“Are you a ‘Star Wars’ man or ‘Star Trek’ man?” local poet Shaun Mitchell asked after we finished a Monday Free Movement run.
“Let me think about it,” I said before heading into Satellite for a post-run recovery beverage.
On the way back, two women asked me about our group. I explained Free Movement is a crew on a mission to boldly go and explore possibilities of building better communities one step at a time. It engages people partly through running and partly through other forms of non-violent activism.
When I returned to Shaun he said, “I walked by those ladies six times. Why didn’t they ask me?”
“I’m better looking,” I said. “It was inevitable.”
Shaun and I both laughed. We’d like to live in a world where my good looks are a more likely explanation than the observation that Shaun’s black and I’m white.
When we got back to the more important question of “Star Trek” verses “Star Wars,” writer/activist Rend Smith joined. He confirmed our discussion about the mega-popular sci-fi franchises was no trivial argument between Duke and Carolina fans.
“Sci-fi franchises” cheapens the matter. The sagas are futuristic, but they are built on foundations of the liturgy of formative human mythologies. The question of which story stream one aligns with is a personality test for the individual and perhaps even for society.
George Lucas intentionally built “Star Wars” on the foundation of Joseph Campbell’s studies of human mythologies, employing archetypical character’s undertaking the hero’s journey. The structure requires a belief of life being a battle between good and evil, and having a hero bring balance to opposing forces to create a new, lasting eternal and just order. (Think King Arthur, Osirus, Jesus, Annakin, Luke, Rey.) The specific characters, setting and challenges change, but there’s a comforting inevitability to the structure, the comfort of inevitability itself. What’s not to like?
What if you don’t believe the gospel of inevitability?
One option is to “boldly go where no one has gone before.” Build on the foundation of exploration.
“Star Trek” boasts 50 years of pop influence, a multi-cultural leadership team, a black woman officer, the first inter-racial kiss on American TV, but Gene Roddenberry created “Star Trek” from a liturgical stream as deep as the “Star Wars” saga; the exploration story. Scripts spin through space and time, and we never quite know what we’ll find through the next wormhole, our only certainty being our reliance on each other—and that Dr. McKoy will keep a little Saurian brandy tucked away for medicinal purposes.
As comforting as stories preaching from the gospel of inevitability are, they seem fundamentally unrealistic and inherently dangerous. Aligning too closely with the gospel of inevitability has led many of us to complacency and damnation. The formation of the USA, the elimination of slavery, women gaining the right to vote and right to make medical decisions, widespread acceptance of civil and human rights, and Barack Obama’s presidency were not inevitable. They demanded a lot of effort and a rejection of the gospel of inevitability in favor of one of exploration and engagement.
Today, as our POTUS rage-tweets lies, starts trade wars, sings the praises of dictators, and seeks retribution against public servants that speak out against him, people are speaking about an inevitable “Blue Wave” that’s going to flip the House and Senate in November. The “Blue Wave” will reinvigorate righteous god-fearing Republicans, allow them to relocate their moral center, allow us to impeach his Orange Highness, and bring balance to the force. It’s got to happen, right?
Back in 2008 and again in 2016, it was inevitable Hillary would be the first woman president, right?
Toward the close of the conversation, Rend reminded me of the importance of sustained commitment to activism and community involvement, regardless who sits in the Oval Office: “Remember, there will always be another Trump.”
It’s likely but not inevitable. Another Trump will be far less likely if we reject inevitability, rely on each other and actively explore better possibilities. As we flow into the fall campaign season, I intend to have a cup of tea—Earl Grey, hot—and engage.
Live long and prosper!