The Logic and Emotion of Star Trek

Brushing my teeth this morning, I spy a drinking glass on the bathroom counter. It’s one of those “new” Star Trek glasses (from some fast food place … we have two sets!) featuring an older Spock. In the background is his specially created ship, whirring amid the dust and debris as it emerges from a black hole. Spock looks older, his face lined and sorrowful.

That’s appropriate. His inability to save the Romulan planet resulted in the destruction of his own home planet, Vulcan, by the vengeful Romulan, Nero. (There’s time travel involved here.) He would naturally be sad.

My toothbrush stills as I consider. This is clearly a message about the failure of logic and technology to be good guides for this ride through life, I think. But then I realize the movie doesn’t really glorify emotion and humanity, since Nero embodies that side of the spectrum in his desire to exact revenge, yet is utterly defeated. So this is clearly a message about the failure of emotion to be a good guide.

Hmmm. This bears more thought.

Are you familiar with the “new” Star Trek movie? If you’ve seen it or read about it, you’re probably aware that it’s almost a prequel – showing us the pivotal time when Kirk, Spock, Uhura, McCoy, Chekov, Sulu, and Scotty first meet. It twists it, though, by placing it in an alternate reality created by those future events involving Spock and Nero.

I love it. It creatively revitalized the original Star Trek and left the door wide open for new adventures in the final frontier. I don’t love it quite as much as Charlie, who can quote entire passages.

If you’re not familiar, the premise for the movie is this: The older Spock is forced to watch the destruction of his home planet, Vulcan, helpless to save it (the younger Spock also is forced to watch since the older Spock and Nero return to the past where this movie is set). Nero, the destroyer, exacts revenge for (older) Spock’s inability to save Nero’s world (in the future) – as Spock had promised he could by using Vulcan’s advanced technology. It’s a complicated plot, there’s a lot of humor, and it’s a treat to watch the new characters assume the originals’ characteristics.

But back to my thinking. I let my mind churn for a minute until this arises: perhaps the real message is that we need both logic and emotion, both technology and humanity, to make it through life. If we rely too much on one alone, we won’t make it, or we’ll suffer a lot as we go.

From the first televised episode to this most recent movie, Star Trek has always carried that message. Consider Spock and Kirk’s relationship – head and heart, logic and emotion, logical Vulcan and emotional human. It’s only when they work together that they succeed. And in the movie, older Spock tells younger Spock to do himself a favor and stay in Starfleet and reap the opportunity to be half of a whole, completed by his long-time partnership with Kirk.

So the message of this movie, I think, is that neither logic nor emotion is better, one alone is disastrous, but both working in concert are undefeatable.

I recently became certified to administer and facilitate the MBTI©, also known as the Meyers-Briggs Type Inventory©. There are four dichotomies, one of which deals with judgments – how we prefer to make decisions – represented by “thinking” or “feeling.” With some study, we can discover our preference for how we like to reach decisions, or make judgments. Thinking involves, among many other things, logic and problem-solving first, before relationships and the human aspect. It’s more of a “true-false” approach. Feeling, on the other hand, pulls the decision through a values lens and considers relationships and human aspects first, before the problem-solving or logic. It’s more of a “right-wrong” approach.

So as an MBTI practitioner, it’s my duty to reaffirm that both are equally valuable, necessary, and good. And here comes Star Trek, conveying that very message in every way.

I rinse my mouth and put up my toothbrush. Yes, that’s how quickly I went through this thought process (writing it down took a little longer). It’s all because three days ago I didn’t have an idea of what to write for my blog. And two days ago, I felt like watching Star Trek for the fifth time (still far less than Charlie’s viewings), and yesterday I conducted an MBTI assessment, where we talked a lot about thinking and feeling. And, of course, it’s also because I left the Star Trek glass in the bathroom where today I can see the image clearly and up close as I lean over the basin to brush my teeth.

The only problem now is that I have the Star Trek soundtrack stuck in my head …

Live long. And prosper.

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