“To boldly go where no man has ever gone before.”
G. Roddenberry, Star Trek, anywhere.
[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dd. 02-05-2009. Surprisingly good one, à propos of this as well. ]
I never cared too much for most of this series. Among my many weaknesses there is a certain immunity to being radically ‘into’ anything. Still, that line and the general gist of it mean a lot to me and should mean a lot to you. No, not because of nostalgia, a passing infatuation with camp or because one has to dig at least somewhat what used to be popular in a niche kind of way. None of that.
It has to mean a lot because it does mean a lot.
It is universal ‘to boldly go where no man has ever gone before’. So universal it wouldn’t make any sense to think of intelligent creatures that wouldn’t want to go there (this does, alas, not mean that all creatures are intelligent, most of us humans are not intelligent, most of the time).
That’s what I’m doing here: going where no man has gone before. Mind you, not trying to do; doing! I have no idea if I will wind up in places of any relevance whatsoever. Nor am I very sure that at least the ride itself is very enjoyable (or whether there is anybody on it at all). More, I’m going boldly because doing it prudently is just to keep within this, ot that, known territory; and for all one knows, that territory might as well be prison (‘God’-prison, ‘being responsible’-prison, ‘hard work’-prison, ‘listen to your experts’-prison, …).
The spirit of Star Trek is the truely human spirit (and yes!, Lts Uhura & Chekhov are beasts in bed), the human spirit as it should be. And every single time I have heard the above line I have felt (albeit I have no appetite for travel and less so for even the most convenient space travel imaginable) that it was enough in and of itself to lead one through this business of living.
Without any of us physically going anywhere we can be everyhwere (-Q!-). It seems like the mediocrest of points one can make based on a corny piece of pop culture but it really isn’t.
It’s the meaning of life, Jim, but not as we know it.
We have succumbed, or all but succumbed, to the neurotic interpretation of meaning as a fixed point, that is to be discovered and henceforward used as the steadfast anchor point. We are so far into this obsessive-compulsive behaviour in this 21st century that it’s hard to see how we would ever be able to cut loose from the ‘religious prison renamed compliance’ in an as short stretch of time as is left between us and the 24th century.
But precisely this mediocre point is the mental virus that will save us from our pet-genes of pettiness: it is a well known point, it is well understood, across cultures. Going boldly is fun, it’s good for those coming after you, it is respectful to those that have gone before you, and it will only succeed when you take care in communicating how you went there.
And on an unimportant side note: it has relevance for philosophy as it has for language. I don’t know any clearer illustration of Davidson’s point on conceptual schemes than Star Trek. I don’t know better illustrations of far-reaching cultural relativity in some loose sense and an universal and absolute primacy of needing-to-understand in the strictest of senses.
Also, it always, in my memory at least, has ended well as it cannot but end well with us because there is, rationally, only possibility for long term improvement. It is a victory over the pessimism that is a necessary by-product of some strong and strict (neurotic) belief in cultural relativism. Let’s have a good strong dose of psychosis once in a while, certainly given the short term looking like it is going to be miserabilistic.
[Whilst writing this I was listening to Schoenberg (Chamber Symphony 1) and Brahms, (Piano Quartet 1), Simon Rattle: City of Birmingham Orchestra.]