Ensign Davis and His Very Bad Day

A "Redshirt" death from Star Trek

A "Redshirt" death from Star Trek

"Some days are like that. Even in Australia."

By Sam Yang - Get similar updates here

Life is hard. Whole philosophies developed to prepare us for this ubiquitous challenge. One of which is Stoicism, a philosophy from ancient Greece (and Rome) that was not only popular amongst the ruling class but the slaves, as well. If we can accept unpleasantness as a natural part of living, we can move ahead and actively take part in our day-to-day lives.

Aurelius Knew Bad Days

Battling during the day, Marcus Aurelius (Stoic philosopher and King) of Rome wrote Meditations from his tent at night. The situation was not ideal, but that is the nature of circumstances outside ourselves. You get through it.

We are each of us stronger than we think.
— Marcus Aurelius

The things we aren't expecting, the punch we didn't see coming, causes the most distress. Through the practice of negative visualization (premeditatio malorum), the occasional thinking of worst-case scenarios, the Stoics were rarely alarmed nor taken by surprise. A precursor to Stoic philosophy, Heraclitus of Ephesus said:

Unless you expect the unexpected, you will not find it...

Resilience exercises, like strenuous activity or camping, is then needed to remind us, as Aurelius put it:

Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.

Alexander Knew Bad Days

Perhaps many of us were introduced to this philosophy, not by Aurelius nor Seneca but by Judith Viorst. She wrote the children's book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. And for many children (including myself), it was our gateway drug into Stoicism (or moody angst). If you don't remember the story, here is an excerpt:

I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there’s gum in my hair and when I got out of bed this morning I tripped on the skateboard and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Ensign Davis Really Knew Bad Days

We've all had days like this right? But as bad as Alexander's day was, it was still better than the day Ensign Davis was having in John Scalzi's humorous send-up of Star Trek, Redshirts:

Then the ground erupted as land worms, arrayed in a semicircle, launched themselves up and toward Davis. And it was then, as he skidded backward, and while his face showed surprise, in fact, that Ensign Davis had an epiphany.

This was the defining moment of his life. The reason he existed. Everything he’d ever done before, everything he’d ever been, said or wanted, had led him to this exact moment, to be skidding backward while Borgovian Land Worms bored through dirt and air to get him.

[...]

It was a great story. It was great drama. And it all rested upon him. And this moment. And this fate. This destiny of Ensign Davis.

Ensign Davis thought, screw this, I want to live, and swerved to avoid the land worms. But then he tripped and one of the land worms ate his face and he died anyway.

That sucks. [Low-ranking crew members in Star Trek wore red uniforms, were normally played by extras, and were killed off in every episode.] Alexander should think about that the next time he decides to complain. But as Alexander (not the Great, the one who spread Greek culture, but the terrible, I mean the Alexander who had a terrible day) put it:

Some days are like that. Even in Australia.

Philosopher king Marcus Aurelius couldn't have put it any better. A good reminder to those who always think of moving (or hiding under the sheets) when life doesn't go their way.

Conclusion

When the worst is accounted for, nothing can disturb your inner peace. Oh, that very terrible, horrible, no good, very bad thing happened? Oh I know, I was expecting that. I'm cool.

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