Live Long and Prosper
Well, I never really watched Star Trek. I’d seen a few episodes here and there, and mostly think of William Shatner in the context of the infamous Twilight Zone “monkey-creature on the wing of a plane” episode, or his strange (yet endearing) version of “Common People”. But in honor of the new Star Trek movie (which we’re preparing ourselves for), Moray and I have sat down this week and watched the first few Star Trek movies, which I’d never before seen.
Obviously the acting is fabulous. The relationships between these characters are what it’s all about. But aside from that, I’m starting to finally understand the Star Trek mentality. An era of peace, exploration and enlightenment. Equality. Friendship. In the 4th movie, a woman from the 1980s asks Captain Kirk (as they get up from a pizza dinner to rush back to the ship), “What? I suppose you don’t have money in the 23rd century?” to which he responds, “No, we don’t.”
When was the last time we stopped to imagine our future? What is the best possible outcome for our society? As a kid, I remember thinking that there would easily be a day in my lifetime when wars would be a thing of the past. Whatever major issues we were dealing with, we’d find the intelligence and wisdom to make the right choices. It was just an assumption; through trial and error, we would eventually learn and prevail.
It’s been a long time since I could think beyond the present. There is a classic moment from my college days (which I endlessly love recalling much to my friend’s dismay) when our music history teacher asked us (after a huge historical build-up), “…and when the spaceship Voyager lifted off in 1977, carrying a Golden Record bearing samples of the best of human culture, the music of which composer do you think was included?” to which I, of course, yelled loudly: “Yanni!”
Although the answer of course is J.S. Bach, it begs the question: How will our era be remembered? If we were to now send a time capsule into outer space, representing the best, most representative works of our generation, would it contain Riverdance? American Idol? Can you imagine an alien life-form’s reaction to Kelly Clarkson? Or maybe a commercial for male enhancement? Do you think an equivalent to the genius and beauty of J.S. Bach could possibly be a product of our times? I fear when our 23rd century selves look back on the current era, they will be quoting ancient wisdom from “Oops, I Did It Again”, by Brittney Spears - the obvious modern-day wordsmith equivalent of William Shakespeare.
Picture it: The year 2267. Our real-life, future versions of Captain Kirk and Commander Spock are about to be blown to smithereens by Klingons. In a tense moment, facing the abrupt end of their mission (and possibly their own deaths as well as the deaths of their crew), the Captain searches for the right words of wisdom to inspire and comfort his crew. He closes his eyes and slowly recites from memory:
With a taste of your lips I'm on a ride
You're toxic, I'm slipping under
With a taste of poison paradise
I'm addicted to you
Don't you know that you're toxic?
And I love what you do
Don't you know that you're toxic?
Sadly, I fear the Klingons will be confused and probably blow up the ship as a result of their brain matter spontaneously melting. I fear for our future.
Anyway, I ask these questions because I’ve been thinking a lot lately about our priorities as a culture, as a civilization. I think everyone’s version of “progress” probably varies a lot these days, and it’s becoming harder and harder to see how we as individuals (and in many cases artists and musicians) fit into the bigger picture. It’s not easy to think about creating something beautiful, intended to explore and share the human experience, when the majority of our personal experiences revolve around trying to pay rent, bills, and not getting cancer (again). Well, maybe that’s just me. But I figure we’ve all got our own stories.
Any of you creative types out there have thoughts on this?