Sci-Fi Wisdom: The Simplicity of Play

April 18, 2018

The original Star Trek TV series had a lot of truly famous episodes.  There was the one about the tribbles, and the one where Spock had a beard. Oh, and the one were Kirk fought that green lizard guy.  I love that one!  But today we’re going to talk about one of Star Trek’s less memorable episodes: the one where the crew of the Enterprise meets the White Rabbit from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

This episode just feels awkward.  I guess some people may like it, but I don’t.  Even so, there was one part near the end that really stuck with me.  It turns out (spoiler alert!) that the White Rabbit is not really the White Rabbit from Lewis Carroll’s book.  It’s a robot designed to replicate something a computer detected in an Enterprise crewmember’s imagination.

When the truth is finally revealed, we get this exchange of dialogue:

God-like Alien: This entire planet was constructed for our race of people to come and play.

Lt. Sulu: Play?  As advanced as you obviously are, and you still play?

Capt. Kirk: Yes, play, Mister Sulu.  The more complex the mind, the greater the need for the simplicity of play.

I bring this up because lately I’ve been dealing with certain real life problems, and like many people struggling with real life problems, I’ve found myself perusing the Internet for self-help articles or watching self-help videos on YouTube.  And there’s one piece of advice I keep seeing over and over again: focus on your goals and cut all the “distractions” out of your life.

By distractions, these videos and articles usually mean things like television, video games, social media… all those forms of entertainment that are self-evidently wasting your time… time that would be better spent working harder on your goals.

This, I believe, is terrible advice.  Look, obviously anything in excess can be a bad thing (there’s a Star Trek quote about that too; it’s in the tribble episode), but the biggest problem that I have, and I think we all have, with our modern world is that everything is so urgent, so demanding, and so complicated. Maybe our minds are not yet as complex as the minds of those god-like aliens on Star Trek, but still… our lives are complicated enough that we do need the simplicity of play.

So whatever your idea of “play” might be, please don’t let anyone tell you it’s a waste of time or that it’s a distraction that needs to be cut out of your life.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a Lego rocket ship to build.


Sci-Fi Wisdom: Great Allowance Should Be Made

February 28, 2018

Today I’d like to share a quote from one of my all-time favorite books: Frank Herbert’s Dune.

When strangers meet, great allowance should be made for differences of custom and training.

This quote comes from the Lady Jessica during the famous dinner party scene that happens fairly early in the novel. It’s probably not among Dune’s most famous lines, but it’s a line that’s stuck with me over the years.

It’s so easy—too easy, in fact—to take offense when no offense was intended. Sometimes it seems as though there are people who are eager to be offended by something just so they have an excuse to lash out at people.

But really, we all come from different backgrounds, with different customs. We’ve all been trained to live by different social rules, and it’s not always clear—especially when meeting someone for the first time—where the boundaries of offensive and inoffensive behavior are being drawn.

I know I’ve said and done things that others found offensive, just as I know I’ve been offended by the things other people say or do. So I try to keep this little nugget of Sci-Fi wisdom in mind whenever someone, whether in real life or here on the Internet, offends me in some way.

Anyway, that’s just my two cents. Feel free to disagree, and if you do I promise not to be offended.