Gaius Baltar

Is There A Cost to Hiding Our Mistakes?

Cost of Mistakes Battlestar GalacticaBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Should we always admit our mistakes, sins, and bad decisions and accept responsibility for them, or are there times when we should simply move on and try to forget they happened?

The decision is probably easy when the stakes are small, but what about when we run into one of those situations where accepting responsibility would change our lives…and not necessarily for the better.

In the first season of Battlestar Galactica, two storylines look at both sides of this dilemma.

Captain Sharon Valerii (call sign “Boomer”) wakes up one day soaked with water. She doesn’t remember what happened, and she discovers explosives in her duffle bag. When she investigates the small arms locker, she finds six more detonators are missing. When Galactica’s water tanks blow up, leaving the entire fleet with a critical water shortage, Sharon and her lover cover up her role, sure she’s been framed.

Except Sharon wasn’t framed. She’s a sleeper agent who doesn’t yet understand (let alone accept) what she is. Because she and her lover lied and hid what they knew, Sharon is able to try and nearly succeed at assassinating the commander of the fleet. I’ve always wondered—if they’d confessed right away, would Sharon have fallen that far? Her character shows great ability for change and loyalty. Could her path have been different if they’d been honest instead of trying to hide? Or would they have immediately executed her as a cylon infiltrator without giving her a chance to redeem herself?

Unlike Sharon, Dr. Gaius Baltar is never caught for the part he played in the cylon destruction of the twelve human colonies. (Though, in his defense, he didn’t realize he was helping the cylons. He thought he was breaking the rules to help the beautiful woman he was sleeping with win a defense contract.) He even eventually becomes president of the remnant of humanity. In a lot of ways, he seems to benefit from hiding his past mistakes.

But watching what he has to do to keep his secret, you have to ask if it was worth it. He leaves a potentially innocent man to die to cover up for the fact that he doesn’t know how to build a cylon detector. He advises that the passenger ship, the Olympic Carrier, be destroyed, saying it might be carrying cylon infiltrators, when in truth he’s afraid one passenger (Dr. Amarak) might have evidence of the role Gaius played in the cylon invasion. Almost every action he takes is to cover up something else he’s done.

He never faces the consequences of his actions and never becomes a better person.

Where’s the line between what we should admit to and what it’s alright to make private?

If a husband or wife cheated on their spouse 10 years ago and wasn’t caught, should they confess now to ease their conscience or stay quiet and spare their spouse’s feelings?

What if you bump into another car in the parking lot and no one is around to see it? Do you leave a note? Does it change things if you are barely paying your bills and don’t know how you’ll manage to repair their car or pay a higher insurance rate?

And what might be the emotional costs of hiding our past mistakes?

What do you think? Should we always confess our wrongs? Are there times we should stay silent?

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Image Credit: Matteo Canessa (from sxc.hu)

Related Posts:
Could You Be An Evil Person?
Four Reasons Battlestar Galactica Isn’t Just for SciFi Fans

Are You Working Too Hard?

Are You Working Too HardAre there limits beyond which we can’t—and shouldn’t—push ourselves even in pursuit of our goals?

In Episode 1 of Battlestar Galactica’s first season, the humans are on the run from the Cylons (machines originally created to serve humans). The Cylons’ attempted extermination of humanity left less than 50,000 survivors, and all of them now live on the small cluster of ships protected by the Battlestar Galactica.

Somehow the Cylons are able to track the human’s FTL (faster-than-light) jumps. They attack every 33 minutes, down to the second. FTL jumps are extremely difficult to plot safely, and when the episode opens, the humans are struggling to have jump coordinates ready every thirty-three minutes while also maintaining their equipment. If a ship breaks down and they can’t repair it in 33 minutes, the Cylons will kill everyone on that ship.

Because FTL jumps feel like riding a rollercoaster, not even the civilians have had more than a few minutes sleep. The fleet’s fighter pilots and other essential military personnel are running on stimulants (what they call stims).

“Five days now,” Dr. Gaius Baltar says in a rant to the Cylon delusion only he can see. “There are limits…to the human body. To the human mind. Tolerances that you can’t push beyond. All those are facts. Proven facts. Everyone has their limit.”

They can’t keep going. They have to find a way to shake the Cylons or they will all die.

The Cylons’ plan of attack is perfect because, as humans, we do have limits. We can only push so hard for so long before our bodies give out. No amount of determination can change that.

For the last year and a half, I’ve been working seven days a week on average. During some stretches, I worked 12- to 14-hour days. I was tired. I was sick every month with something new (and worked anyway). My creative well was dry. And even though I was working hard in pursuit of my dream and trying to be a responsible adult, I recently realized that I’d reached my limit physically, emotionally, and creatively.

In her book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse who works with palliative care patients in the final months of their lives, explains that the second-most common regret expressed by dying people is “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.” They feel like they missed out on the more important things in life in order to succeed at work.

The temptation to burn ourselves out in support of our dreams is something almost anyone in any profession can fall prey to. We might think we’re being dedicated, and sometimes there are times when we do need to push hard, but we also need to rest. Without it, we’ll ruin our health and relationships. We won’t be doing our best work. And when we look back on the end of our lives and see only work, we’ll regret it.

Ignoring the need to rest is short-term thinking.

Because of this, and because I want my life to be more than the sum total of what I’m able to produce, I’m making a change. It’s not going to be an easy change for me. I have emotional baggage (why can’t the airline lose that for us, eh?) that means I feel guilty and afraid when I’m not working. I know it’s not healthy. It’s not balanced. And there’s only one way I know to fix it.

I am taking one day a week completely off from work. No social media. No writing. Maybe even no housework. I’m also setting aside one afternoon/evening a week to spend time with my husband. He deserves more of my time than he’s been getting.

Maybe this change means I’ll reach my goals a little slower. Maybe it means we have to live a simpler life and pinch a few more pennies in the short term.

And you know what? I’m okay with that, because I’m in this for the long haul. A life well-lived is about the long haul.

Have you been burning yourself out in the pursuit of your dreams because you think that’s the only way to “make it?” Or are you instead fighting, like me, to find a balance? I’d love to hear about the choice you’ve made and how/why you’re putting it into action.

(For an excellent, non-geeky look at this topic, check out Emma Burcart’s post “Sometimes We Just Need a Break.” For writers, I also love Kristen Lamb’s beautiful post “There Is A Season” where she talks about needing to let our minds, bodies, and imaginations rest if we want to be career authors rather than one-hit wonders.)

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Photo Credit: Michael Lorenzo (obtained via www.sxc.hu)

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