Five Fundamental Questions from Babylon 5

Throughout the TV series Babylon 5, there have been five fundamental questions we all must ask ourselves at some point or another.

Now that I've received the complete five seasons of B5 for my birthday (yesterday), I find myself asking those questions again. As I generally do every birthday.

Who are you?
The question asked by the Vorlons and their agents. This question covers matters of personal identity. What do you see yourself as, as compared to how you define yourself in terms of others - and indeed, how much you accept others' definitions of who and what you are?

What do you want?
The question asked by the Shadows and their agents, particularly Mr Morden. This is the question addressing one's needs, our wants, our desires. What do we need, as compared to what we think we need? What do we desire, as compared to what we need? And are you sure that these are your desires, rather than desires foisted on you by others?

Why are you here?
The philosophers' favourite fundamental question. This is the question that gets the asker delving deeply into their raison d'etre. Do you believe that your life has a purpose? Do others think your life has a purpose? And what does the universe think?

Where are you going?
If you have a purpose, answering the previous question, are you doing something to edge closer to achieving that purpose or not? Are you achieving your purpose or not? Is there interference holding you back? Someone or something trying to deflect you from achieving your purpose so that you can be used to accomplish theirs? To whose ends are you being used?

Do you have anything worth living for?

A very important question. The above questions all focus on you, the asker. This is the first question that asks you what is important to you that is external to you and your life. It is also the first chance to ask the questions above to this external influence.

Who are you? - Who are you to me?
What do you want? - And how do I figure in it?
Why are you here? - And why are you so important to me?
Where are you going? - And is my purpose part of the achievement of yours?
Do you have anything worth living for? - And does that include me?

Each year, I ask these questions. There is a game, where you ask the same question over and over. You are supposed to give a different reply each time. The thing is, each time I have asked these questions ... each year I've posed these questions ... the shape of my life has always ensured that I give a different answer, each time.

Edit: Drumming Hawk has, of course, added another fundamental question: this time, from the B5 spinoff Crusade:-

Whom do you trust?
The Technomage Galen asks Captain Gideon two questions, both linked: Whom do you serve, and whom do you trust? Like the fifth question above, these look at one's relation with an external influence: at one's connections with others.

Whom do you serve? - In other words, to whom are you responsible? How many of your actions and decisions are you responsible for, and how many of the keys in your life are in another's hands?

Whom do you trust? - Are those keys in the right hands for you? Do they have your best interests at heart? Do they have their own best interests at heart? Do they even understand what is at stake when they use those keys?


  1. Beautiful summary - very helpful. Thank you.

  2. There is another question from Crusade... Who do you trust? It exercises discernment.

  3. As philosophically challenging from the perspective of Babylon 5 is, it foregoes one of the more important questions: Do you have anything worth dying for?

    You see... independence and freedom are recurring themes in the series. The Shadow, Minbari, Narn, and Centauri conflicts... the Vorlon and Shadow having their own differences... the Telepath War... and Sheridan's own deal with Lorien. Not to mention all the internal scuffles of all the N.A.W. and even within Babylon 5 itself, but perhaps the one that is the most significant is the ongoing conflict between G'Kar and Mollari.

    The entropy of the universe and human perspective will demand that the vision of the future take precedent. I agree with it and in many ways, I would actively support the endeavor. However, the course of ALL societal and cultural development requires that the question be asked. If nobody is willing to sacrifice, or in the most broad and loosely interpreted sense die for the cause, then the cause will not advance because the meaning, intent, and purpose of everything that those things are designed to articulate will have no meaning.

    The four central questions: 1) Who are you? 2) What do you want? 3) Why are you here? 4) Where are you going?

    Those questions are a result of the fifth: Do you have anything worth living for?

    Because, the answers to the first four, regardless of how simple or intricate, are a result of actions taken to give them an opportunity to exist.

    However, if by failing to acknowledge the theme in the series that being a martyr is downright heresy, then the whole premise of these questions has become invalid. There is no life without death and no progress without movement. You can't do anything without expenditure. Identity, desire, rationale, and the journey are all moot without it.

    The Vorlons figured that out and Sheridan all but banished them. Well, with the exception of Kosh. Even when Kosh directed Sheridan into the pit at Z'ha'dum, he knew full well that Lorien could save him because Sheridan would choose to live, if given the choice. Hence, question number five. However, the answers to questions one through four are dependent on the answer to five.

    As for the last two questions, whom do you serve and whom do you trust, they are ancillary to the core questions. Trust and servitude are actions based on the first four questions and not rooted in themselves. It would be like asking, "Why X instead of Y?"

    The point is... the shape of your life, as much as you believe it is ever-changing, will not change until you concede that in the midst of everything worth living for, the ultimate question is if there is anything worth dying for?

    No matter how much you may gain... the expenditure was, is, and forever will be more relevant.

  4. "Who are you?"
    I am a lifeform able to think. I am able to hold concepts in mind and therefore I have a unique perspective every moment I live.

    "What do you want?"
    What my inherited instincts have me desire e.g. to survive a bit, have some amount of happiness and cause as little suffering to others as I can while doing so. Not that I "need" to do any of those things, my parents could have simply never met or my species never evolved.

    "Why are you here?"
    Why are trees growing on Earth? Why are stars burning? There is no why. A detailed answer to HOW I'm here can stretch all the way past how current physics came about.

    "Where are you going?"
    At the moment? To talk to an idiot who thinks "purpose" is real. He probably thinks alcohol has a "purpose" to be drank and trees have a "purpose" to be turned into barrels.

    "Do you have anything worth living for?"
    No one ever has anything "worth" anything. "Value" is a myth. You think gold and oxygen filled up with value when organic life came along?

    "Whom do you serve and whom do you trust?"
    Whomever I choose to. I have no "responsibilities" in life, I simply make choices before my death.

    '(sigh) We humans are stupid egotistical self-deluded beings'


"And if we have unearned luck, now to scape the serpent's tongue, we will make amends ere long. Else the Puck a liar call ..."

So speak.