A friend of mine works for a company I would love to work for. He is not someone you are ever going to see on stage, nor someone who would get chewed out and fired after a product launch. But, he is part of the backbone that holds up that organization. Ok, maybe not the backbone, maybe more like a rib. What I mean is his role is important, although not vital. He got his job because he is one of maybe a hundred people in the country who can do what he does. If he wanted to he could easily be on one of those vital, fireable teams. He doesn’t. He has a wife, and a baby, and a good job, and a good salary, and he gets to go home at night and on the weekends and take fun pictures with his family.
The generation after mine, the millennials, weren’t raised on TV. They were certainly raised with TV, but by the time they were 10 there were other screens competing for their attention. Those screens required input, feedback, interaction. They were never plopped down in one spot for hours not needing to do much more than change the channel. Mark Zuckerberg grew up in that, computers all around him, friends more vital than family. But, he also grew up believing he could build something great, change the world, change the way people communicate. The quintessential millennial.
Firefly is a Generation-X show, more so even than Friends. The first few seasons of Friends spoke to us, genetic family on the periphery, jobs done out of a sense of passion or obligation, relationships a mess, no money anywhere. But, as the series goes on you can tell that this is a show about Gen-X, but not made by Gen-Xers. At the end of the last episode of the last season you have a group of wealthy friends leaving each other, well paid for their fulfilling jobs, moving to the burbs to safely raise their families. This is a boomer-told story.
Firefly is a story about overly qualified folks caught in the crossfire of old wars, who give up more lucrative possibilities to keep their crew together, their family together, and who pay dearly for it. People die. This is the Gen-X dream made manifest by Gen-Xers. This is a show with characters who hold tight to their friends, and never sell out their honor. Firefly is who we wish we could be. “Find a crew, find a job, keep flying.” Harry Potter is this same story, fiercely loyal friends caught up in their parents’ wars. Both end the same way, everyone ends up either dead or scarred.
We never wanted to be this jaded. But we were born while the country mourned the Kennedys, and King, and Malcolm X, and Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix, and Marilyn Monroe, and James Dean, while the economy fell apart, while factories closed, while big cities were gutted and burned, with gas lines and hostages, with different presidents every four years, with yuppies, and douchebags, and meaningless bickering about things that happened on college campuses in the sixties. No one wanted to stick around and fix anything. So we raised ourselves, made friends, and did what we could to make each other happy.
The best we could have managed was to be in a band with three or four of our talented friends, in a crew, together. But we weren’t all musically talented. I have a friend who started a theatre company, one running a non-profit, one working on publishing others, too many to count on stages and in small clubs. And it all works, right up until something goes wrong with the friendships. None of these businesses die because of money. They die because someone gets married, or has a baby, or moves away.
Scott Hall, professional wrestler and baby boomer, put it best. For his generation “it’s not called show friendship, it’s show business.” CM Punk, professional wrestler and Gen-Xer walked away from a lucrative contract to retire at 35 and the bosses couldn’t figure out why. They call him selfish. To us, the reasons were obvious and unselfish. They didn’t hire and promote his friends. Find a crew, find a job, keep flying. Show friendship.
I’ll always follow my heart. It means more to me than money. I have never seen money bring joy to my parent’s lives. I will always be there for my friends. Any one of them could call me at a moment’s notice and I would be on a bus, a plane, or a boat to help. I have a great job. It doesn’t pay me my highest possible salary. I am not working for a most admired company, and I did not make it out unscarred. I miss my people, some of them desperately. But I love seeing their success, their fierce loyalty, their proper choices, their ability to balance health, wealth, and family.
We were never going to save the world. The world didn’t need saving. It just needed more honor, more friendship, more loyalty.