The Outer Limits

On September 16, 1963, the classic television series, The Outer Limits, debuted. I’d turned nine in January of that year. My brother, Keith, had turned eight just eight days before the first episode aired. From the moment we heard the control voice (the inimitable Vic Perrin), we were fans, regardless of the fact that we were so terrified at times that we hid behind furniture.

The show was positioned, of course, as fantasy, as presentations of the supernatural, as science fiction. Like all good fiction, though, it foreshadowed the future by examining the shadows in the present. And so it is we find ourselves cast in the shadows of the second half of 2020, at war with nature and with each other — divided, contentious, manipulated by political and media narratives, driven by fear, and reveling in our righteous disunity.

Welcome to human history.

What’s different about this moment in history is that, at least in the United States of America, we have the means to bring about the change we want. It’s called, The Constitution of the United States. It codifies the rule of law by which we are guaranteed representative government; that is, we are granted the legal right to be represented by our duly elected peers. (Translation: We don’t hire them to lead us. We hire them to represent us. They aren’t superior to us in any way. They work for us.)

In no scan of the Constitution will you find the phrases, career politician, or ruling class. What you will find are prescribed terms for members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, respectively. Were our elected representatives held to those terms — and, at the end of those terms, were they required to return home to face the constituents who sent them to Washington to reflect their will — at least three ends out of many would be served:

  1. We’d have levels of accountability we haven’t had in decades, if not more than a century.
  2. We’d diminish the influence of lobbyists dramatically.
  3. We’d have more direct evidence of the fact that our votes do, indeed, count.

Then, with respect for the checks and balances of bicameral government and the rule of law — political and media narratives notwithstanding — we could take our divisions, our contentiousness, our fear, and our righteous disunity to the polls in every election cycle.


Life Follows Fiction

On September 30, 1963 — 57 years ago — the third episode of The Outer Limits aired. It was called, “The Architects of Fear”. (You can see the entire episode uninterrupted here for $1.99 Or you can watch it here after sitting through an ad.) At the end, the control voice delivers this timeless message:

Scarecrows and magic and other fatal fears do not bring people closer together. There is no magic substitute for soft caring and hard work, for self-respect and mutual love. If we can learn this from the mistake these frightened men made, then their mistake will not have been merely grotesque, it would at least have been a lesson. A lesson, at last, to be learned.

Let’s learn the lesson. Let’s impose term limits. And let’s remember: The government doesn’t control the horizontal, the vertical, or any other damn thing. We do.

If we learn the lesson, our republic need not be pushed to the outer limits of its unity and cohesion.


Mark O'Brien
Mark O'Brien
I’m a business owner. My company — O’Brien Communications Group (OCG) — is a B2B brand-management and marketing-communication firm that helps companies position their brands effectively and persuasively in industries as diverse as: Insurance, Financial Services, Senior Living, Manufacturing, Construction, and Nonprofit. We do our work so well that seven of the companies (brands) we’ve represented have been acquired by other companies. OCG is different because our business model is different. We don’t bill by the hour or the project. We don’t bill by time or materials. We don’t mark anything up. We don’t take media commissions. We pass through every expense incurred on behalf of our clients at net. We scope the work, price the work, put beginning and end dates on our engagements, and charge flat, consistent fees every month for the terms of the engagements. I’m also a writer by calling and an Irish storyteller by nature. In addition to writing posts for my company’s blog, I’m a frequent publisher on LinkedIn and Medium. And I’ve published three books for children, numerous short stories, and other works, all of which are available on Amazon under my full name, Mark Nelson O’Brien.

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  1. Hi Mark – I love the tie-in with the Outer Limits. I also love our constitution. People tend to forget, because it is so easily overlooked – there are term limits in place already – we elect our House of Representatives and 1/3 of our Senate every two years, and our President every four years. The president is limited to two terms, which may or may not be a good thing, as history has shown that after a President is re-elected since term limits have been passed, very little of consequence has come out of the second term. Right now, our elected leaders have a bit of an advantage when they are incumbents, as they have all done a good job of redesigning congressional districts to fit with their best chances of being returned every election. What we need to do is become educated, and to educate each other about what is happening… people focus on a few weeks every fall and just want it all to be over with in November. We do control what happens, but to many of us are more concerned about what’s happening on The Bachelor or Dancing with the Stars than we are about stuff that matters. That’s an entire discussion unto itself.

    My main thing is that I want to learn how to write as neatly and as fast as that person in your video… that is some super skillset to desire. It sounds trite, but I always love what Winston Churchill said about democracy (and I know, we are a Republic – which is a form of democracy) “It’s the worst form of government, except for all the others.”

    • I also think we’re preoccupied and indoctrinated by the identity groups to which we’re supposed to belong and by which our behavior and rhetoric are supposed to be determined. Imposing term limits would help curtail that nonsense, too.

      The person in my videos has the distinct advantage of being software. The only mistakes he ever makes are the ones committed by the dude who’s composing what he’s writing. And I think that dude has issues. 🤪

      Thank you for being part of this conversation, Tom.