Well now you guys have got me thinking...
What Christopher recounted earlier as our initial conversations about the book was accurate. Initially, I truly was working from the idea of choice and the consequences of those choices...and the idea that big choices like oh, altering the timeline for the sake of convenience, or sparing yourself and others the pain of loss, would come with a heavy price tag. It is, perhaps, my own notion that such choices, however right they might feel at the time, would have a better than average chance of ultimately ending badly.
It was only in the writing of the actual novel, as I found myself in Janeway's head working moment by moment through what might actually happen if you found yourself disembodied in the Q Continuum, that the more spiritual or metaphysical ideas began to surface and resonate. This is most likely because there is no math here that helps me move through this, though Christopher has rightly pointed to a few theories that make sense when applied.
But I don't tend to write or operate from stuff like that when writing characters, even when they are brilliant scientists, because that's not where I can connect to them. If I had half the scientific expertise Christopher does, I like to think I would have ended up as an astronaut rather than a writer. I don't. So you guys are stuck with me for now.
The thing was, I had always been moved by the episode "Sacred Ground." I hear the groans, even as I write this, but I loved that one because it really was such new and different territory for Voyager and Janeway in particular. And that scene at the end where she is sitting in sickbay and the Doctor is explaining why the "miracle" worked has lived in the back of my mind ever since. The look on her face...really devastating for her.
So when Janeway is confronted with the choice...to return to life or let it all go...she's going to look for guidance to any experience she might have had that relates and the events of "Sacred Ground" seemed appropriate.
And as to her sense, and Junior's confirmation that there is something beyond life that even the Q don't know about...that's just me wrestling with one of my big questions. I'm not really speculating as to what the capital T Truth is here....what interests me is the idea that this is a fairly common experience for human beings, both those of faith and those not so inclined.
There is probably a physical or scientific explanation I don't know about that probably has to do with certain chemicals in our brains that produces these "peak" experiences, or strange moments when we suddenly, for no good reason, feel ourselves connected to something bigger than ourselves. It's not a rational thing. I've had them...though more rarely in the context of the religion in which I was raised...and know so many who have...and I really want to know what that thing is beyond a random confluence of neurons and chemicals. I tend to think that it is this sense that keeps so many people connected to religion.
But I'm curious about this not so much as a person of faith, because that's not a good definition of me anymore...but just as a person.
Yet Janeway, in this book learns that there is more to life than just reason and science; there is the metaphysical, something much deeper and more important and it all starts with the life of the soul, faith.
Janeway finds that what is metaphysical has much more value in the end than the reason and science she has clung to for so many years. Faith, the soul and destiny are all apart of these things that she is beginning to see the value of.
....kind of overstates the case for me, just a bit. I mean as a reader, you are entitled to whatever you got from the story and I don't want to take any of that away from you. But I don't think I would describe Janeway's new experiences of "faith" as "more important" or more valuable than reason, science, or logic. It's more like, she was living her life one way for as long as she could remember...and then was exposed to a new idea or experience that was also interesting and terribly useful in this context. Kind of like what happened to me the first time I read the works of Joseph Cambell. I felt like my head was going to explode with all of the new stuff churning around in it.
This now gets incorporated into her whole person, but how it will affect her or how long it will take for these new ideas and experiences to settle is an open question. I don't think, however, that she had this experience and is now going to throw all the rest out the window in favor of it going forward.
Yes...she does come back to the idea of "faith" but that faith has no particular definition for her yet beyond the certainty she feels in her gut that balance is the issue here and Junior and Eden represent that balance. For me it is not so much that she has come to realize that whatever that big, unknowable thing that she felt briefly connected to is now guiding her...it is the terror of confronting a moment when the stakes couldn't be higher...looking at all of the relevant information at her disposal regarding that moment...and choosing to trust her own beliefs...the "faith" is less metaphysical at that point...and much more personal. Even when faced with the truly terrible consequences of many of her past choices that the story lays out...she is still capable of looking to her gut and trusting it. Like all of us, when we know better, we do better. The less heroic choice here would be to say, "fuck it...I don't know and as I think we have all seen, I don't have the best track record so do what you think is best." The reason Janeway rises to a new level for me here is not because she is a fated messiah, but because she makes the harder choice...to trust herself and what she sees here...rather than walking away or letting someone else be responsible for the outcome.
There is a fine line between the choosing and the idea of Destiny. Junior especially seems to know that he has been made for such a time as this, that it is his first, best destiny to save the galaxy. So he could choose to not save it, but that he will be the fullest and best him if he follows what he has been made to do. ...He later tells this father, "It's not just the power, Father. You know that. It's also the vessel. I am the only Q in existence capable of containing all that I am, all that she needs...It has to be me." Then Janeway makes it abundantly clear
"Faith.....Nothing is certain here, but in my heart of hearts, I know he's right. You are both unique, the only individuals of your kind. You've already glimpsed his power. It's preventing you from returning to Omega even now. From the beginning this has been about balance; the child of the Q and the child of Omega are the balance restored.
A thin line indeed
Yeah...again...Junior may have come to that point by the end of the story...but he certainly doesn't start there. In the beginning, he has a problem..he can't experience his existence the way the rest of the Q can anymore...and he needs to figure out why. It speaks well of him that once he has figured it out, he steps up and does the right thing, but I think a lot of people, when faced with the choice...me...or everything and everybody else who has ever or will ever exist...would go with self-sacrifice.
Looking back at the way it all came together, I am conscious of two things: my need or desire as the creator of this story to keep all of the various threads connected and resonating but more importantly, starting us off with a group of characters who have a problem and then watching them figure out how to solve it. More than making any bold statements here about the relative values of faith or reason, and certainly not about "destiny"...this comes from the same place all of my stories come from...You take some capable and interesting people and present them with a challenge they are uniquely qualified to handle and watch them as they blunder around in the dark like we all do day after day and try to overcome that challenge.
For me this isn't a story about a grand design that exists outside of us and we are only playing our assigned roles...it's a story about people working their asses off to solve a problem, the nobility of that effort, perhaps, and the sense that on any given day, this is what we are all doing, though our personal stakes may not reach the heights that our characters do. But that's why we explore this stuff in fiction. If we did it too much in real life...can you imagine how busy the fire department would be?
Yay. let's hijack Star Trek to propagate our culturally-conditioned superstitions!
I just want to say here that I hope you don't feel that was my intention here. I don't think grapling with part of our experience as human beings that is less well understood than all that science has layed bare for us is the same thing as propogating a particular brand of superstitions. I think asking ourselves why so many have these beliefs and exploring some of the experiences that leads to them is interesting, but I am in no way advocating for a particular position, particularly as I am tempermentally and constitutionally ill-equipped to do so.
My only problem is the presentation of Janeway as an essential cog of the universe.
And here, I can only imagine that you are taking this from other's reactions to the book rather than your own experience of it? Just because some readers are going to take comfort and pleasure in the idea that there is a plan...somewhere out there, made by whom or what we know not...and that the events of this story suggest such a plan or "destiny", you should not assume that this was all there is to the story and certainly not my intention.
Janeway is essential to the universe or multiverse here as much as any of us are or are not. I'm sure part of this feeling comes from your feelings about the character, to which you are perfectly entitled. But to form an opinion about Janeway's role in this story, you need to experience it for yourself. Which I am not suggesting you do. At all. Far too many other books out there you are likely to enjoy.