Monday, January 2, 2012

A Dream of Confused Quakers: A Star Trek miracle

Free association.  Writing very quickly off the cuff.

  I'm a Trekkie and I've passed that along to my children.  Right now, in vacation-mode, we are watching a Star Trek marathon.   Several Star Trek episodes seem to focus on one or more of the Enterprise crew losing their memory and/or sense of mission.  It is a good theme.  Effective and entertaining.  Lots of us feel a sense of loss of identity and mission.  We're happily tooling around the Universe when out of the blue, we're swept by a beam and our memories, personalities, and ambitions become nebulous at best. 

So whilst watching an episode in which Data, Troi, and O'Brien are behaving quite badly because they can't remember who they really are  (Damned alien body invasion again), I was suddenly reminded of a dream I just had.  The details are fuzzy, but it was about a small group of Quakers who couldn't remember just who they were or what they were doing.  I was watching them and thinking about their condition although I could not speak to it.  They were bewildered, but clearly well-intentioned.  They only knew one thing and that was that they were Friends.  They weren't quite sure what that meant, but it was a beginning.

Perhaps, I thought, even if they aren't sure what being a Friend means, if they just cling to each other, they'll remember.  That's what happens on the Enterprise.  They forget who they are and they forget what their mission is, but they stick together.  Eventually, one or more of them remembers something about the Prime Directive and they are able to convince the others.  At base, no matter how evil the alien or insidious the beam, or distressing the plot line, the crew always find in themselves the ethical core of the Prime Directive. 

We live in a distracting world full of noises and blinking lights.  Sailing about in our spaceship, it is easy to be ovewhelmed by all the unexplored territory.  Going boldly where no one has gone before has its dangers.  Friends are no longer wholly Abrahamic, monotheistic, or even basically theistic.  We have invited Vulcans, Betazoids, Klingons and even androids to share our ship, to take the helm, and to be our crewmates.  They come to us with different cultural values, different histories, and different assumptions.  But if they believe in the Prime Directive and are willing to not only abide by it, but allow it to become their guide when the dangers of space invade their minds, wipe away all their sensor logs, and interrupt all their data streams, then you know that at the end of the story, the crew will get back together.  They will reaffirm themselves as the people of the Enterprise, the people who believe in the Prime Directive.  Their ethics, their morality, their actions, while disrupted and confused at first, will begin to align with that Directive.  Sacrfices will be made.  There will be close calls, but in the end, they'll stick together and they'll remember who they are.

And who are they?  And who are we?  We are a diverse people bound together by a Prime Directive.  We may be confused about our mission, about our identity, and about our approach.  Worf and Troi almost never agree.  Spock, Kirk, and Bones are conflicted about the nature and direction of humanity, yet somehow, it is difficult to imagine an Enterprise made up only of "by the book" Star Fleet types.  It seems that the Prime Directive is not best served by literalism or legalism.  It is always bad news when the Star Fleet brass come on board and begin messing with the crew's process.  You have to live in space to understand it.  No desk jockey understands the Prime Directive in the nuanced, compassionate, and even maverick way that our fine crew understands it.  And no Star Fleet engineer stuck on base knows just how much the ship can take.  The Star Fleet engineers always warn their captains that "she'll fly apart", but they also manage to hold her together, usually by breaking all the rules in the manual.  It is their creative tension that keeps her steady.  Be cautious, be quick, and push it to the limits. We'll never truly know what she's got until we're willing to push past warp 9.  Technical knowledge is great, but the Enterprise requires experience.

I've been witnessing a great deal of handwringing about the identity and future of the Religious Society of Friends.  Lots of it seems to have to do with resentment against aliens in our midst who do not share our Earth values.  They remind me of Bones grousing about that damned green-blooded Vulcan.  What are we to do with this diversity?  There are Vulcans who insist on cool,analytical approaches and who have peculiar, otherworldly philosophies.  There are Betazoids who want to infuse everything with an emotionalism that often makes us uncomfortable.  There are androids who seem (although we are never really sure) to not possess any emotions at all.  In addition to that we have former members of the Klingon and Romulan Empires.  And the Borg too!   They aren't Terrans.  That's for sure.  Their existence challenges our assumptions that the best worldview comes from our particular world.  But they are all Starfleet.  They are all believers in the Prime Directive and each, regardless of individuality of personality and culture, has wed him or herself to Star Fleet's mission of exploration, of seeking out new life.  More importantly, they've bound themselves to the principles of the Prime Directive.  For some it is a passion.  For some it is a mission. For others it is a God.  For some it is "merely logical."  They all have a role to play and each of them will save the ship and its crew at least once in at least one episode.  I suspect the same is true of Friends.  Let's be careful who we beam off the ship.  They might be the very soul who saves the day in the next episode.

Let's not begin a process of defining ourselves by exclusion.  Let us have faith instead that whatever spiritual dialect we speak and whatever our religious species, we are drawn to Friends because we share a profound core belief, and we can be trusted to embody the wisdom of that belief.  It is our Prime Directive, interpreted a bit haphazardly by some captains and quite strictly by others, but ever-present in our minds and hearts.  It provides us with an unassailable core on which we have built our community.  We have called in our Inward Light, our Guide, our God, our Christ, our Spirit.  We have calmly acknowledged its presence and called it nothing at all.  We have sought it in Silence and activism.  We have interpreted it through our holy books, our dreams, our histories, our meditation, our scholarship, and our conversations.  Our Enterprise has been our Testimonies, and it has been a good ship, although often under heavy fire and in need of extensive repair.  It carries us where we need to go to search out new life and new civilization.  It is the vehicle of our mission, our hope, and our principles.  It is the medium of our ability to find life in the cold emptiness of space.  But even it is not the center of who we are.  Even if it is destroyed, the crew will survive so long as we stick together.  No evil plan has yet been devised that could permanently rob the crew of its devotion to each other and to the Prime Directive.  It is unthinkable.  I don't think the Writers would have it. 

Live long and prosper, Friends.  Qapla!

5 comments:

Agnikan said...

Uh...Borg follow the Prime Directive?

Hystery said...

I know! LOL! Horrible, isn't it? But it is a kind of reward for me since I have resisted using Star Trek metaphors for soooo long. Resistance was futile.

Hystery said...

Also, I should note, the Borg who learns to follow the Prime Directive was Seven of Nine. One might also say that Locutus, of Borg, was redeemed to once again play the role of Jean Luc Picard. Seven's Borg enculturation was actually a valuable asset to her crew on Vogager on several occasions. One never knows from whence light will come.

Shane said...

Always great to see a fellow nerd pick up the ball and run with it. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

fun to read, thanks