There are times when even the most seasoned of travelers can become deeply homesick. Today is one of those days for me.
It doesn't happen often -- I don't trend toward nostalgia and homesickness -- but they have caught me off-guard every now and then when I'm on one of my numerous outer journeys.
Today was different.
Today, a distinct and wholly unexpected longing for home came up. Since I am not enjoying an "outer journey" at the moment (I'm at home) it took me by surprise.
Really, it was all Captain Picard's fault.
Yes I mean Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise, he of "Star Trek: the Next Generation" fame. Since discovering this series in reruns on BBC America's cable channel this summer, I've been engrossed in a retrospective viewing marathon. I have no shame in admitting I'm a die-hard fan of both the show and Patrick Stewart, who played Picard.
(Disclaimer: I would not describe myself as a "Trekkie" but I might be borderline. Admittedly scoffing at the cheesiness of the original Star Trek, I'm more exclusively a "Next Generation" fan).
What Does Star Trek Have to Do With This?
For those of you unfamiliar with Star Trek lore, "Star Trek: The Next Generation" first aired almost 25 years ago and enjoyed a seven-year run. My husband and I, neither of whom would admit to even once watching an original "Star Trek" episode, had just met and were dating when we were surprised and delighted by our mutual fondness for the series reprisal. We would "geek out" and devotedly tune into each new "Next Generation" episode. Now, I digitally record the series (a fresh episode airs daily on BBC America) and am finding there were many shows I seem to have missed. Lucky me.
If you are as nostalgic about this show as I, let me call your attention to the "Star Trek: Next Generation" episode that caused today's cascade. It's Season Four's "First Contact." A bit of background:
Plot synopsis: The Enterprise is on a mission to establish first contact between the Federation and the planet Malcor. The Malcorians are a humanoid species on the cusp of building warp-capable spacecraft which would enable them far-reaching travel beyond their solar system. While conducting undercover reconnaissance for the mission, Riker is injured and captured by the Malcorians, requiring Picard to speed up the timeline for contact in order to recover him. Picard and Counselor Troy beam down and establish a relationship with female chief space scientist Mirasta Yale, and subsequently with the planet's leader, Chancellor Durken. The drama with Riker and predictable Malcorian fear of alien invasion plays out. In the end, despite Mirasta's strong objections, the Chancellor ultimately decides his world is not ready for introduction to the United Federation of Planets at present and insists on waiting. Picard honors his request and is about to depart.
(My analysis: The episode is an obvious and thinly-veiled allegory of a probable first contact scenario on Earth and our lack of readiness for inter-planetary reality. Yes I hope I live to see the day but am not holding my breath.)
The last five minutes of the show is what did it for me. Mirasta and Chancellor Durken are aboard the Enterprise, ready to beam back down to their planet at the conclusion of their final meeting with Picard when this exchange takes place:
Mirasta: "I have one last request, Captain. Take me with you."
Chancellor: "She will be unhappy with the restrictions I must place upon her at home, Captain."
Picard (to Mirasta): "We may not be back here in your lifetime and I have to believe that you cannot be fully prepared for the realities of space travel."
Mirasta (with deep conviction): "I have been prepared for the realities of space travel since I was 9 years old and sitting in a planetarium."
At which point Picard and the Chancellor consent to Mirasta's request. She smiles from ear to ear, barely able to suppress her childlike glee, and follows Lieutenant Worf off to her new quarters on the ship.
Right then, I felt terribly homesick. A well of emotion rose in me, a deep longing like Mirasta's, but for what? Suddenly, I burst into tears.
- No, I am not, to my conscious knowledge, an alien being from another world. As far as I am aware, I'm a human Earthling (at least in this incarnation).
Then what was it? No sooner did I ask the question than the realization came. Mirasta's longing to experience the universe beyond her world, lifelong work toward it, and sudden delivery into it triggered an emotional memory in me of something that felt consciously forgotten and abruptly recalled.
Something so wonderful that I don't know how I left it, but was sure I wanted it back.
This was no travel homesickness for the daily comforts of my own bed, a hug from my daughter or a tail wag from my adorable dog. This was a longing of essence to reunite with source. This was my soul's longing to return to that from which it had come -- what some call God, Spirit, the Beloved, the Creator. This was a thirst for transcendence, pure and simple. And because I neither wish nor plan to die soon, I think it's going to be a while before that fully and permanently occurs.
It's an inevitable consequence of awakening, I suppose. When you realize your essence, allow it to flourish and invite it to take dominion within you, you begin to live from it vs. the limited, egoic human existence most of us identify with in this lifetime. There is no longer lasting satisfaction in the superficial contentment of the ego's confines. Sure, there are passing pleasures, there are the sensory delights of the human experience (jasmine flowers! chiles rellenos! dark chocolate! sweet newborn babies! sex!), but they pale in comparison to the enduring bliss of source.
Mirasta's home planet was to her the center of the universe one day and a veritable prison the next. Likewise the human experience, which seems to me a temporary stop on a much longer, more infinite journey we can scarcely conceive. Sometimes I hunger to surpass it, to leave the body and the physical realm entirely, much as Mirasta was lifted up and out of her home world, to bathe in the infinite universe of bliss for as long as I wish.
There is home, and there is the illusion of home. After your perspective of reality, who you are and what life is broadens there is no going back to illusions. You can be physically home in the outer world yet profoundly crave your authentic place of origin. Once the genie is out of the bottle, what choice do we have but to follow it -- starship journeys and all -- back to our natural state of childlike ecstasy? As I suspect the fictional Mirasta found, that is as close as we'll come to going home while still physically alive.
Have you ever felt your soul's longing to return "home"? If you have, what did you do? What are some practices you use to "go home" in spirit?