In “22”, an episode of the old TV series “Twilight Zone”, Liz Powell is having a recurring nightmare, except to her, it is all too real.
The events are the same every time. It begins with Liz lying in a bed in a hospital. She is there due to nervous exhaustion.
In the dream Liz awakes to the ticking of a clock. She reaches for a water glass and knocks it onto the floor, where it shatters.
Liz hears receding footsteps and follows them out into a hallway. She catches a glimpse of a nurse getting on an elevator. Liz watches as the elevator indicator lights reveal that it has reached the hospital basement.
Liz takes the elevator to the basement and sees Room 22. It is home to the hospital morgue.
A smiling, smug-looking young nurse walks out and says,”Room for one more, honey.” The screaming Liz scampers down the hall toward the elevator.
Despite the assurances of the hospital psychiatrist, Liz believes her experience is not a dream. She insists that it is genuine.
In his imitable way, “Twilight Zone” host Rod Serling tells after the initial showing of Liz’s dream: “At this moment we have just finished walking with her in a nightmare.
In a moment she’ll wake up and we’ll remain at her side. The problem here is that both Miss Powell and you will reach a point where it might be difficult to decide which is reality and which is nightmare. A problem uncommon perhaps but rather peculiar to the Twilight Zone.”
The “Twilight Zone” aired in the early 1960s. Five and a half decades ago, the depictions of horrific ambiguity were clearly fictional.
Viewers at the time watched the show to be entertained, knowing that afterwards they would return back to a world of truth and clarity.
The problem in the first quarter of the 21st century is that we have reached a point where it IS difficult to decide like Liz Powell whether we are living in reality or a nightmare. We ARE living in the Twilight Zone.
We all know about fake news. There is propaganda everywhere.
But sometimes the news gives us absurdity that is unbelievably factual. This week, for example, ESPN took an Asian American announcer by the name of Robert Lee off a University of Virginia football game because his name could trigger the weak.
This poor man had a moniker that was identical (sans middle initial) to that of the Confederate general whose statue created the controversy which resulted in riots on the UVA campus. Antifa leftists clashed with white supremacists over the validity of honoring a man who fought to keep slavery.
Robert E. Lee was a hero in Virginia at the time I was a child there. No more.
Part of the reason this is so is because today’s young person lacks knowledge. They either are being given a warped view of history in the classroom or they have chosen to see only one side of a man people of my youth thought of as a noble person.
It is easy to get suckered into false beliefs. I am exhibit 1 for this statement.
I was in my mid-thirties when I earned a graduate degree and changed careers. My father came to my graduation.
During a party in my home I showed him a brochure of the school where I planned to work. It was a start-up language program at a small college.
My father got one look at the name of the school, which identified it as one which had a Christian focus, and he quickly issued this judgement.
“You’ve never had a steady job your whole life and now you want to go work for this Christian group.”
I was shocked and offended. Never mind that the event was supposed to be celebratory. For crying out loud (a phrase I have inherited from Dad), I had just received a Master’s degree.
For probably the first time in my life I contested what Dad had said to me. I argued that before coming to grad school I had worked 11 years for a company where I had been steadily promoted.
I had had two kids through this companies health insurance for basically nothing. My savings there had helped pay for grad school.
This conversation with my father was a catharsis for me. Through it I came to understand that just because he said it didn’t make it so. I had been very much tied emotionally to his opinion of me.
To be fair to Dad, my opinion of him was also flawed over the years. It has taken me a lifetime of hard knocks to comprehend that in many ways he was a good man. For example, Dad helped me with expenses as I pursued my graduate degree.
It is not surprising that a show like the Twilight Zone presents stories filled with weird twists and ambiguity. After all, it was supposed to be science fiction.
Sadly, today’s “truth” is stranger than fiction at times. We see it not only in the news media, but in our personal lives. Individuals, for example, are now being called racist if they hold a view that history is worth saving. It is helpful if you become a target of such an accusation to state “just because they say it is so does not make it so.”
Theodore Sturgeon, a science fiction author, coined his own law in the 1950s which states that “ninety percent of everything is crud.” He developed a precursor to this adage which says that “nothing is always absolutely so.”
Much of what we absorb today is like Liz Powell’s nightmare. It is crap.
Yet, we may be able to receive a warning through our encounter with the crud. Liz did.
At the end of “Room 22″ Liz is shown boarding a plane to Miami after having been released from the hospital. The flight number is 22.
As she enters the airplane, she is greeted by a flight attendant who looks exactly like the nurse in her dream. The woman says to Liz,”Room for one more, honey.”
As in her dream, Liz scurries away, but this time back to the terminal. She watches as the plane she was to be on explodes on takeoff.
It’s important in the midst of our cultural decline into the Twilight Zone that we seek to learn what we can from the light we do have. It could save our lives. More on this in the next post.