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Late at Night with Rod Sterling and The New Life Corp

I’ve got a herniated disc at L5 which puts me down from time to time. This is one of those times. What being “down” means is spending a lot of time laying in or on the bed. What a “lot of time” means is anywhere from days to months. I’m a week into this round and things aren’t looking all that good.

Being down means I have a lot of time for reading, listening to music, and watching TV. In the past the TV watching was mostly movies, but over the past ten days I’ve been exploring Netflix and Amazon Video “originals.” Kudos to both companies. Of course, I also watch old time favorites, and this time I’ve been binging on the Twilight Zone.

I watched the Twilight Zone when it was on the air. I had forgotten, or never noticed, how sometimes pleasantly and sometimes painfully sentimental many of the episodes were. Also, episodes often pursed moral issues without subtlety. And on occasion things got down right didactic. Now in 2017, all that sentimentality and moralizing are okay because it’s in black and white, the Rod Sterling intros are wonderful, and watching in the now is always remembering the then.

Season 3 Episode 31 was entitled "The Trade-Ins" and was one of those sentimental morality plays. It was about a company called The New Life Corp, a company true to its name. Nothing metaphorical about The New Life Corp. No, the company only dealt in the literal, and the service provided was literally new life. It promised to eliminated pain while providing rebirth into youth, strength, beauty, and health. This is how it worked: One would go to The New Life Corp to have one’s consciousness transferred into a new healthy young body constructed to last 112 years. In Episode 31 an elderly couple talked to a sales representative. The old man, 79 years old, was in constant pain while the old woman 74,  was relatively healthy. They had been married for 50 years. The sales rep took their information and then lead them to a show room to examine the many models available for transfer. They were all beautiful and strong. The sales rep explained with a preacher’s zeal that signing a contract was a beginning and not an end, that their relationship could live forever. As it turned out, our elderly couple, very much in love, only had enough money for one transfer and since the man was in constant pain, they opted for him. After the procedure he came bouncing into the waiting room, young, sexy, healthy, pain free, and hugs his old wife. With uncontrolled enthusiasm he described what they would do now that he was reborn, all of which demanded a young body. Suddenly he stopped and the young man and old woman just look at each other.

It was obvious that the 50 year marriage would never survive the rebirth of only one of them. In the next scene we see the old man returning to his wife in his original old pain ridden body. They quoted some sentimental poem about the best is yet to come as they walked into the metaphorical sunset. And as the show draws to an end, the Rod Stirling voice over quotes The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran:

Love gives not but itself and takes not from itself, love possesses not nor would it be possessed, for love is sufficient unto love.

Sterling didn’t need to send a telegram for us to know what was going to happen. It was clear from the moment we learned the couple could only afford one transfer. Love would win the day, of course. It had to simply because the moral lesson of that time demanded it. And while the episode toyed with the idea, teased us with the idea, that rebirth, or resurrection, could be a literal physical truth with the right technology, it didn’t have the courage to allow the technology (new body and 112 years) to conquer the spiritual (love). No, no anti-heroes in Episode 31.

It was all very predictable and very sweet. But lying there with my L5 giving me all kinds of hell, anticipating the pain I was going to experience in the morning, and dreading going through my day with a back that was hardly functional,  I thought I’d gladly invest in The New Life Corp if only there was a New Life Corp to invest in. I liked the idea of rebirth progressing from metaphor to literalism. Even more I liked the idea of having a young body. Forget the sappy poem about the best is yet to come. Put aside Kahlil Gibran, the sentimentalist. Give me a new body! I would have happily dealt with the psychological and theological implications if I could wake up strong.

Admittedly, when I looked in the mirror no doubt I would have to go through some kind of psychological adjustment, but I was willing to do the work. According to the actuary tables I only have four of five years left so, hell yes, I’d like a new body that would last me 112 years. Sign me up. And if my wife and I couldn’t afford for her transfer, I’d skip the poetry reading and with my newly constructed body find a job and raise the money for my wife’s transfer.

But alas, there is no New Life Corp and no velvet voiced Sterling voiceover. All that’s left is the hope that the poetry will heal the wasteland that is literalism and help me deal with my L5.

Copyright © 2017 Dale Rominger

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