Gene Roddenberry on society and assumptions

Monday, May 14, 2007, continuing

(1:15 p.m.) Ready if you are.

[Gene Roddenberry:] You as an individual are not what your society thinks you are. It is difficult to generalize because different subsets of society have different beliefs, but most would agree that you are one unit, proceeding moment by moment along the present that still somehow keeps being the past moving into the future. (A close look would reveal the absurdity of this view of things, but there it is.) If your subset is religious or is in some way psychically connected and intellectually congruent with the connection, it will say that you extend before birth and after death, though each will differ in specifics. Meanwhile – during your life on Earth – you are seen as having a physical heredity and perhaps a spiritual heredity; and a family, and certain interests and surroundings, and a given set of gifts and liabilities.

All well and good, and as epicycles, very serviceable. As descriptions of who and what you are – pathetic. This is a cartoon view of humanity. Because it is so, societies shaped around this view become cartoons as well. But they aren’t very funny.

No one in the Star Trek crew is an individual in the sense of existing in isolation, an end and a means to himself. The idea is an absurdity, easily seen in so small a mirror of earth life. Yet societies are set up either as one great beehive (Mao’s ideal for China) or as a series of megalithic organizational units (Hitler’s or Stalin’s ideals) or as tribes or families (multiple examples around Earth past and present) or as individuals. And it is the cult of the individual that is so dangerous in your time, as the cult of the beehive or the megalith was in mine.

Who can live without trees on the earth?

A moment to re-center.

The quality of life is in the perfect interplay of millions of details. A good meal of nutritious and well prepared food doesn’t just happen. And if individualism is allowed to run far out of control, there can be a situation where it becomes impossible to have such a meal because too many necessary links have been snapped.

If the world air were to become unbreatheable, the ability to purchase canned air wouldn’t be lifesaving; it would only buy a postponement of the inevitable.

A society full of illiterates does not make possible [even] for those who can read the depth of services and knowledge offered by societies of widespread literacy – and this despite how much money one may offer for special services.

In other words, some things must be done for all if they are to be done for any.

That doesn’t sound exactly right.

No, you are right. It is hard to bound this.

You were doing fine sticking to Star Trek. Perhaps abstractions can’t really be taught except as specifics.

That is exactly what Star Trek was all about.

All right, I’ll try it that way. Star Trek kept the assumptions that past, present, future was the basic orientation. Travel into “the” past or “the” future still held on to these assumptions, but proposed exceptions to it. In the same way, travel to other dimensions, alternate probable worlds – you name it – still by implication assumes the same reality, “ordinary” reality.

What if we had made other assumptions and had been able to keep our audience with us? Suppose we had said, there is only the present (doing things one way) and it is 1/30th of a second ahead of whatever your senses report, and it is where the true magic of the world resides.

[long interruption — a couple of hours.]

(5:40 p.m.) This is the first time I can think of where I felt that the person on the other end of the line was having trouble, rather than me.

We do what we can.

I know the feeling. Can you proceed?

If Captain Kirk had been actively aware of all his other lives, active within his everyday consciousness, alive as he was, interacting continuously with him and with each other – and if he had realized that every one of them (and he himself, of course) was vitally tied to multitudes of others whose vibrations they had matched, would he have been the same man?

To look at it backwards, if he hadn’t been aware of himself as just one member of the crew, had thought of himself as the only important person, would he have been the same?

What if Kirk had been able to keep his sense of being one member of a team and had extended it internally as well? You are the captain of your extended self (from your point of view) because you are at the present, the point of application. Others in your group are too, from their point of view and in their present-point. So you have complete cooperation and complete individual free will and it all depends upon awareness of interconnection.

There it is, in a nutshell. And yes, this wasn’t so easy to bring across. We are not supermen here unless we were supermen there.

Stop, I hear you say, and I agree that this is a good thinking-place. Thanks for making that effort, and I look forward to see what tomorrow brings. Thanks, too, for Star Trek. That was a good thing you did.

One thought on “Gene Roddenberry on society and assumptions

  1. “No one in the Star Trek crew is an individual in the sense of existing in *isolation*, an end and a means to himself.”

    Very timely, it relates to something I was thinking about. Frank: Now please reread your own article I had written to you about in a PEM ( remember? ). Do you see the connection? I do. Why do I now hear Star Trek music, glass-bead-game? And wasn’t the quote from Star Trek: “Where no man has gone before.” Outer space. Inner space. Outer, inner… Up. Down. Flatlanders. Boy, the universe is playing me this morning.

    PS: my typo yesterday about ‘digg,’ maybe it was not a typo: don’t we still need a DIGG like website for the “cosmic internet?” I think you know what I mean.

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