Station Eleven: “Survival is Insufficient.”

Station Eleven: Survival is InsufficientWe often read fiction as a form of escape, but I recently read a novel that was both entertaining and enlightening. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel speaks to choices we make in life and the impact they have.

The main character, Kirsten, was just a child when a deadly flu killed 99% of the world’s population in a matter of days. She survived by hiding in her home with her brother until the contagion had passed. When they finally ventured into the world, she carried with her a comic book and the memory of the famous actor who gave it to her. The object and the memory remained with her for decades, shaping her life.

Survival Is Insufficient

Twenty years later, we meet Kirsten as she travels with a troupe of nomadic actors and musicians who call themselves The Traveling Symphony. They risk everything to perform Shakespeare and play symphonies for scattered communities of survivors. Electricity, gasoline, and air travel are all things of the past now, so the group walks through uncivilized, sparsely populated land and encounter dangerous people along the road.

On the lead wagon of their caravan, Kirsten paints a line from Star Trek: Voyager – “Survival is Insufficient.” It becomes the motto of the troupe. They spend their lives taking music and art to the people who survived the deadly flu because they wanted to add beauty to their civilization; to help people do more than just survive.


They found settlements of survivors. Many welcomed their group and their performances, while others did not. After a frightening and violent encounter with one such group, the troupe sought out a group rumored to be living in an airport terminal. That group’s purpose was to create a new world while preserving the memory of the world “before.” They accepted any survivor who wanted to work and be a part of a growing, healing world. They created a community.

The Search

Throughout her journey, Kristin searched for information about the man who gave her the comic book. Even as she would enter deserted buildings to search for supplies, she would take time to look for clues. This was especially dangerous because there was the possibility of discovery and harm. Each time she found information, she would keep it and carry it with her. The man and the comic book became her connection with her history. They were her “constant object” that sustained her, and kept her moving forward in life.

We all have objects, beliefs, people and memories that live inside of us. They fall into in the same categories as those in the story: some help us survive, some harm us, and some help us grow and thrive.

Take a moment to ask yourself if you have objects, beliefs, people or memories in your life that are holding you back. Are they keeping you on the level of survival and hurting you?

There are times that we know we need to let go and just can’t do it. There are other times that we know we are hurting and can’t figure out why. Growing up in an abusive family is like surviving a dystopia. You live in a world of danger and deprivation. There are times when there is more than survival, but they are fleeting and hard to trust. There is little to help you thrive in life.

If you feel that you are merely surviving, call me at (919) 881-2001. I can help you learn to thrive.


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