The Inner Heat

You can tell it’s hot not only because of the sun hats, but also the starkness of the light. I actually admire the directorial choices in this episode a lot.

An episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called “The Inner Light” is one of my favorites, but now that I’m starting to live it, I’m not enjoying it nearly as much as when it was strictly theoretical.

In this episode, Captain Picard is rendered unconscious on the bridge of his own ship by a mysterious probe (not that this narrows down the episodes a whole lot), but while his crew sees him lying there, he finds himself on a strange planet being addressed by a strange name and living a life not his own.

He ends up living this stranger’s life for many years — already married, he begats a couple children and even a grandchild — but as he does so, this planet grows hotter and hotter. Careful not to point fingers, the writers assure us this is not anything the peaceful, friendly natives have done, but a factor of the planet’s sun starting to go nova.

[Here’s a fun little fact for you: when Chevrolet tried to sell its Nova in Latin America, sales were paltry, and the Americans couldn’t figure out why until someone took the time to explain to them that in Spanish, “no va” means “no go.” Not a good look for a car.]

We know this planet is getting hotter because the light becomes more searing and everyone starts wearing sun hats. Instead of fighting over dwindling resources or killing themselves in despair, the people of this planet, including now Captain Picard who has more or less resigned himself to life under a new persona, come together to craft a space-faring probe that they hope will come upon a people much like the crew of the Enterprise, render one person unconscious and allow him (we presume) to live a full life over the duration of 18 minutes, in order to know the people of this now-long-gone planet.

As I said, I’ve always liked this episode, although you can pick out flaws (as with anything), but now that their Inner Light is becoming our Outer Light, I’m not enjoying the concept nearly as much.

It was stinking hot last week, and what it made me realize is that when it comes down to the survival of the fittest, those who will wear their sun hats and make plans to launch probes in order to be remembered, I will not be among them. It was hot, and not only didn’t I like it; I could barely function.

Today, for the third blessed day in a row, it is more temperate, although if one were to be churlish one might wish for more rain from this abundance of overcast sky and dark clouds, and I am, for the moment, more functional.

I don’t think it’s just me, either: this is Gunnison, where I am hardly the only one who doesn’t do hot well, and everyone I saw complained about the heat. The heat, the traffic, and all the people who are here — even if they are not just our butter but also our bread. It was just too hot to deal with them.

Now, I’m not sure our “ambient” temperature rose much above the mid to high 80s, right where it’s been for most of two months. But I’m going to guess that whenever Bruce Bartleson produces his next weather report for our local newspaper, his backcasting will show that our overnight “lows” were higher than average in July. We didn’t get as cold overnight, so our famously pleasantly cool Gunnison mornings were exchanged for an early hotting up of the day.

A heat exchange, and not a good one.

It was hot, everyone said so, and thinking became too much last week. Even reacting: while I’m sure the heat caused some tempers to flare, mine just took a vacation. I did wave one of the newly-provided orange crosswalk flags at a couple of inattentive drivers who managed to miss not only the sign in the middle of the street telling them to yield to pedestrians, but the clue provided by their fellow drivers who were slowing down and stopping, and the visual of the pedestrians right in front of them.

(I did walk up to the one driver who was driving sedately and slowed well in advance of the crosswalk to thank him. He said he was sorry to hear he was the only one of his kind on the road.)

But I wasn’t able to work up my usual indignation at these violators of common courtesy (many of them, I have to say, with Texas plates affixed to their bumpers). I was just going through some motions because that’s what I always do.

I didn’t make business calls. I didn’t send e-mails, business or personal. I didn’t send texts. I didn’t — perhaps you noticed — come up with anything to blog about. When it gets too hot, it turns out, I just shut down.

I imagine it’s not just the heat but the high pressure of an exhaustingly busy summer, particularly on the heels of an exhaustingly not-busy summer, but whatever it was, I just wasn’t feeling it last week. No matter what “it” was — unless it was the heat.

We’re supposed to get thunderstorms, or at least the promise of them, the next couple days before we start blaming our four-legged friends for the dog days of August. Perhaps this will give me time to get my sun hats and light meters in order, and I can set about being a functional member of society in a world that’s just going to keep getting hotter.

After spending half a lifetime on a planet when it turned out he was really just unconscious for 18 minutes, Captain Picard is reunited with a skill he gained over years on the planet.

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