9 Things Spock Taught Me
Star Trek is one of those gems that illuminates not one, but many generational waves of humanity. Its message, characters, and imagination have engraved themselves into the very souls of its fans.
Gene Roddenberry, the creator of the Star Trek, had in mind to make a new form of television show. Something that looked forward toward our species’ potential, but also examined the timeless dilemmas of humanity. His goal was morality. This birthed a story that is not necessarily the action/thriller our science-fiction genre is today, but instead, edgy in its examination of the heart.
“The human race is a remarkable creature, one with great potential, and I hope that ‘Star Trek’ has helped to show us what we can be if we believe in ourselves and our abilities.” — Gene Roddenberry
Why are we here?
What does it mean to be human?
How do we coexist?
Roddenberry’s main method for doing this is his iconic characters. Viewers become members of the crew, understanding thoroughly in three seasons the nature of the cast and who they are as people.
One such individual, perhaps the most abnormal amongst the main entourage, is Mr. Spock. He is the only non-human, and thus, Roddenberry uses him to drive home the most difficult to swallow truths of humanity.
I met Mr. Spock (and Star Trek) about three years ago. I’m sure my father, who grew up with the Original Series, finds it a travesty on his parental resume that I should find my interest so late. I would argue that the show would not have resonated as it needed to if I’d always had it in the background.
Immediately, I was drawn to the seemingly emotionless space elf. He liked to learn. He raised his eyebrows like me and didn’t indulge in drama. He didn’t show his love. And that made me love him all the more.
Spock taught me many things in the month it took me to binge the original series. Some things were trivial, superficial (like that purple eyeshadow looks good on anyone). Others are the type of life lessons I’ll carry forever.
1. Bold eyebrows are cool.
While you may not see Mr. Spock on the cover of Vogue alongside Cara Delevingne, his looks are certainly otherly similar vein to most super models. The hair, the lanky limbs, ears, and angular brows are the top talking points of this topic.
My eyebrows have given me years of insecurity. They’re thick, angled, and dark. For most of my high school career, I waxed them into the cute, thin toe nail clipping shapes of every Hollister clad chick. It looked strange — like I’d drawn them on or something.
Spock, although not a beautician, owned his strange brows, which led me to try something. For one, shaping mine myself: specifically in the angle that they naturally prefer. And you know what, I’ve gotten many a compliment on them.
“Your eyebrows are so unique.”
“How do you get them to angle like that?”
“Your eyebrows are so expressive!”
I promise, they weren’t backhanded. And even if they were, I don’t care. Spock, Cara, and I have started our own club of unapologetic eye umbrellas.
2. The awkward kid makes the best friend and side kick.
Even seasoned to humanity’s antics, Spock is awkward, sometimes rude, nerdy, and not the top choice of friend. And yet, he’s Kirk’s closest ally. They’re thick as thieves. Kirk, although he occasionally teases Spock for his stand-offish nature, means it with love. They’re family.
As a homeschooled kid, this resonated. I wasn’t often put in a situation I couldn’t handle well socially. My mother made sure we were able to glide through social groups with ease.
But that doesn’t mean I didn’t feel different on the inside. I didn’t have the same experiences as a lot of kids my age. And to be honest, based on what they were describing, I didn’t want them. But it made me an outsider simply because there were more of them. I know a lot of people who’ve felt the same for different reasons.
Spock is the outsider. And yet he’s an unshakeable friend — that’s worth more than coolness.
3. Choose friends who challenge you.
In that same vein, let us address something very important. Friends do not need to always be kosher. Bones and Spock, for example, seem always at odds. They are constantly clashing with challenges of thought and this keeps them sharp and progressing.
It also, because of its good naturedness, provides comedic relief.
Spock taught me to surround myself with people who are better than me in certain areas. Who won’t simply go with the flow. Who are interested in challenging thought and pursuing the best possible option.
Who will tell me when I’m wrong.
4. “I’m not interested in the opinion of the majority.”
Media networks love a good scandal/catastrophe/or social injustice to amplify the nation into a state of frenzy of righteous indignation. It raises viewership.
We have this tendency to stampede like cattle over the nearest cliff if we smell a cause to run after.
It was a related reactionary emotional response that led to lynching, witch hunts, the holocaust, etc. People were scared, so they jumped on the group bandwagon.
Emotions can be dangerous. So are quick opinions in mass.
Spock’s quote, while perhaps aloof, is a strong stance that refuses to be swayed by peer pressure or subjective perspectives. He’s interested in seeking the truth.
If he has to do it alone, so be it.
It takes a special kind of bravery to step back from what everyone else has deemed is correct/just/true and look for what actually is vs. what is convenient to believe.
5. Human flaws are often their biggest strengths
We are often impulsive, emotional, forgetful people. Those traits, and others like them, can be harmful to our selves and others. However, sometimes, they’re our most noble features.
If we weren’t impulsive, we might not achieve the crazy things we have. Climbing mountains, winning World War II, walking on the moon…
If we weren’t emotional, would we love as deeply?
If we weren’t forgetful, we might not able to forgive some of the intense wrongs we’ve weathered. I don’t mean that we always forget them completely, but we choose to forget the bitterness and anger so as to make room for something new to grow.
In more than one episode, Spock is impressed by humanity’s ability to save itself with the very thing that got it into such great trouble in the first place.
6. “Change is the essential process of all existence.”
This one doesn’t need an explanation. Star Trek concerns itself completely with species’ need to change, evolve, explore. Man is made to work and grow. If we don’t, creatively or literally, we stagnate. And stagnate water breeds disease.
7. “Fascinating…yet stupid.”
Spock possesses a talent a lot of us must cultivate. He is able to observe something, disagree completely with it, and yet appreciate it for what it is without becoming enraged, immediately entangled, or otherwise compromised. He studies, applies logic, and decides how to proceed.
What if you said this in response to the speeches politicians make, or your company’s plan to cover up embezzlement, or your sister’s decision to leave her husband because she simply “doesn’t love him anymore”?
Sometimes, probably, the stupidest things we do are the most fascinating. But from an objective distance where one can choose the more intelligent option.
8. “In critical moments, men sometimes see exactly what they wish to see.”
Feelings will lie to you. We are imperfect beings. Our senses are linked to our minds. Our minds are limited by our subjective perspective. We are limited in our experience.
Usually, in critical moments, men will see the OPPOSITE of the truth.
I remember stopping when I heard Spock say this. I thought about it for several days. It changed how I’d approach relationships forever. It told me that I couldn’t trust myself.
Which is true. You cannot always trust yourself. Sometimes your desires would hurt someone else. But your desire is there. Should you pursue it? The answer is no. We weren’t put on individual planets. We were put on one. To care for each other.
Spock taught me that when tension is high, I must fight to see what is truth. And to know when to admit that I didn’t know what was true because I had insufficient information or wasn’t there to witness it myself.
It’s okay to hurt feelings if you seek truth. Truth lasts longer.
9. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”
Put others first. Take care of your crew.
If anyone contests that the reboot films are not in the spirit of Star Trek, I would, to some extent agree. They’re faster and flashier than Roddenberry’s vision. The message of humanity is not the forefront of the plot as much as it was originally. However, the characters are as vibrant as ever. Their relationships communicate a care for each other that echoes the Original Series and hammers in the values Star Trek exists for.
“’Star Trek’ says that it has not all happened, it has not all been discovered, that tomorrow can be as challenging and adventurous as any time man has ever lived.” -Gene Roddenberry
Mr. Spock is just a TV character. That is correct. But he also was my mentor; a voice advocating for human morality with a boldness I’d never encountered before. Thus, in a way, he became my hero.
Whether heroes are wise to have or not, I cannot say. I do believe that stories are the most powerful thing humanity wields. Through the stories we tell, we shape our future. And the hope of our future dictates our present actions.
Now, perhaps more than ever, we need to cling to things like Star Trek so take a hard look at ourselves as we are and re-focus on what we wish to become.
Live long and prosper.