What is Friendship? A Parable of a Beagle & Andorian

Posted: August 21, 2018 by Ty in Belonging Pyramid
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Star Trek Enterprise is an easily overlooked piece of the Trek-Mythos. It is the adventures of the NX-01 crew setting out in the first warp 5 ship to explore the galaxy. It begins with returning a Klingon home, has temporal cold wars, Xindi, Romulans, Orions, many new adventures and learning. It also sets the stage for the United Federation of Planets of Humans, Andorians, Tellarites and Vulcans to begin with (an atrocious series finale shared this scene, where a beloved main character’s life was tossed away in the dumbest way possible, Trip you deserved better).

“What’s the meaning of this delay, Jon? I’ve been patient. I’ve put up with your refusal to abandon this absurd proposal even after all the revelations. I agreed to go through the whole blasted debate one more time before the Council. I’m not going to stand for anymore delaying. . .” He (Shrand) trailed off, then took a step closer, studying Archer’s face. “Jon, what is it? You look like your best friend just died.”

Bennett (2017) Patterns of Interference p. 349-350.

It is the story of discovering how one belongs within the wider scope of the universe. First by discovering who you truly are, and what intrinsically is you. It is the quirky adventures of many streams of human (and a Vulcan and Denobulan) life coming together to live and learn together. At its core is the story of Captain Jonathan Archer as he learns who he is, and how to navigate the universe, and carry on his father’s legacy who was the driving force of the warp 5 project. As is shared in many shows, and novels, belonging is not about melting into another’s way of being, but respecting who they are, and their culture is and finding the intersections of connectedness for inclusion.

Which brings us to Christopher L. Bennett’s Rise of the Federation series under the Enterprise banner. A series of novels that share how the Federation grew from infancy, to where it is at the beginning of the original series. In Patterns of Interference (2017) we have the kernels of a great Star Trek story. Continuation of the journey of core characters; some drama; some mystery; first contact; intrigue and rooting out of possible evil (don’t want to give too much of the main plot away as I encourage you to read it). But in the sub-narrative there is a story of change, and grieving.

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Porthos, boldly went where no Beagle had gone before.

In the ancient story of Tobit there is a throw away line, and the dog went with. The NX-01 embraced this, as Archer’s puppy, Porthos, the fearless space adventuring beagle and lover of cheese went with (and was part of many first contacts). Fifteen years on Porthos is closing in on 18 years old (though with tech could live longer)… he is no longer able to enjoy his cheese. He enjoys his friend Jon, at the end of the day sitting with him, as the inevitable closes in.

The sub-plot is one of those meta-narratives for our Image result for Star Trek Enterprise Commander Shrantimes. For Archer, now Admiral Archer, struggles with the time he needs to spend with his longest companion at life’s end and the demand of the “work”. Especially at this time as the Council is debating his motion around non-interference. Where Shrand comes near the end. Shrand has been Archer’s frenemy for quite a while, having met and tortured him in a Vulcan-spy-monastery; and many adventures in between. Affectionately dubbing Archer, “Pink Skin”. A tough warrior, without much compassion, but lots of passion for striking first and asking questions later. The inverse of Archer, whose space faring has made him wanting to monitor and ask questions first before acting. Foils of debate.

Yet, as the quote above notes, Shrand, notes something is off with Jon when he tries to get him to the debate Archer wanted. Yet Archer had just received the news it was time for Porthos to pass. How could he rationalize to the Council not showing up at this time? How could he rationalize as some would say the life of a dog over this important matter?

What/who is important in your life?

Archer discloses this to Shrand. His inner struggle on the unfairness not to go through despite what is happening with Porthos. Shrand’s response on p. 251:

“To hell with the Council, Jon. And to hell with me. Go. Your companion beast should not leave this world alone.”

Archer attempts to protest and Shrand brings him up short again, with Archer’s own heart.

“The fate of the worlds can wait. You have a friend who needs you.”

Image result for Captain ArcherNot hyperbole from the Andorian Admiral, though, we sometimes overemphasize the task before us when emotional time is needed. When a friend is in need. We can have a million to do’s on our list, and easily rationalize not being there. That is when the voice of our true heart needs to ring through. That which we can tend to so easily close off, unless it is from a trusted source or, in this case a surprise source.

“Just go be with Porthos.” Walking with Archer towards the exit, he spoke again, hesitantly. “I don’t suppose. . . that is, I know how hard it can be to say goodbye. If you. . . need me to come with you, lend additional support. . .”

“That. . .would be very much appreciated,” Archer said with a bittersweet smile. “Thank you– my friend.” (p.352).

It is the closing scene of the book, but the one that is the most telling. Two people who have been at odds, worked together. Done things to aid one another. Never truly realizing what they were to one another, until a situation arose that pushed them out of their usual roles. A passing of a companion, made each realize what the world would be like without Porthos, but also at some level without the other.

Being missed. The piece of belonging. The piece of authentic friendship, being there in the dark, not just the light. In the quiet, not just the action. In the tears, not just the cheers.

We can hide from many things in our lives. Create layers of dissonance through keeping ourselves busy, so we never have to look at our true selves, or feel pain. This is true. I wish I could share the full 3 page scene with you, as my wife read it she teared a little at the power but also because as she said, who knew Shrand had a heart.

That is true. Who in life is your Shrand?

How do we know who our friends are?

How do we know what we value in life?

Who/what is important in your life? Does your choice of time use reflect this?

Beyond all labels and values- –

how do you know when you belong?

In your own heart, and the heart of others.

 

 

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