The Oatmeal Shows How a Plane Crash Got Us to The Final Frontier

You should read today’s new comic from The Oatmeal. It’s the kind of story that packs an emotional wallop in a way that feels authentically earned.

When I saw that the page title was “It’s going to be okay,” after a mantra in the comic, I assumed it was one of those pragmatically inspirational posts, something to the effect of, “Even if your life feels like an airplane with an engine on fire going down fast, it’s going to be okay.”

The Oatmeal Gene Roddenberry it's going to be okay plane crash

After I read a few panels, I thought that instead it was a sweet story about the brave co-pilot meeting his wife.

The Oatmeal Gene Roddenberry Star Trek

I mean, what a story—he sat down next to the crying woman and told her everything would be all right even as he watched the engine drop off the plane. But then I got to the end and realized it was something else entirely.

OK, here is where you should read the entire comic at The Oatmeal, because I don’t want to ruin the “twist” but I also want to be able to talk about it. If you have read it, then continue below.

The Oatmeal Gene Roddenberry it's going to be okay plane crash

Turns out this was an entirely true story taken from Gene Roddenberry’s memoir, about how he decided to resign from Pan Am and take up writing. That decision ultimately (of course) led him to television and the creation of Star Trek. But The Oatmeal doesn’t present it as a “near-death experience leads to life-change” story; Roddenberry in fact survived three plane crashes. It’s more that he recognized how small human lives are, and decided to make something that would be eternal. Or, helping that woman gave him the desire to help millions of viewers and fans. Or some other explanation—this story is open to multiple interpretations.

What starts out seeming like an inspirational parable turns out to be the origin story for a beloved television series, and a reminder that enduring, universally relatable stories can come from the most unexpected places… so, “It’s going to be okay” turns out to be an inspirational mantra after all.

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