I once saw a great episode of Star Trek called ‘The Menagerie’. In it Captain Christopher Pike, a former US starfleet captain is completely disabled after some horrific accident. He can think perfectly well but otherwise lives like a vegetable.
Mr. Spock, who served under Pike for 11 years, decides to try and help him and forcibly takes control of The Enterprise and locks course for the planet Talos IV with Pike on board. On this planet the native Talosians can make illusions seem real. It’s a planet that Pike has visited before.
The ship lands and Captain Pike is wheeled out. He soon returns to his old handsome self and is reunited with Vina, a beautiful girl who Pike met years before on Talos IV.
In reality Vina is, like Pike, horribly disfigured. The spaceship that she and her parents were travelling in many years before crashed on Talos IV when she was a baby. She was the only survivor. The Talosians looked after her and gave her the illusion of beauty.
Now she and Pike are reunited and The Enterprise flies back into space leaving them to live out their illusion together.
The question raised by the episode is this: Is it better to live a wonderful life in a virtual world or a miserable life in the real world? For people whose lives are neither great nor awful the question is a little harder to answer. However, in Pike’s case the answer is easy. Unable to move at all he has no quality of life and just wants to die. The virtual world of Talos IV is his saviour. As the Talosians say in their final message to Captain Kirk, “Captain Pike has an illusion, and you have reality. May you find your way as pleasant.”
Practitioners of Mindfulness would probably choose reality over a dream world since they insist on the importance of being conscious. I write about that here.