The Twilight Zone & ‘Wisdom Fiction’
“There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call The Twilight Zone.”
— Rod Serling
This week I have something a little more unusual for you: a biographical documentary of a man who lived with exceptional purpose, a man of high moral standing; a controversial and subtly influential mass educator during conservative and dark times, especially in the 1950s and early ’60s. A lengthy video, yes, but worthy of indulgence for its inspiration and honesty.
Rod Serling is remembered mostly as the creator, principal writer, producer, and host of The Twilight Zone, a television series way ahead of its time, which ran for five years from October 1959 to June 1964 (basically, my childhood!).
A six-times Emmy award-winner, Serling was a genius of the moral kind. He had a voice that demanded you think deeply about life and the part your mind plays in it. The Twilight Zone series is now being categorized as "Wisdom Fiction".
Like most writers of his era, Serling had to struggle to become accepted by the Powers That Be. His ideas were shockingly imaginative, and often controversial. He was incensed by the power of the television sponsors who interfered with his scripts to protect their own interests. Of his morality tales, he states in this documentary,
On THE TWILIGHT ZONE, I knew that I could get away with Martians saying things that Republicans and Democrats couldn’t."
He’d had to fight for his ideas during those dangerous times in the USA. Civil societies were struggling with unexpected changes in attitudes, especially during the 1960s, brought about by the inner battles of Pluto and Chiron in their opposing positions in the human psyche and in the heavens. One, chaining us to our insecurities and fears of change, and the other stirring our humanity and higher awareness.
As a kind of preamble to these changes, Rod Serling, a man of insignificant physical stature, but a giant renaissance-intellect, brought through a wisdom and humanity that is, indeed, timeless. And it is a great testament to his brilliance that the original black-and-white episodes and seasons (1 through 5) of this iconic series are still available to purchase on iTunes today!
This documentary will show you not only the man, but also his time. We may have no clear idea of the precise influence Serling’s work would have had on those who followed, such as Gene Roddenberry of Star Trek, and Steven Spielberg, and the TV writers of The X-Files. But we can be certain that Rod Serling set their minds aglow.
The Twilight Zone was also an important part of my own early childhood. And I can only guess now as to the vital impact those contorted wisdom-stories would have had on my own thinking and writing at such an early age. Watching this documentary, I do still remember seeing the snippets shown here from various episodes. Between the ages of 6 and 10, I was already writing poetry, prose, short stories, a play, and even the beginning of a novel; and then later song lyrics in my teenage years. Though, I can recall being thoroughly fascinated by every episode of this unique television experiment.
Rod Serling only lived for 50 years, and doubted that his contribution would be remembered. But he has become an icon of not only early television production and writing, but of sanity and wisdom in an uncertain world. His work will be remembered for many decades, and we hope centuries to come. Unlike many (but not all) of his colleagues, he did not write simply to entertain, but to change minds, to use the subtlety of science-fiction and imagination to wake people up to their fears and prejudices, and superstitions.
He does embrace a cause, he does take a position, and can’t allow it to become ‘business as usual’.
Humanity is our business.”
— Rod Serling
. . . May you always live your Exceptional Purpose!