All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Watching Star Trek
By Dave Marinaccio
Of all the things that Star Trek teaches us, the simplest and the most obvious is that mankind's future is in space. Time after time, Captain Kirk gives this little speech about how restless man is. That he is an explorer. That man must have challenge. That he must struggle to survive.
Perhaps this explains why the Enterprise, traveling the universe, exploring countless planets large and small, near and far, never encounters paradise. Utopia doesn't exist in space.
I live in Washington, D C. We have all your money. Almost every day on the way to work I can watch federal workers digging up flower beds and other federal workers planting new flowers, perhaps pansies. Soon after, other federal workers rip up the recently planted pansies and plant tulips. It's gorgeous.
I sometimes wonder if there are specific government workers who only rip up the flower beds and others who specialize in planting. Or even if there are pansy, tulip and daisy specialists. It's possible.
Meanwhile, other federal workers are mowing the lawns, pruning the trees and washing the sidewalks.
Driving to work in the morning, I often look at the beautiful view I'm afforded just by living in the nation's capital and think about the people in Boise, Idaho, and Hartford, Connecticut, who are paying for my lovely drive. These pretty beds of tulips are your tax dollars at work. And two weeks later, with the tulips still in full bloom, they are ripped out by the ripping crew and the planting crew puts in begonias.
Specialization in this city is close to a disease. We have at least five different police forces that I am aware of. My personal favorite of all the law enforcement divisions is the Secret Service Uniformed Division. Doesn't that strike you as just a little bit funny? If they're the Secret Service, wouldn't the uniform give them away?
On the side of the white cars they drive around America's capital is a shield. The official shield of the Secret Service Uniformed Division. Who is this supposed to be a secret from? Even illiterate criminals can figure out that a car with a shield on the side is a police car.
Even with all your money, all these cops and all these flowers, Washington, D C., isn't Utopia. Not even close. Truth is, it's a mess. Our murder rate leads the country. You know the story.
Just think of the tremendous amount of money we spend on this place, including money we don't even have. Still no Utopia. And there never ever will be one.
But when I talk to people who don't believe in the space program, they usually feel that we should spend the money here on earth. Let's fix the planet. Take care of the people here. It's a nice thought, but there isn't enough money in the world. Even if there were enough money, watching Congress should teach us there's no way we would ever be able to agree on how to spend it.
How about this. Remember Spain, the place where they had the Olympics? Suppose when Ferdinand and Isabella ran the place they decided not to explore the Atlantic. Instead, they decided to spend the wealth of Spain to fix up Barcelona. To take care of the people there. The Golden Age of Spain would never have happened. Someone other than Columbus would have discovered the New World. Some other country would have reaped the rewards and enjoyed a golden age. And I guarantee you Barcelona would not have become Utopia.
Luckily for you and me, they invested their money in ships of exploration. And their ships of exploration discovered America. I mean, why do you think people speak Spanish in Los Angeles, San Antonio, and Miami? Isabella and Columbus, that's why. We should do the same thing and invest our money in ships of exploration. Spaceships.
Okay. Maybe this is a little preachy. But it is just so damn obvious to me. The same people who think the space program is a waste of money won't leave their houses in the morning until they check the satellite weather channel
Mankind will go out into space or our species will die prematurely. I'm too old to be a part of it. I will never stand on Mars. But humans will. As surely as James T. Kirk stands on the bridge of the Enterprise, as surely as Jean-Luc Picard stands on the bridge of the Enterprise D, humans will stand on Mars. We will struggle. We will fight. We will explore.
Face it, even if we created heaven on earth, after a while it would bore us out of our skulls, and we would seek out a new challenge. Space is the ultimate challenge, and that's one thing we cannot resist.
We already have found Utopia. For man, Utopia is endless challenge. And by answering that challenge, maybe we'll find ourselves.