I received an interesting clip from a Facebook friend today. He was talking about my previous post and life’s parameters. It’s about taking the initiative and not allowing incidents to define who you are as opposed to you redefining yourself. When things don’t work out how you expect them to, change the parameters, ala James Tiberius Kirk.
Here is the truth
I of course interjected with a simple…
Now the entire interaction began me thinking about culture and the ease with which we turn to our stories and our myths in order to define who we are as a people. We are defined by our culture. It is what describes us as a people. It upholds our morals, our ethos and our belief systems. You can learn alot about a People by the stories they teach their children. We don’t even need to discuss the entire myth. We merely need to reference a name like the Kobayashi Maru, and we all understand the purpose and the point of the story.
And yes, this is beginning to sound like one of those insufferable college papers written by a political science major; which I was and which I wrote.
My favorite all time nonsensical turn at attempting to sound extremely intelligent in college was when I decided to find the communist elements in the Bard’s The Tempest. You see as a political science major I thought it wise, and extremely provocative of myself, that I could extrapolate some political science theory and apply it to one of the greatest authors of all time. I would show the professor, and the teaching assistant, that I was not just your average college student, but one who could think in multidimensional terms with a view towards global structure. And yes this was way before social justice warriors, microagressions, safe spaces and politically correct language.
Oh my, the teaching assistant was impressed. He called me in for a special review of my work. Told me that he purposefully handed my paper to the professor and asked him to read it. I was on cloud nine, thinking I would get accolades and gold stars of approval from all those concerned. I would be put upon a pedestal as the epitome of the right thinking future of esoteric political thought and literary analysis.
I got a B, because I completely missed the purpose of the assignment.
So much for accolades and so much for my brilliance.
But I think this takes us into another realm. One that not only includes the Kobayashi Maru, but the phenomenon that accompanies Star Trek, Star Wars and the cultural appropriation that is the United States. From bagels and lox, to pizza, tacos, peanut butter, hot dogs, fusion cuisine, language digression, sports and person-to-person interactions, our society has co-opted ethnicities and turned them into something we can all agree is part of who we are as a nation. We, Americans, take from every culture that has crossed our borders, and we even take from the one we invaded-anyone for a game of lacrosse? We celebrate other nation’s holidays, whether it’s St.Patrick’s Day to Cinqo de Mayo. We eat foods that out ancestors brought with them and turn them into something totally American. We use words like ‘tushie’ and ‘smuck’ without actually knowing their origin. We celebrate our differences and turn them into something totally American. Something our forebears would probably not even recognize. We make ideas our own, and add a new dimension.
Now what does that mean for the Kobayashi Maru? Simple.
There is a difference between changing parameters and cheating. Changing the parameters of a food, holiday or sport, does not mean the original is wrong and it does not mean the new version is better. It is just different. We become what we have created. It is instructive of who we are and how we handle problems, difficulties and society. Yet, in truth, one does not cheat through life in order to be accomplished and have self-respect. Society has penalties for that and those penalties usually mean jail time, derision or excommunication.
Moreover, change the parameters and you change the meaning of the test, as my attempt to associate Shakespeare with an economic system that would not be created for 400 years, changed the assignment I was given. Now what that original assignment was, I have no idea. But I remembered the outcome, even if that was not the lesson the professor was trying to convey. Learn from what is in front of you. Don’t over think things.
Accept, unlike Kirk, that there are times that a no-win situation can exist. Learn to suck it up and move on. Being able to handle issues, situations and problems is what makes us successful in life. Living despite the odds. Standing to fight another day, This builds what we used to call “character.” Something perhaps lost in a world of participation trophies and diplomacy hashtags.
We learn from our myths. They are there to teach us how to be better citizens. Even if the hero somehow redefines the parameters to make the eventual outcome more palatable, there can be, and are, consequences that are far reaching. And these consequences may never touch anyone we love.That is the biggest lesson of all.
Kirk by changing the parameters learned nothing from the test and that showed later on in how he handled issues and problems. That he survived, flourished and prospered, is owed to the fantasy of who is James Tiberius Kirk. Of course, there are set-backs and new lessons to be learned, but our cultural phenomena enshrines that eventually Kirk, while quite the rue, learned his lesson and only breaks Star Fleet regulations when absolutely necessary in order to do what we as a society consider “the right thing.” So he is always forgiven in our eyes, if not in the eyes of the Federation.
But, in the end, Kirk still cheated.