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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Wisdom From The Outer Limits: The Sixth Finger. The Wisdom to be Human Lies Not in the Distant Future

By Rattus Scribus© Sunday, 7 February 2010
You may want to read the introduction to this series here

The story:
In a mansion on the outskirts of a Welsh mining town, Professor Mather (Edward Mulhare) has advanced the science of genetics. Out of guilt for his part in the creation of the nuclear bomb that now threatens to wipe out all life on earth, Mather has invented a machine to speed up the evolutionary process of humanity in a desperate attempt to “make war impossible.”

Young Gwyllm Griffiths (David McCallum) jumps at the chance to be the first human subject for the machine, anything to escape the mining job and town that have condemned him to insignificance. The experiment succeeds. Evolved 20,000 years into the future, Gwyllm emerges with a much larger head and the bud of a sixth finger on each hand, denoting a human future of vast intellect and greater manual dexterity.

Scene: The Sixth Finger

But the machine unleashes the self-perpetuating forces of evolution and Gwyllum continues developing at an exponential rate. Eventually he evolves into a being with near god-like capabilities, complete with twelve fingers, a massive head/brain, and (for reasons unexplained) pointed ears. In the script, he also becomes translucent and lives now by photosynthesis, thus no longer requiring food or sleep; but none of these characteristics (except no longer needing sleep) are clear in the television episode.

Scene: The Sixth Finger

Having evolved the equivalent of well over a million years into the future, the only thing remaining of the original Gwyllm is his hatred for the town and, in general, for the ignorance, prejudice, and unreasoning destructive hatred of “man.” He is set on destroying the entire town with a mere thought (and afterward, to teach the entire world a similar lesson?), but then he evolves past the need for revenge or power, and indeed all things material.

Scene: The Sixth Finger

Impatient to wait for the completion of the human evolutionary process into "Vortex" -- the non-material transition into cosmic being of pure "intelligence in space" -- Gwyllm returns to the lab and enlists the aid of Cathy (Jill Hayworth), a poor bread delivery girl who loves Gwyllm deeply and first introduced him to Professor Mather. Gwyllm enters the machine but, afraid to lose him, Cathy reverses the process and brings him back to his original state, exhausted, but "glad" to be back, says Cathy.

The context:

When "The Sixth Finger" first aired (Oct 14, 1963), America was engulfed in two raging conflicts, one foreign, one domestic. On the foreign front, the early 1960s was the height of the Cold War. Exactly one year before, the Cuban missile crisis (Oct 1962) illustrated the Cold War era madness that threatened at any time to bring the world to thermo-nuclear annihilation. Indeed, the previous OL episode, "The Architects of Fear," dealt with the nuclear war paranoia by weaving a tale in which altruistic but misguided U.S. scientists secretly manufactured an extraterrestrial harbinger of invasion in the attempt to unite the world's two main antagonists -- the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. / China -- to overcome their differences in order to repel a common threat.
American children were taught to head for a bomb shelter if they heard a civil defense siren, or to "duck and cover" if they saw a flash in the sky, as if hiding beneath a wooden school desk could protect them from the equivalent of a small exploding sun.

Ironically, while the U.S. lectured the world on liberty and was prepared to vaporize the earth in defense of it, on the home front, America was far from the model of democracy. For the legacy of slavery and racial segregation finally erupted into the protests and conflicts of the Civil Rights Movement.
1965: Police break up a civil rights protest,
ironically in front of a U.S. symbol of democracy: The White House.

Meanwhile the feminist, youth, and sexual revolutions were also creating tensions and resentments with the traditional holders of power. Finally, about a month after this episode aired, the United States would lose its president, John F. Kennedy, to assassination (Nov 22, 1963). Thus, while America saw itself as the world's physician, it was a physician much in need of a doctor.

The Wisdom:
There are always things one can find to critique in fictional drama such as "The Sixth Finger." One glaring problem for me is when devotees of the inductive science of evolution (who have often criticized deductive philosophy and religion for making unprovable claims about the divine origins and final non-material state of humans) themselves speculate on a final non-material destiny of human evolution that is just as unprovable. Evolution can only attempt to trace the material origins and development of biological life. It has absolutely nothing to say about what, if anything, happens beyond the vale of biological death. Nor can it track or prove any species development that includes non-material factors or states of existence. This utopic ideal of humans evolving to pure non-physical intelligence absorbed in the cosmic all, may be standard fare in many a science fiction novel or film like "2001: A Space Odyssey," "Star Trek: The Motion Picture," or "The Outer Limits."

Scene: 2001: A Space Odyssey.

But it has far more to do with Plato, or (ironically) religion, or plain wishful thinking, than with the science of evolution itself.

Scene: Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Captain Decker "joins" with the entity known as "V'ger" and evolves to pure intelligence in space.

Nevertheless, in the paranoid and uncertain Cold War context, "The Sixth Finger" very deliberately attempted to illustrate humanity still in its developmental infancy, driven by primitive and petty motives of ignorance, hatred, lust and the quest for power. Technologically entering the space age but developmentally not essentially different from Neanderthal, humans seemed doomed to self-extinction unless something could render us "intelligent."

That something, it was assumed, was the progress of evolution. And why not evolution? Neither philosophy nor religion had as yet been able to render humanity intelligent enough to avoid the horrors of slavery, racism, sexism, war and holocaust. But, evolution is too slow. The fear is that humans are likely to destroy themselves long before reaching that state of blissful intelligence. Simply put, we cannot wait millions of years to grow up.

Scene: The Sixth Finger: "Evolution Machine"

Wouldn't it be great, therefore, if someone could invent a machine to do it all at once? Zap! Problem solved. That is the stuff of dreams and science fiction movies. The writers of "The Sixth Finger" of course knew that there was no such machine in reality that could come to our rescue. So all they can do is close the TV episode with the following narration:

"...And yet, may we not still hope to discover a method by which within one generation the whole human race could be rendered intelligent: beyond hatred, or revenge, or the desire for power? Is that not after all the ultimate goal of evolution?"

"Within one generation." Why the hurry? Because WWIII (or today, some other Weapons of Mass Destruction conflict, environmental disaster, water wars, etc.) could ruin our whole day. We cannot wait for "the ultimate goal of evolution".

But, if I may be so bold, there is hope for the wisdom we need, and we need not wait for the distant future. It has always been right here. We have all known people from ancient times down to our own day that have imparted to the world just that wisdom. Moreover, it is a wisdom that has nothing to do with the mechanisms of evolution, nor with advancements in science, technology, or futuristic material progress at all.

The wisdom that is selfless, other-oriented, and at peace (neither afraid about things one cannot control like Hurricane Katrina, nor withdraws from things one can ameliorate, like human poverty and injustice) have found expression in many cultures. Socrates of Athens, Gautama Buddha of India, Jesus of Nazareth, Sor Juana de la Cruz of Mexico, Mahatma Gandhi of India, Mandela of South Africa.

Gautama Buddha

These and other sages have shown us the heights of human wisdom, love, and fraternity. Ironically enough, much of this wisdom has been around since
ancient times: so much for modern progress and final evolutionary scenarios. Indeed, this kind of wisdom actually violates the basic evolutionary impulse of self-preservation and species propagation.

For there is a wisdom without which human life is simply another animal species competing for domination in the food chain. Without such wisdom, the human, dare I say it, may not be worth preserving. And it is our only hope, lest our scientific knowledge and inane pursuit of material success so far outpace our human wisdom and character, that we render life on this planet a purgatory, or end ourselves altogether.

That would be most tragic. For if there is a great cosmic record of all things -- an Encyclopedia Galactia -- there will be but a tiny footnote on one of its countless pages that reads:

"Human Race, Earth, Milky Way Galaxy: Extinct from stupidity."

Jesus preaching "The Sermon on the Mount."

Or, the human race can become an inspiring and important part of the galactic story.

But for this to occur, we must acquire and live by the ancient wisdom that is not motivated by nor captivated to mere "animal" impulses and pursuits.

It is a wisdom from the Outer Limits, and it has long taught us such timeless principles as:

--Examine your lives and question what you think you know. (Socrates, paraphrased)

--"Even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely." (Buddha)

--A good idea put to action is better than just an idea. (Buddha, paraphrased)

--"Treat everyone as you would wish to be treated," "You cannot love both God and money," "The greatest commandments are these: Love God, and your neighbor as yourself," "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God." (Jesus)

--"Be the change you wish to see in the world." (Gandhi)

Nothing of this wisdom is dependent upon or proven by the mere progress of science or evolution. The Wisdom from the Outer Limits is available to us all, here, now.

O ME! O life!... of the questions of these recurring;
Of the endless trains of the faithless—of cities fill’d with the foolish;
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light—of the objects mean—of the struggle ever renew’d;
Of the poor results of all—of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me;
Of the empty and useless years of the rest—with the rest me intertwined;
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

That you are here—that life exists, and identity;
That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 1900.



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Edie Marie's Attic said...

Greetings dear friend Ruben!

Wow! great post! I was in High School when "The Outer Limits" aired originally and it was a world apart in the 60's. It had such depth in it's stories, of course sometimes a bit scary in that eerie sort of way.
It was a real thought provoker and it was then that I had the incredible realization that we may not be alone in this huge vast universe. Plus I had a brother-in-law that was obsessed with aliens and spaceship watching and it all went hand-in-hand. He would have me afraid to drive home from their house, I just knew a spaceship would come down and suck me up into it and I would never be heard from or seen again! LOL Oh those were the days.

Love your recreation and writing! I guess it holds an odd part of my heart & history!!

Your friend, Sherry

Me....bunny said...


It begins with me and ends with me. I cannot make any sort of positive impact on anyone or anything unless I check myself. Evolution is infinite and we are but a grain of sand, but like the pounding surf eventually, mankind/grains will indeed make a dent big enough for the world to benefit and learn from. As you know, History is not only where we've been, but where we're going.

Outer limits, Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, Fright Night....yeah, we're that old...lol Nice Post!


ps. cherry pie and wieners...there's gotta be a joke there somewhere....Ha!

p.s again...I've sent you a friend request on fb (Victoria Missbrenner) my name now.

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Mon cher,
forgive me for being so late in posting. Your ideas are so well communicated here and there is such a wealth of knowledge that we all tend to leave covered by all the bells and whistles that call for our attention! What truth there is in the notion that we need not wait for a huge event or evolution to change us to do great things....the potential is HERE NOW and within us. Christ knew that, didn't he when he said, "The Kingdom of God is within you!"

See ya later

Rattus Scribus said...

Yes, yes. Exactly. "The Kingdom of God is within you." I love that.


Marie Antionette said...

Nothing can change when everyones idea of change... means something different. No one is of one mine. Like the bible...depending on what religon you are... is interpretated differently. Just one little verse can open a can of worms for so many peoples.
I rather be stupid than to have so much intelligence I have no common sence. So called intelligence is whats going to destroy us all.
I remember seeing this episode of the Outer Limits, and watching the T.Zone. We were glued to the TV when these shows came on.
Thank you for coming by my blog.I have not been on or visiting much of late, because I have been under the weather. My stroke last May has left me with some health issues. I'm trying to rally myself.To get it in gear so to speak...LOL. And I will.
Right now, I'm just going to answer comments left.Maybe next week, I will try and do a post.
Tell Anita I do miss her.
Who Dat Say Gonna Beat Them Saints
XXOO Marie Antionette

Bonnie said...

Wow Ruben what a post! So much to absorb and think about. Just because we can do something does that make it right? I couldn't finish reading Michael Crighton's book Next because of that question. I found it disturbing. I did manage to get through The Last Oracle by James Rollins that asked that same question.

Hey Ruben, I totally remember the drills we had in case someone dropped the bomb. Yes, there I was under my desk as if that would help. Do you remember that picture of Nikita Krushchev banging his shoe on the podium at the UN?

Be the change you wish to see in the world. I only came across that quote about two years ago and I love it. It is profound in its simplicity.

And on a lighter note, Happy Valentine's Day. I just loved Anita's Valentine's post! You romantic devil you! I hope someday we can have a little bloggerville convention so our little blog world can get together and meet. I feel we are all kindred spirits!

Thank you for visiting with me a Diamonds & Daisies. I always love reading your comments.

Cheers! Bonnie

Fete et Fleur said...

I don't simply want to say, "Hey great post, Ruben." I'm overwhelmed by the depth of what you have written here, I will processing for awhile.


Edie Marie's Attic said...

I've been pondering your writing and your thought provoking words... and yes, it boils down to the greatest commandment "Love God with all your might and love one another." The answer to it all. We CAN make a difference even though we are but a speck. It begins with a warm smile, an outstretched hand of acceptance, a bag of groceries to feed the elderly neighbor, a kind word to calm the soul, and so on...

It all begins with "you" & "me"!

Okay my brain is tired now! Sherry

Debbie said...

Ruben, loved this post. It does seem to me that earth is like a school, or a purgatory and God continues to send various messengers, enlightened human beings, Jesus, Ghandi, and others to tell us what we already know. Like Anita said, the kingdom of God is within you. That part of us, our conscientious, or soul, tells us what is right, always. Maybe the world will never end but continue to exist if only to teach us ... i don't know. But right now I'm kinda with Sherry ... my brain hurts! LOL!



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