Friday, August 27, 2010

Star Trek: Enterprise - A Review

I grew up watching Star Trek. I know, it's not particularly cool, depending on who you are. But I say it's an excellent set of series'. My dad got me into The Next Generation and showed me the cheesy gloriousness of the 60's era Star Trek. I watched the Wrath of Khan and about lost it at the end. When Voyager came out, I watched the first episode with nothing less than extreme excitement. I even came to love the series most people that like the other 3 already mentioned don't like: Deep Space Nine. It's character development, overarching story throughout the latter half of the series, and continual outstanding mix of sci-fi with solid story telling and development of classic and deep characters captivated me completely.

I love Star Trek for many reasons. I love sci-fi and futuristic technology, I love good storytelling, and I love a universe I can get into, even if it hasn't remained consistent throughout all of its' run. However, the main overriding reason I like Star Trek is that it shows the best parts of how a person can be. It shows people exercising bravery, truly thinking through problems instead of allowing themselves to be overwhelmed, friendships that last and endure through years, and the enduring nature of people, how they will continue to explore, improve upon themselves, and fight for the right things, even if it costs them their lives.

To me, Star Trek is truly great, and everyone should give it a chance.

Having been a fan of the other 4 series' and all of the movies (though Nemesis, I confess, disappointed me greatly), I was deeply frustrated when the fifth series, initially named only Enterprise, launched. It was said that the writers were attempting to rewrite the Original Series, and the continuity violations started there. I'm not talking about simple technological differences, entire aspects of the universe, such as the nature of Vulcans, were being completely rewritten. I watched the first few episodes, and then when I watched one that I thought was particularly silly (male pregnancy wtf?!) I abandoned the series altogether, preferring to say it's not canon.

Recently, I decided to watch the series and give it a fair chance before discounting it, on the advice of a few people. There were some rather painful parts, and a few episodes that I thought were contrived, low level metaphor for contemporary issues. But Star Trek has never been without a few of those episodes in any series. I struggled through those, and I became addicted. I watched all 98 episodes, and I have to say, I not only think that it eventually became a very good canon series due to the way the universe and technological issues were handled, (season 3 and 4 changing the name to Star Trek: Enterprise to reflect the change in tone), but it's reminded me of why I like Star Trek.

The Universe of Star Trek has always been a bit flexible, with the science never being too exact and the plot usually driving the show or movie. What really shines through every series is the philosophy: that exploring and finding something better about ourselves and humanity is a worthwhile endeavor. In Season 3 of Enterprise, Captain Archer and crew are faced with a threat that could entirely destroy Earth. He takes every step, crossing many ethical lines, to make sure that that doesn't happen. What that costs him personally can be summed up as him losing his way. I believe most people can relate to this, at some point they must do what is necessary, including some ugly things, to accomplish a greater goal. Life's not always easy, but change is the essence of who we are. We can move beyond, grow, and become better, or we can change for the worse. Regardless, everything counts, and what separates us from evil is not a simply black and white formula, but our choices, our perspectives, and the way we choose to handle things.

I like Star Trek because it shows me that it is possible for humanity to live for something greater, and for us not to be alone. Star Trek: Enterprise reminded me of that, and I am proud to say I watched and enjoyed it.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Transcending Tragedy

Sometimes, things are simply unfair. As the saying goes, no one ever said life would be fair. Sometimes this works in our favor, and sometimes it does not. Regardless, our world is out of balance. The idealist is disappointed at all times, as his experiences are never a thing corresponding to reality. An ideal is at best a hope for tomorrow, a thing that is desirable for the future.

Life is tragic, and sometimes in the smallest ways. It is tragic when a person is misunderstood to the point of being written off by many that he used to call friend. It is tragic when a person loses who they are in another person, as if that person is in some way superior to them because of what their misplaced admiration tells them. It is tragic when people sacrifice their own personalities, their own uniqueness, to conform to a system out of fear of reprisal. It is tragic when people are lead solely by their emotions and desires, and forget what their head tells them out of some twisted sense of spirituality.

I could go on, but that will more than suffice. I've experienced my share of small tragedy, and I've even experienced the more obvious forms: death of loved ones, people driven nearly to suicide by the lack of caring of others and the total collapse of things held so dear to them. I've even caused my share of tragedy, large and small, and my favorite victim has been myself, a tragedy in itself.

It's all made me very mad. I hate how unfair life is, I hate how petty and ignorant people can willingly be, and how entirely unfair situations end up being because people can not see beyond their selfishness. I can not stand the small tragedies that I and many others are asked to "just deal with" every day for the convenience of others. I hate seeing things I love being used to justify appalling abuses of people.

Being mad has done nothing but make me bitter, and my bitterness has done nothing to change any of the situations or things I can't stand. On the contrary, it has spiraled them further out of my control, whether through others' deliberate manipulation, through a simple lack of desire to engage someone so angry, or the distance I place between myself and others because I have become convinced at times that people are all going to fail me.

But there is a better way, and one does not have to become an idealistic fool to take it. One can only control himself and his own responses to their life. We do not have to respond how our emotions tell us to. We do not have to allow our emotions to make us miserable just because we think, for some reason, that that makes us noble or right. On the contrary, to be so controlled by chemical reactions in the brain is to discard part of what makes us human: our mind.

My mind has come into conflict with much of what I have been told to accept for 24 years lately. I am on the verge of many changes, and leaving many things behind. I don't even know where this will leave me when it comes to things such as the church, friends I've known for years, my family, my alma mater, and life in general as I've known it for the past almost 10 years. It's exciting and necessary change, but terrifying nonetheless, as change often is.

The change of scenery, the newness of routine and the ability to support myself are all parts of this change, but at the core of it is a new refusal to allow myself to be an entirely emotional being any longer.

I've spent a lot of time reacting and not a lot of time thinking when it comes to a lot of things, and that creates problems, no matter who you are. Sentimentality is one thing, but I refuse to allow another person to control me again through emotional manipulation, as I am so prone to do.

When a person feels deeply, they feel the tragic things in their soul. I make no apologies for being disturbed, for criticizing, for lack of reverence that I hope leads toward change in myself and the things I love. However, I will embrace this change, I will transcend tragedy and find hope again.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Emotional Intelligence, Part 1

I just ran into this topic yesterday, and do not know much about it yet, but it already has me interested.

Emotional Intelligence, or EQ, is sort of like the Intelligence Quotient, or IQ, but seems a little more complicated to measure and manage. It consists of a person's Personal Competence and their Social Competence, and is further divided into Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness and Relationship Management (Bradberry, & Greaves, 2009).

Like any multi-pronged, testable psychological measure, there is a degree of subjectivity to the test, but after taking it myself, I found it to be quite accurate, and it comes with strategies for improving one's EQ (which I need).

So what does it all mean?

I can only tell you what I think it means. In academia, value is placed on the ability of a person to recall facts, deductive reasoning, and their raw intelligence. This is how you get grades (ignoring for now whether the grading scale and assignments even accurately measure these things), and how you progress. There is even an accidental measure of motivation built in. You will not do well in academia if you simply do not do the work.

In social situations, people often lack the ability to be effective for many reasons. For example, some people may assume that others think much worse of them than they actually do. Some people may have a built in propensity to fail for their own emotional protection. Sometimes people fear change so much that they maintain the status quo at all costs. Still others have personal desires for themselves or for their lives that are never fulfilled because they are their own worst enemy, or because they can not go beyond their own insecurities, their own sense of being disturbed, or their own upset state to simply make the best of their situation.

It came to my attention recently from a friend that I tend to allow my own wounds to keep me from making progress. I then stumbled on this topic, and I think it may have been a good bit of what he was trying to tell me. Granted, life has been pretty tough for me lately for a few reasons, but when I consider EQ, I am met with an interesting challenge.

All of these things can be a problem if we are not intentional. That is, if we always think and act based on how we feel, then we will not only be unpredictable, we will lose our perspective on life, especially when things do not go well. We are emotional beings by nature. Emotions are, at the base level, a chemical reaction in the brain that precedes any conscious thought. In other words, they set the tone for how we handle things if we allow them to.

Emotional Intelligence, as I understand it, is self-control, awareness, and intentionality in all situations, and it is a choice.

More on this later.

Bradberry, T, & Greaves, J. (2009). Emotional intelligence 2.0. San Diego: TalentSmart.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Laid To Waste

What do you do when your entire life decides to leave you in the dust? What do you do when nothing is left that you can recognize from only a few months ago? Some days you grieve, some days you are so angry you could kill somebody, and some days you just don't care about anything.

But life goes on. Your passions move you away from the direction that many have tried to pigeonhole you into, your eyes fixate on another thing and then another, but nothing gives satisfaction. Because you no longer understand the life you once claimed to know like no one else. You are haunted beyond anything you can think of. Some days you simply laugh at everything that used to seem so important, and some days you think it would be nice to die, just to not have to try to understand anymore, just to have to stop constantly forging your own way forward in a direction that it seems no one else will go.

You doubt yourself, because you could just have a bad case of stubbornness, and you sometimes wonder if you should have settled for the life you could have had if you would simply cease to be so damned contentious and stubborn about everything. You wish, beyond anything, that you could be like the people that seem to have it all figured out, instead of standing in a vacuum where seemingly nothing makes sense.

Yet, at the end of all things, there is the knowledge that you are like no other. There is the knowledge that you have sacrificed so much for something irreplaceable: the pursuit of Truth.

If you can survive the void, if you can survive the nothingness, then you will endure the life ahead of you, beyond all of the ideals you've left behind, all of the comfort of tying one's identity to social acceptance or intellectual movements or to another person's whims.

Being laid to waste is only the first step. Life will go on, and you will endure.