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Star Trek: The Original Series

Star Trek: The Tour Original Bridge: Conrad Quilty-Harper

Star Trek: The Tour Original Bridge: Conrad Quilty-Harper via Flickr

Star Trek: The Original Series is an American science fiction television program created by Gene Roddenberry. The show ran for three seasons from 1966-1969.

Although the starship Enterprise’s five year mission to explore new worlds was cut short by poor ratings, the ship and crew didn’t dematerialize quite so fast.

Devoted viewers demanded more. As the fan mail piled up, the show’s uniqueness was soon realized and run of successful movies were produced throughout the 1970s to 1990s, along with several new Star Trek TV spin-offs, closely following the original format.

A few second-rate academics might still scoff at the idea, but Star Trek TOS and its offshoots have taken on mythic proportions. Instead of Sumerian gods carved in stone, Star Trek gave us gods etched on film. And there’s arguably not too much difference between the two.

Star Trek TOS Cutting Room Floor Clippings: The Rocketeer / Kevin Trotman

Star Trek TOS Cutting Room Floor Clippings: The Rocketeer / Kevin Trotman via Flickr

Trying to be progressive in its day, the original Star Trek pilot episode featured a female first officer. But due to poor ratings she was replaced by the male Vulcan, Mr. Spock. The revised cast boasted a host of international characters at the command center, which for the mid-1960’s was virtually unheard of.

The kiss between Kirk and Uhura is popularly c...

The kiss between Kirk and Uhura is popularly cited as being the first interracial kiss portrayed on US television (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the episode, “Plato’s Stepchildren” (1968) Captain Kirk and the black Lt. Uhura are forced by telekinesis to kiss, a controversial first for fiction characters on U.S. TV. And in the episode Balance of Terror (1966) Kirk scolds his navigational officer Styles for making a racial slur:

Leave any bigotry in your quarters. There’s no room for it on the bridge.

Some say that the whole Star Trek phenomenon has all the earmarks of not just a myth, but a true religion because it exhibits the following criteria:

  • A social component (Star Trek conventions are periodically held around the world)
  • The Star Trek ‘creed’ (the Prime Directive)
  • A general goodwill ethic
  • Implied transcendental ideas
Star Trek: The Original Series crew at "T...

Star Trek: The Original Series crew at “The Palace of Wax” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The 2009 hit movie Star Trek, directed by J. J. Abrams, brought the popular character Spock back into the spotlight. This time he’s both an elderly (played by the late Leonard Nimoy) and a young man (played by Zachary Quinto).

The fact that Leonard Nimoy is showcased in this blockbuster film while William Shatner (who played the original Captain Kirk) apparently didn’t fit with the script says volumes about public opinion and maybe Hollywood politics within the Star Trek universe.

Nimoy’s popularity endures after his death. Recently an asteriod was named after him—4864 Nimoy. This goes to show that Star Trek is not only mythic. Many scientists, astronomers and astronauts admit to loving and being inspired by the show.


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Rudolf Steiner

Rudolf Steiner

Rudolf Steiner (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Born in what is now Yugoslavia, Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) was a mystic philosopher who believed he experienced the essence of Christ and the mystery of Golgotha. However, his approach to religion remained non-denominational and unconventional.

After becoming a leading figure in the Theosophical Movement, he broke away to form his own branch of Anthroposophy.

Perhaps Steiner’s most enduring influence is seen in his Waldorf or, as adherents call them, “Steiner schools.” Some 400 of these schools populate the globe today, with a diverse curriculum geared toward developing individual potential.

Critics say the Steiner schools encourage “paganism, even Satanism,” and are out of touch with the realities of contemporary life.¹ And Steiner’s apparently scientific approach to spirituality has been critiqued as an instance of scientism. Still, he remains inspirational to many.

¹ http://skepdic.com/steiner.html

Related Posts » Ahriman, Akashic Records, Theosophy

Schweizergarten- Rudolf Steiner monument 2007-04: Er.We

Schweizergarten- Rudolf Steiner monument 2007-04: Er.We via Flickr

 


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Steppenwolf

Steppenwolf is a Canadian rock band popular in the 1960s and early 1970s, credited with being the first heavy metal band because the single, “Born to be Wild,” included in its lyrics the phrase heavy metal thunder.

Hesse, Hermann: Der Steppenwolf. Berlin: S. Fi...

Hesse, Hermann: Der Steppenwolf. Berlin: S. Fischer 1927, 289 Seiten. Erstausgabe (Wilpert/Gühring² 155) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Other hits include “Magic Carpet Ride,” which describes a sort of psychedelic mysticism, and a slow moving song called “The Pusher” that seems to condone marijuana use but condemns heavier, addictive drugs, such as heroine. In the “The Pusher” addicts are described as “walkin round with tombstones in their eyes.”

The band still tours and has sold 25 million records worldwide. Steppenwolf’s music has been used in about 50 movies.

Steppenwolf is also an introspective novel by Hermann Hesse that explores the Jungian idea of the shadow, and to which the rock band most likely owes its name.

 


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Stoicism

essential works of stoicism: CHRIS DRUMM

Image: CHRIS DRUMM via Flickr

Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants ― Epictetus¹

Stoicism is a Greek philosophical school founded by Zeno of Citium, c. 300 BCE. The Stoics believed that mankind is superior to animals by virtue of our reason. The good life is lived in accord with nature; whereas evil is an unpleasant aspect of nature.

The Stoics felt it important to know about the existence of, and control one’s reaction to, evil. So thoughts and understanding are not enough. The superior person behaves right, which (apparently) makes him or her immune to suffering. This is a slightly different take on the well-known Christian doctrine, Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.²

The Stoics saw the Greek gods in terms of cosmic forces, a view resembling a modern approach to mythology. The afterlife was generally not believed in. However, the Stoics did subscribe to an eternal return, an idea also mentioned in the works of Friedrich Nietzsche.

The philosopher Epictetus, the Roman statesman Seneca and Emporer Marcus Aurelius are usually regarded as Stoics. Wikipedia elaborates:

English: Ancient Greek philosopher Zeno of Cit...

Ancient Greek philosopher Zeno of Citium, depicted in the Nuremberg Chronicle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Later Stoics—such as Seneca and Epictetus—emphasized that, because “virtue is sufficient for happiness”, a sage was immune to misfortune. This belief is similar to the meaning of the phrase “stoic calm”, though the phrase does not include the “radical ethical” Stoic views that only a sage can be considered truly free, and that all moral corruptions are equally vicious.[1]

From its founding, Stoic doctrine was popular with a following in Roman Greece and throughout the Roman Empire — including the Emperor Marcus Aurelius — until the closing of all pagan philosophy schools in 529 AD by order of the Emperor Justinian I, who perceived them as being at odds with Christian faith

¹ http://futurelawyer.typepad.com/futurelawyer/2015/05/stoic-quote-of-the-day.html

² http://biblehub.com/matthew/10-16.htm

Related Posts » Heap of Sand Paradox, Hellenistic, Logos, Suicide

 


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Strong AI Thesis

The Strong AI Thesis was named by American philosopher John Searle (born 1931), to describe the belief that AI (artificial intelligence) may possess actual consciousness like that of a human being.

The idea is expressed as follows:

The appropriately programmed digital computer with the right inputs and outputs would thereby have a mind in exactly the sense that human beings have minds”¹

Searle, himself, rejects the Strong AI Thesis. He believes that computer intelligence simulates but doesn’t possess real thought, a position called “Weak AI.” His Chinese Room thought experiment gives us a compelling argument in support of his position.

English: Mica (Brionne Dawson) is trapped in t...

Mica (Brionne Dawson) is trapped in the Chinese Room. It is an imaginary space first described by philosopher John Searle, though this is from the 2009 fiction narrative feature The Chinese Room, inspired by Searle’s thought experiment. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Others believe that Strong AI isn’t too far-fetched, considering that human beings are, at least in part, made up of electrochemical interactions. If Strong AI is true, we can reduce idea down to the simplest levels and argue that even your refrigerator, toaster or iPad have some kind of unique electro-organizational consciousness that would distinguish them from, say, a pile of rocks.

These ideas are explored in many science fiction novels, TV-shows and films. One of the better treatments is found in the reimagined Battlestar Galactica, where the line between humans and Cylons sometimes seems very thin.

¹ John Searle, 1998 in Dennett, Damiel C. Consciousness Explained, Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1991 p. 435.

Related Posts » Isaac Asimov, Commander Data, Hal 9000, Panpsychism

 

 


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Sublimation

Freuds influence? by Great Beyond / Tony Case via Flickr

Freud’s influence? by Great Beyond / Tony Case via Flickr

Sublimation is talked about by some thinkers as if it were an actual fact. But the only real fact is that it’s a theoretical process outlined in Sigmund Freud‘s psychoanalysis.

With sublimation, instinctual and antisocial impulses of the id are redirected toward non-instinctual, symbolic forms of behavior or expression. The redirection of the id’s antisocial desires apparently depends on a certain degree of ego development, and is usually understood to fall within socially acceptable channels, such as the arts.

When art is displayed and accepted in a public space, either officially (as pictured right) or subversively (as with graffiti), sublimation becomes a social-psychological and not just an individual dynamic.

According to Freud’s daughter, Anna Freud, sublimation is a defense mechanism. And again, this process of making the scary safe can occur on a personal or societal level.

Related Posts » Ashram, Bruce Cockburn, Displacement, Myth, Reaction Formation, Symbols

English: Sigmund and his daughter Anna Freud N...

Sigmund and his daughter Anna Freud Nederlands: Foto van Sigmund en Anna Freud, op vakantie in de Italiaanse Dolomieten (1913) Česky: Sigmund Freud se svou dcerou Annou (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

References

  • Charles Rycroft, A Critical Dictionary of Psychoanalysis, Harmondsworth: Penguin 1977, pp. 159-160.

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Suffering

Thank you for your suffering: Locace / Lena

Thank you for your suffering: Locace / Lena via Flickr

Life usually involves some degree of suffering but human beings have interpreted the experience in diverse ways.

For instance, Buddhists believe that suffering is meaningless and something to be avoided. An important technique for Buddhists is meditation, which is said to eradicate the worldly desire that leads to suffering.

For many Hindus, suffering is a necessary teacher. As we work through our personal karma, the unpleasant aspects of life can teach us to avoid unethical thoughts and actions that, so Hindus believe, cause suffering in the first place.

Epicureanism attempts to minimize suffering through a life of prudence and temperance.

John Stuart Mill‘s utilitarianism attempts to minimize suffering through a cost-benefit analysis of all actions, a position which Mill felt was ethically equivalent to Kant‘s categorical imperative.

Sigmund Freud saw suffering as an inevitable aspect of the human condition. He wrote that “Psychoanalysis can cure neurotic suffering but not normal human unhappiness.” For Freud individuals are, in effect, the walking wounded.

St. Francis of Assisi (circa 1182-1220)

St. Francis of Assisi (circa 1182-1220) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Catholicism recognizes the value of unavoidable suffering permitted by God, but does not condone persecution nor advocate the neurotic role playing of “victim” or “martyr.” For Catholics, suffering may be redemptive and lead to increased purity and wisdom. This notion of redemptive suffering differs from sheer depair or destitution because the grace of God enables one to embrace one’s particular ‘cross of suffering’ with dignity and, with some exceptional persons like St. Francis of Assisi, gladness and joy.

Along these lines, Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer, a prayer accepted by Catholics, asks God for a reasonably happy life here and a supremely happy one in the afterlife.

The idea of redemptive suffering has been further institutionalized by an organization called Knights at the Foot of the Cross (KFC). KFC is very much influenced by the life of St. Maximilian Kolbe, who died by lethal injection of carbolic acid in a Nazi death camp after willingly accepting the torture of a starvation bunker in place of another prisoner. KFC is an offshoot of The Militia of the Immaculata, an international evangelical movement founded by St. Kolbe in 1917 (http://www.consecration.com/).

Apart from traditional religions, we also have those positively-minded people who simply believe that wisdom can come from suffering.

 

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