I still enjoy watching old Twilight Zone episodes. Perhaps it’s my pleasure at being forced to look at things in an unaccustomed way. Or maybe watching Twilight Zone simply transports me back to a time I was ten.
Lately I’ve been pondering Episode 63: The Mind and the Matter that first aired in May of 1961. The episode starred Shelley Berman as an intolerant and misanthropic Archibald Beechcroft, a man who seemed to hate most everybody.
When a colleague provides him with a book about the power of mind over matter, Beechcroft first rids the world of all other human beings. Becoming bored with his people-less world, Beechcroft decides to populate it with people who look like, sound like, and behave like him.
As you might guess, things didn’t turn out so well. Everybody ends up looking, sounding, and behaving like Beechcroft all right, including being just as rude and just as cranky and just as intolerant.
Rod Serling’s closing narration said it all:
Mr. Archibald Beechcroft, a child of the twentieth century, who has found out through trial and error – and mostly error – that with all its faults, it may well be that this is the best of all possible worlds. People notwithstanding, it has much to offer. Tonight's case in point – in the Twilight Zone.
Those of us engaged in political discourse might want to take Mr. Serling’s words to heart. We are often convinced (at least I am) that our way is so obviously right. How many times have we wished others were more like us?
Episode 63 calls on us to reconsider that wish.