in the world and find their dreams of limitless energy without interfering with each other. But obviously enough, behind the metaphysical formulation of personal autonomy (which I think I understand better than many of its supporters), there is a carrot, a socially provided vision of the benefits of unfettered pleasure.

The belief seems to be that once all obstacles are removed, everyone will fall into place, into a world that will be of the utmost utility for them. However, that utility is almost defined by the amount of obstacles removed. No actual welfare or results needs to be provided: the only thing that needs to be provided is a world where people will theoretically be able to accomplish for themselves. Which is why military spending is okay for conservatives, as high as it gets, but social welfare is not. Providing a world where there are no actual bombs raining down on your head benefits everyone equally. The billionaire and the beggar are both enjoying equal utility from not being napalmed, even if the beggar is starving to death. On the face of it, it makes enough sense. It might even make sense that torture is acceptable to the conservative mind, because as much as it might infringe on liberty, the end result is to produce a world where agents will be acting independently. Roads are a government project, and a gigantic one at that, but they are mere instrumentalities to enable autonomy. While a park is not an obvious instrumentality, it is an object in itself. This cultural value is not isolated to what are conventionally known as conservatives. There is a reason that abortion is legal, and even such mild drugs as codeine and marijuana are not. Abortion is justified as an instrumental way that people can interact with society, and is often justified as necessary for a person to be economically productive; marijuana and codeine are not instrumental, but instead provide objects of people's pleasures. The means seems to be socially condoned, as long as you never reach the end.

The purpose of government and society is to remove all obstacles so that people can fall into their state of natural being, which is a state of apotheosis of a sort. It is somewhat like a social form of the second law of thermodynamics, where society finds the lowest energy state for everyone. The problem with this, and why libertarianism will probably never catch on, is that if people are going to tunnel to a lower energy state, they are going to keep on tunneling past libertarianism. If having parts of your wage garnished to pay something to make sculptures for public transit is a social construction, so is the fact that you can't have a picnic on the freeway or even live in your one bedroom studio apartment without paying money to someone who just happens to be lucky enough to own the building. If people are going to tunnel down to libertarianism, they are going to tunnel to anarchy. Stellar dynamics tell us so.

And as long as we are in space, there may be a question why I entitled this "Falling Toward Apotheosis", after an episode of Babylon 5. I wondered for a while at the theme of the episode, the destruction of a planet being used as a step to godhood, since it also occurs in Neon Genesis Evangelion and Final Fantasy VII. As far as I can tell, the locus classicus of this particular theme may have been in a hallucination(?) by Dr. John Lilly, where Comet Kahoutek and an entity behind it threatened to shut down Los Angeles International Airport while Dr. Lilly was flying into it, and indeed, that did seem to happen. The deeper message of course, is that the passage to total truth and freedom is the breaking of all barriers, the dissolution of anything that might stand in people's way.

Of course, "dissolution" and "construction" are both metaphors, and ones that could be applied to the same situation. As society and people dissolve false barriers that keep them from self-expression, they are at the same time constructing more complicated structures. I have seen many seeming dissolutions that were not brave or honest enough to deal with the real quiet desperation that dwells in people's mind. It is 2009, and I hope that the cultural dissolution and cultural construction that I see in the upcoming decade will be more real than what I have seen in the past. And perhaps the Confucian in me hopes that what happens in the future will not be simply a rush downwards towards perfect bliss, but instead, an attempt to be humane.

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