I suppose I shouldn’t restrict this to Star Trek since it was science fiction generally that affected how I see the world. It should be stressed however, it was not any science fiction. It was the science fiction of the period when I was reading it almost exclusively, which meant authors like Clarke, Asimov, Alfred Bester, James Blish and on and on. It was also the age I was at the time when I was reading it, which was roughly speaking my teen years, a period when I think our way of seeing is most open to influence.
As far as worldviews go, as far as a way of seeing is concerned, Star Trek encapsulated it.
And what is it that Star Trek did? It made me believe in possibility. It made me believe in, “What if?”
The creator and creative force behind Star Trek, until his death, was Gene Roddenberry. It was his way of seeing, a way I was wide open to. It was wildly optimistic, though not exclusively.
It should also be pointed out that, essentially, Star Trek was romance, though of a masculine kind. In other words, it was a western with phasers instead of six shooters, starships instead of horses.
Captain Kirk was a cowboy.
At its heart Star Trek was about a universe to be discovered (just as in western, the “old west” was a place to be discovered). It was a universe where anything could be done. If you could think it, dream it, it could be. It might take some work, but it could. You just had to ask, “What if …?” It was about problems and creative solutions.
Of course, that way of seeing faded from the world and we, as a group, became enamoured with a universe of threat and conspiracy and doubt. Sometimes, I blame that on the Borg. They were so good as bad guys, the universe they represented was so threatening in such an inveigling way, we embraced it happily.
But it never influenced me the way the first articulation of Star Trek did. Any job I’ve ever had has only been interesting if it involved learning (discovery) and, “What if …” Politically, I can be either Liberal or Conservative, left or right. It’s more interesting trying to see it from both sides and seeing what merits both have and then asking, “What if …?”
The recent economic debacle … Awful as it is, I can’t help thinking, “What if …?” I can’t help wondering about what opportunities are out there waiting to be discovered if we just looked and imagined.
I see a lot of focus today on communities, online and in the real world, which are often less communities than enclaves of similar people (race, thinking, politics, religious beliefs, economic status etc.) trying to isolate themselves from the rest of “the mob.” Gated communities, in a sense. Whereas I can’t help but wonder, “If we brought these other people into the mix, what could we come up with?”
I have loads of stupid ideas. Impractical ideas. But I can’t help thinking, so what? Stupid ideas are still ideas and someone, somewhere will look at them and say, “Yeah, that’s dumb, but … if you did this, and approached it this way instead …” And suddenly the stupid idea is transformed into something new, practical and workable.
I believe, in the Star Trek world, that’s the kind of thing Mr. Spock did: take a stupid idea and make it a good one.
These days, I’m caught up with social media, Twitter in particular. It’s not because I think it’s wonderful or that everyone should use it or that I think it means, “… The world has changed forever!” It’s because I’m fascinated by its possibilities, the experimentation going on with it and the way that different people use it in different ways. I’m fascinated by all the “What if …?” surrounding it. I find myself depressed by those people, like Maureen O’Dowd, whose imagination seems so limited that they can’t see past the most trivial aspects of such a tool and see what else it might do.
Blame it on Star Trek. Blame it on Gene Roddenberry. I simply can’t help looking at the world and asking, “What if …?”
Everything is possible in a Star Trek world. You just have to, “Make it so.”
(Apologies to Captain Picard.)