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Screenshot, Star Trek, “And the Children Shall Lead.” (1968)

By GWEN OREL
orel@montclairlocal.news

return
GWEN OREL

Well, it’s that time again.

Time to look at all the things I did this year that I could have done better. Time to say “sorry” for everything I should have done better.

I personally believe in a literal Book of Life, not a metaphor as local rabbis describe it, because I am a literal kind of person. (I am also the girl who thought “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean” was about a woman floating over the waves, so take that for what it’s worth.)

But this year, more than ever, I’ve found myself thinking about T’shuvah, which means, return. What is it that makes one stop and say, that’s it?

How do you know when you’ve reached a turning point?

In his 2000 book “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference,” Malcolm Gladwell uses a term used by epidemiologists to describe that “ moment of critical mass,” when things suddenly change. Things can be going along, you’re barely noticing things. Then one day you look up and it’s all different.

Or,

Are we there yet?

Like a lot of people, I cried during the funeral of John McCain, though I didn’t always agree with him politically.

I cried not just because it was the anniversary of my father’s death and I felt for Meghan, but also because it felt like a return. I smiled when I saw the clip of Laura Bush passing Michelle Obama a hard candy, through her husband George.

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The thing about turning points, though,  is that you don’t always know it’s a return until later.

Sometimes it’s impossible to miss.

In Original Flavor Star Trek Episode “The Children Shall Lead,” a group of children have killed their parents at the direction of Gorgan (it appears that the parents have killed themselves, but we later learn the children used their powers to make them do it).

Yes, I know this is widely considered the worst Star Trek Episode of All Time. Sue me.

The kids think Gorgan is a “friendly angel,” but he’s really a malevolent space pirate, uncovered by their archaeologist parents. Gorgan wants them to commandeer the Enterprise and take it to another planet.

It’s only when they see a film of themselves playing with their parents that they cry, and return: T’shuvah.

Captain Kirk lifts up the littlest girl, sobbing as she sees her parents’ grave, as Gorgan’s face erupts into boils.

“Don’t be afraid,” he tells her. “Look at him. Without you children, he’s nothing.

“Look at how ugly he really is. Look at him, and don’t be afraid.”

“Death to you all!” Gorgan cries — and vanishes.  

The tears are healing. The spell is lifted.

But other returns, even if dramatic, take longer. That doesn’t mean a return is not happening.

People know about the moment when in the Army-McCarthy hearings in 1954 Joseph Welch confronted Joe McCarthy with “You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” And people know that later McCarthy was censured.

But things weren’t better the next day. Five months after the “have you no decency” moment, McCarthy amassed a crowd of thousands at Madison Square Garden.  

Things take time, an old poster I had used to say. It’s a good thing to remember.

And at this time, I’m sorry for the things I did and didn’t do. And I’ll try to do better.

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