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I have recently come to the conclusion that everything we need to know about living life can be learned from Star Trek. I had this epiphany in the middle of a Star Trek marathon with my son, Chuck. I can't remember what prompted our recent immersion in the voyages of the Star Ship Enterprise, but since we don't have regular TV or Cable, we sometimes indulge in streaming entire runs of select TV shows through the computer or his gaming system. We started with the original version from my childhood and will end with the most recent movie version, and while the lead characters and the Enterprise changed over the years, the underlying philosophy of the franchise remained remarkably consistent, a consistency that is reflected in what can be learned from each and every encounter the crew of the Enterprise ever had.
One of the most important things to note in Star Trek is that although the Federation of Planets is based upon a military structure, the crew of the Enterprise were explorers, not soldiers. In other words, their mission was about pursuing knowledge, not conquest, hence the Prime Directive, which reflected a policy of non-interference with other cultures, a very important rule, which Chuck pointed out to me seemed to be broken on a regular basis. Well...yeah...but only because the crew got dragged into situations by anyone and everyone who had some kind of axe to grind. Besides, it's tough to spin a good morality tale if no one does any interacting.
Another vital thing to remember is that in the Star Trek future, we have managed to evolve into a race of people who are no longer greedy, power-mad, hate-filled, or narrow minded. Acquisition is no longer a favorite past time and we have rejected materialism. In other words, we are much better creatures than we are right now. Hard to imagine, but a nice ambition nonetheless.
Here are some of the life lessons we decided can be learned from Star Trek:
Love and friendship are powerful forces that can overcome impossible odds: Let's face it, Star Trek has always been character driven and the relationship among those characters is extraordinarily meaningful. In Star Trek, you always stood by your friends and comrades no matter what. Unless your comrade was under the influence of or has been replaced by some shape-shifting alien, in which case you clapped him in irons, threw him in the brig, and went looking for a way to get the real one back. The point is, the characters were so close and knew each so well that they caught on to the imposter pretty quick.
Hating someone because of racial or belief system differences is really stupid: In the Star Trek future people don't do that anymore. Of course, there always is the odd backwards, narrow-minded, superstitious, xenophobic planet to deal with where the occupants require a good slap-down from the bridge crew so they can clearly see the error of their ways. This lesson in enlightenment and tolerance usually involves the breaking of the Primary Directive rule mentioned previously, but it is always caused by some hateful or violent action on the part of the people requiring said slap-down.
Fanatics are wack jobs and cause nothing but trouble: Oh those crazy fanatics. Over the years the crew has had to deal with religious fanatics, political fanatics, science fanatics, cultural fanatics and every other kind of fanatic you can name, and they always make trouble. Star Trek never suffers fanatics gladly and it usually becomes necessary to prove to said fanatics and their sheep-like fanatic followers that truly enlightened people do not do fanaticism, usually by violating that Prime Directive again.
Violence is never a good first response to anything: In the Star Trek Universe all peaceful options should be explored and violence always avoided as a solution to any problem. Star Trek is all about peaceful resolution. Of course, those crazy fanatics and backwards fear-mongers sometimes make this very difficult. The Enterprise crew can certainly fight if they have to, but they would rather not. Put your phasers on stun people.
It's admirable to be smart, but not if you are going to be an arrogant jerk about it: Star Trek does not like arrogant gits who lord it over the less gifted or intelligent. In the Star Trek world, everyone has something to offer and should be valued and if you start the episode thinking you are a superman you usually end up finding out that you are just an egotistical, self-involved puke. Knowledge without enlightenment is empty and accomplishment with hubris is pretty annoying.
All things considered, there are some important lessons to be learned in the hundreds of episodes and dozen Star Trek movies. It's hard to go wrong if you live by the Star Trek code. If we did, we might all have the opportunity to live long and prosper.
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