I have been a fan of Star Trek since the very first program, viewed by me as a high school senior in the fall of 1966.
Watching Star Trek as a group was a weekly occasion during my early years as an undergraduate at Stanford. Watching reruns on an almost daily basis on my little black and white TV hooked into the local Ithaca, N.Y. cable network in graduate school at Cornell, was a way to preserve my sanity in the pressure cooker of an Ivy League graduate environment. After a while, all I needed was about ten seconds of introductory music to know which episode I was about to watch. I was overjoyed when the cast of characters came back in the Star Trek movies which began with the first one released in 1979 and followed by my particular favorite, “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan”, in 1982. Over the years, I have seen every Star Trek movie and every episode of every subsequent television series which followed the original (even visiting the “Star Trek Experience” at the Hilton in Las Vegas, Nevada, twice). I was one of the most eager fans to see the recent reboot of the entire concept in the latest movies starring “new kids” like Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and Zoe Saldana. As a nearly 50-year devotee of the entire Star Trek franchise, I was not disappointed to see how it was redone for another generation of fans (and, of course how Mr. Spock reappeared – twice). I was thrilled with the success of these new movies.
Like many thousands (nay, millions) of fans, I mourn Leonard Nimoy’s recent death.
This article gives me a chance to really consider why Mr. Spock as portrayed by Leonard Nimoy has always been my favorite Star Trek character and how this relates to what I do as a Mediator and Group Facilitator.
In mediation, I try to help people use logic to come to a resolution of their differences, but here is always an emotional component to these disputes. Spock’s Vulcan heritage pushed him inexorably to the logical (and often scientific) solution to a problem. The emotional humans and other beings around him didn’t always react well to pure logic. So it goes in mediation. To help people to resolve problems, reason and logic must be paired with emotional closure for people to be truly satisfied with a solution. In any dispute, the details of the resolution will involve actions to be taken by everyone involved: “I will pay you for the damages to your car by the end of this month.” However, the emotional component of the agreement is what may make it last: “I apologize for my carelessness when I ran into your car with mine.” The mutual use of logic and emotion makes such an agreement even stronger: “I will write you a receipt for your payment and then drop my claim against you for damaging my car, and I accept your apology.” It takes time (and work by both the parties and the mediator) to get to this dual solution, but it is worth it.
Spock’s logic often found solutions to the life and death problems faced by the crew of the Enterprise. But it was often the emotional knowledge – the empathy – possessed by other crewmembers (and sometimes found by Spock deep within himself) that discovered the real, satisfying solutions to the weekly conflicts presented to us on Star Trek. The pairing of logic and emotion within the TV show and within Spock, himself, mirrors what we all face in the conflict we deal with on a daily basis. As a mediator, I must never forget to acknowledge both those faces of conflict, just as, eventually, Spock always confronted his own dual nature.