Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valen's Time-Day


Every year on this day, our thoughts turn to Valen, the "Minbari, not born of Minbari...the most significant figure in Minbari history" as the Babylon 5 wiki describes him.

Valen is indeed a signal figure in the Babylon 5 universe. His arrival heralds the turning point in the First Shadow War. All was lost before him; everything is possible after he arrives. Once Valen is on the scene, the Minbari have the resources and faith to persevere and win. In the process, Valen reforms and transforms Minbari society.

His greatest institutional legacies, the Grey Council and the Anla'Shok, become the first institutions in Minbari history to bring together the warring castes.  Both institutions also become vehicles for the Minbari to transcend fixed social identities.

Early in the series, Delenn takes a step away from her own race toward humanity through the Chrysalis Device; she was only able to build this device due to her role within the Grey Council. Much as Valen did, Delenn transcends her own race.

Later in the series, Neroon, a member of the Warrior Caste, makes the ultimate sacrifice and in doing so finds his true calling in the Religious Caste. His act helps transform power relations among the Minbari castes.

The Starfire Wheel

Valen himself combines aspects of each of these characters, as well as of Sheridan. Like Delenn, Valen voluntarily sacrifices his own species-being to assume a new form. Like Neroon, he was a warrior whose truest calling was the religious path. And like Sheridan at Za'ha'dum, the man who becomes Valen must die to himself and everything he knows, and take a leap of faith.

While Sheridan's passion, death, and resurrection take a very Christian form, the sacrifice that calls Valen into being has a more Eastern pattern. Sinclair's sacrifice opens a virtuous circle which guarantees both the Past and the Future. The man who becomes Valen makes this sacrifice willingly - with a sense of curiosity and openness.

To paraphrase Kant, Sinclair acts out of love rather than duty. And that is why we remember Valen today.

No comments:

Post a Comment