I just watched the latest Supergirl episode (For the Girl Who Has Everything) and wanted to talk about it a little bit. It’s not something I intend on doing often, but this episode really got me thinking about an interesting question about life itself.
If you do follow Supergirl and haven’t watched the episode yet, I suggest you do so. There will be spoilers in this post as I will talk about what happens in the episode for those that do not follow the show.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about what happens in the episode. Kara (Supergirl) gets attacked by a telepathic alien parasite (the Black Mercy) which renders her unconscious… at least to the outside world. However, in her mind, she is experiencing her heart’s greatest fantasy. In the case of this episode, she is reunited with her family back on her home planet of Krypton. For those that are not familiar with the story, she, like Superman, loses her family when her planet explodes. She, like him, ends up on Earth. It is up to her friends to save her life, as that parasite will slowly kill her by causing her to forget her real life. I did a little research on this and apparently, the show’s story takes after a Superman comic called “For the Man Who Has Everything”, first published in Superman Annual #11.
Long story short, Kara’s foster sister (Alex) is able to join her in her dream state. After a bit of struggling, reminds her that she has friends that care about her. She reminds her that Earth needs a hero. Most importantly, they need Supergirl, and that to beat this parasite, she will have to choose the life she has right now. That she has to choose her real life over the fantasy it has created for her. She eventually does so, causing the parasite to detach from her before withering away and dying.
Just as a digression, this was one of the most powerful scenes ever in the show. Even as I read the script again, I can feel me starting to tear up inside. It truly encompassed the bond between Kara and Alex. The dialog from that scene is below (I have removed some of the interruptions), if you’d like to read it:
Kara, if they take me away, you and I will be trapped here until the Black Mercy kills us.
Life isn’t perfect. I know it can be hard and it can be lonely. Especially for you.
You have sacrificed and you have lost so much. I wish you could’ve had a life with your family. But even if you did, Kara, it wouldn’t be this. Because this isn’t real. And deep down, Kara. Deep down, you know it.
I can’t promise you a life without pain and loss because pain is a part of life. It’s what makes us who we are. It is what makes you a hero.
You fight every day to keep people from struggling like you have. I know you can remember, please If you try, please Please try, Kara. Because Earth needs Supergirl.
Your friends need you. And I need my sister! Kara, I can’t choose this for you. You have to choose it yourself.
Now, one might think that’s a cool premise, but it got me thinking about an interesting question: “Would you choose to live the life of your fantasies, but only for 24 hours before instantly dying, or would you choose to live the life you have now, without knowing when or how you’d die?” It’s an interesting philosophical question because it makes us think about how we view our own deaths. It makes us question what our values in life are. Since I’ll be referring to this quite often in the post, I’ll simply refer to it as the question. Another interesting question to ask is “Given you know enough about someone, could you predict the choice they’d make?”. Or it could be asked in another way: “Given someone’s response, what can you deduce about the state of their life?”.
I’ll try to address each point I made in the previous paragraph. Firstly, how we view our own deaths. Death terrifies a lot of people. The concept of self-preservation is instinctively built into our brains as a product of evolution, and for good reason. If you die, you are unable to pass your genes down to the next generation and further the survival of the species. But for someone like me, I see death as a natural process. Yes, deaths of loved ones are painful. But death also teaches you to appreciate your life for what it is and value whatever time you have. I may have said this in an earlier post, but life is way too long to be spent complaining and in misery. Finding the things that mean the most to you is the best way to living a happy life.
Another interesting question that could be asked is “Would you prefer to know the exact details (such as date, time and cause) of your death?”. Some people prefer not knowing, arguing that knowing would cause them to live their life differently to how they’d normally go about living. Others would take you up on that offer and would prefer to know. I lie in that category. My argument is that it will allow me to plan out my life better. I would allow me to do the things that I’ve always wanted to do. As far as I’m concerned, the saying “live life as if you’re going to die tomorrow” simply does not work for me, because one always has to plan for the future, assuming they’ll live forever.
The second point I made was about our values. Everyone has a set of aspects in life that they value most. These aspects can be things like power, respect, wealth, family, love, career, fame, health and many others. I definitely know what mine are. It’s a fairly useful bit of information to have, as it can significantly simplify big decisions in your life (such as a career change). You “simply” see how this decision impacts those aspects, and use that as a key influence in the decision you are about to make.
I believe asking such the question makes you think about the life you have right now, what your fantasy life is, and compare the two. Is living your fantasy life for 24 hours objectively better than living your current life for as long as it will go? I think that knowing what someone’s answer is to that question can shine a lot of light on how happy they are with their life.
Someone who has what they value the most in life will probably choose to live their life as it is, without any change. Actually, as a I write this, here’s another thing to consider: “Do people’s values change as they get older?”. For example, does someone who is more than 90 years old value health over whatever they valued 50 years earlier? I’m not quite sure what the answer is to that. Would they choose to live their life as it is, or choose the live their fantasy for 24 hours? Again, I’m not too sure.
What I do know is this: Someone who is truly happy with their life will be choose to live that life rather than their fantasy life, even thought it may be better. It reminds me of a quote from the first Harry Potter book about the Mirror of Erised, a mirror that would show someone their heart’s deepest desire: “The happiest man on earth would be able to use the Mirror of Erised like a normal mirror, that is, he would look into it and see himself exactly as he is”.
So there’s some food for thought. I’m pretty sure I put a lot more thought into that episode than was probably intended. But then again, it comes as no surprise to me. I am a huge fan of Supergirl (and my supergirl collection is pretty much a testament to that). I have admired her for a very long time. To me, she is the personification of what a true hero is – humility, selflessness, and bravery, to name a few. Despite some of the negative views people have of her, she will always be my favourite superhero of all time.
But back to the question. What choice would I make? I’ll leave that as a mystery. I know what choice I’d make in a heartbeat, without any hesitation. But I am curious to know what other readers would make. I’m also interested in thoughts on this question. Is there something important that I missed, or didn’t weigh on? Are there any other factors that play a role in what the answer is to that question? Anything I might have overlooked? There’s a lot of interesting avenues of discussion, and if you are a reader of this blog, I highly urge you to post your thoughts. Let me know in the comments!