RIP Leonard Nimoy (aka Mr. Spock).
Growing up I watched Star Trek religiously. I grew up in an age where space exploration held our eyeballs glued to the TV set and inspired our imagination. Like many boys of that era, I grew up wanting to be an astronaut. That “want” turned out to be a dream. Interestingly, Star Trek aired for only 3 seasons and was cancelled due to a lack of audience. However, it was epic in dealing with the issues of the day, which continue to a greater or lesser extent today. While Mr. Nimoy died last week, Spock is sure to live on for a lot longer. Mr. Nimoy’s death made me stop and think back to the show and the lessons it taught me viewed from a very different perspective brought about by some 50 years spent at the school of life.
Though my friends found Captain Kirk the star of the show (how many know his middle name is Tiberius?) and wanted to be him, I was fascinated by Spock. Today, I think Spock can teach us a lot about the way our emotions create our reality and how to deal with them.
Star Trek presented us with a future where humanity had come to peace (i.e., no more wars), diseases and poverty had been eradicated. It also presented us with cool gadgets, most of which we now take for granted (e.g., remember the old communicator? Don’t they look eerily similar to the first flip cell phones?), etc. In other words, Utopia, a version of what we, as humans, could be and some dare dream to be. Still, in each episode we witnessed the star explorers struggle with strife, war on other planets and within themselves, bigotry, etc. In other words: human emotions. None struggled more mightily than Spock, the ½ human ½ Vulcan second-in-command and conscience to Captain Kirk.
In my mind, Spock mirrored each and every one of us as we struggle, some consciously most unconsciously, with our emotions while we go about our daily lives. Perhaps I identified most with Spock because, like him, though very active in sports, I was bookish (some said nerdy, others geeky) and an introvert (i.e., shy). Also, since my family moved around a lot, either to different part of the same city, other cities and even other countries, I continually felt like an outsider. I never quite fit in. When in France, I was ½ French and ½ Spaniard. When in Canada, I was ½ a Francophone and ½ an Anglophone. And on and on. Many things (i.e., beliefs) seemingly kept me separated from being part of the tribe, from being fully accepted. Like many adolescents, I struggled with emotions of anger, resentment, rejection, solitude, etc. And so I admired Spock because despite the many struggles he faced, not the least of which was dealing with a very human (i.e., emotionally-captive) Capt. Kirk, an always upset and irate (i.e., emotionally-captive) Doctor McCoy and eternally perplexed and flummoxed (i.e., emotionally-captive) Chief Engineer Scotty, in the end Spock remained calm and in control. Even when faced with the Pon Farr, synonymous with adolescents’ dealing with raging hormones, he could get control of his emotions.
Reflecting on the show itself, I still wonder at the Utopic world created in the 23rd Century. And, while technologically we seem to have met and in some cases overtaken the ones presented in the show, it seems we are still light-years away from the world created. Why is it so hard to conceive of a world where resources are equally shared? But I digress as I am fond of doing.
In the end, I am glad I am not, and will never be a full Vulcan. I prefer to be like Mr. Spock: one struggling with his emotions. We can understand that our emotions dictate the way we look at life. Newly evolving brain science shows that emotions dominate our decision-making process; that we make irrational decisions based on fearful emotions even when we think these decisions are perfectly rational. By acknowledging our emotions and how they rule us, we can control them (for example, we can choose peace over anger), and begin to live a life of peace and let that peace radiate outward like the ripple of a boulder thrown into a pond. Mr. Spock himself acknowledged that there is value in listening to our emotions. Like Mr. Spock, perhaps we can acknowledge that there is no value in letting fearful emotions control us, and let the emotion of love dominate our decision-making. (The emotion of fear is an upcoming post)
And to one and all: Live long and prosper and may your emotions show the brighter side of life Jean-Pierre
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