Tuesday, June 9, 2009 by Dave Blum

Have you ever found yourself on the losing side of a battle?  The fighting is done; everything you believed in is gone…and the universe now seems like a dark and lonely place, without purpose, without meaning?

This is the situation in which Captain Malcolm Reynolds finds himself in the now-classic sci-fi TV show, Firefly.  Airing in 2002, the series ran only one season, much to the dismay of both its talented cast and its creator, Joss Whedon, of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel fame. But for its legions of fans, Firefly lives on as one of the most under-rated and entertaining TV shows ever.

As Jen and I were re-watching our DVD of Firefly last night, I was struck by the extreme timeliness of the series.  The stoic Captain Reynolds and his second-in-command, Zoe, fought on the losing side of a civil war against the dreaded Alliance.  Stripped of an army to serve, the two now live on the outskirts of society, running a one-ship smuggling operation on the fringes of their star system.  Mal and Zoe have been set adrift — just as many of us, in this economy, now find ourselves wafting along aimlessly — laid off, cast aside, trying to scratch out a living in an age of scarcity.

What gives the characters in Firefly their strength, and a sense of purpose, is their strong feeling of family.  Mal slowly puts together an odd collection of crew mates and passengers, including:

Jayne: The hired muscle
Wash: The navigator and comic relief
Kaylee: The ship’s mechanic
Inara: The 26th century equivalent of a courtesan
Shepherd Book:  A priest or pastor
Simon Tam:  A doctor
River Tam:  Simon’s somewhat broken younger sister

Whedon apparently pitched the show as “nine people looking into the blackness of space and seeing nine different things.”  Certainly they are all very different, and trust comes grudgingly.  But eventually, from this motely crew emerges a newsense of meaning . Yes, they no longer have the big, bad Alliance to fight.  But at least they have each other and the ship, Serenity, which in a way becomes the 10th member of the cast.  Reynolds and his “family” may be living from job to job, from paycheck to paycheck, but if they can keep the crew together, then everything will be okay…or at least, survive-able.

Many (if not most) of us are undergoing trying times these days.  It’s so easy to self-identify with our lost job titles, our lost organizations, and to feel rudder-less without them.   In this challenging climate, I think it’s extra important to gather our friends and loved ones around us, to check in with our hearts and acknowledge what we DO have.  Things will get better, eventually; a new sense of work-life purpose will eventually re-emerge in our lives. But until then, if we have our health and our “families”… that’s a lot.