One of the great characters in contemporary fiction is Capt. Malcolm Reynolds, owner of the cargo ship Serenity in Joss Whedon’s brilliant television show Firefly and the film named after the ship. At a pivotal moment in Serenity, Reynolds meets his main adversary, a nameless assassin we know simply as The Operative, and during their conversation comes an electrifying exchange that sums up Reynolds’ character in 11 words.
Operative: I have to hope you understand you can’t beat us.
Reynolds: I got no need to beat you; I just want to go my way.
Consider how powerful a message those words convey. I don’t need to convince you that my way is right and yours is wrong; I simply desire to live my life on my terms and let you live your life on your terms, as long as we do no harm to each other. There is plenty of room on this vast world for both of us.
The Operative’s response is that Reynolds can go his way if he surrenders a friend to be harmed; for Reynolds, of course, this is an unacceptable condition. There always seems to be someone who wants to place conditions on freedom.
How much grief occurs because someone decides it is not enough to live and let live: Some people must be beaten and not allowed to go their way. Six billion unique human stories on this planet; imagine if we all agreed to let those individual stories play out, restrained only by a prohibition on doing harm to others.
[originally posted July 30, 2013]