Thursday, February 4, 2010

Discovering the "Inner Light"

Exploration and discovery seem to be a key themes in my life. Perhaps it started in childhood, as I sat and watched the very first episode of Star Trek air for the very first time. At 11 years old, I was hooked for life on this saga of exploration, courage and hope.

Recently I discovered a new piece of orchestral music. It first caught my ear because of the harp part which was a key supporting element to the main theme. The theme seemed familiar – very much like the Sky Boat Song. I quickly found out that the theme was first introduced in a Star Trek, the Next Generation episode called Inner Light. In this episode, Captain Picard is rendered unconscious by an energy beam from an unidentified probe. Picard wakes up on the surface of a planet and, despite the knowledge that this is not his life, has no choice but to live out the life of this stranger in whose shoes he now finds himself.

Years pass and he grows old, outliving his wife and friends. One day, while sitting with his grandson, Picard is summoned by his adult children to watch the launch of a missile. As he walks outside, he sees his wife and his best friend, as young as when he first saw them. They explain that knowing their planet was doomed, they placed the memories of their planet and society into a probe contained in a missile, in the hope that it would find someone who could tell others about them. Picard suddenly recalls his earlier life aboard the Enterprise as he watches the missile launch.

Picard wakes up on the bridge of the Enterprise. Only 25 minutes have passed since the probe arrived. In the meanwhile, the crew of the Enterprise had tracked the probe's course back to a scorched and desolate planet which was destroyed long ago. The probe, now inactive, is brought aboard the Enterprise for examination. The crew finds a small box within the probe, which a somber Riker gives to Picard. Inside the box is the flute. Picard, now adept at playing the flute, plays a melody he learned during his life on the now dead, alien planet.

Listening to the Orchestral Suite which was developed from Picard’s flute music, I found myself greatly moved. The theme seems at first to wander about, without much direction or resolution. It occurred to me that this is very much the way we live our lives. We head in one direction, and often do not reach the intended goal. Instead we are pulled off in another direction – one just as beautiful and exciting. The harp’s accompaniment of the flute melody also brought to mind the gentle presence of Picard’s wife. The counterpoint was quickly realized as his friends, community, and major life events. The piece ends very much the same as it begins – the simple and beautiful flute theme, supported by a gentle harp arpeggio, which is symbolic of the love by which we enter – and leave – this life.

To discover this haunting music, and explore a wonderful music video of the episode, you can go to: It's a journey that's not just for Trekkies.

1 comment:

  1. That is absolutely gorgeous music. I've got to get it for my piano!