Star Trek made the cover of the May 4 edition of Newsweek, with the headline reading “To Boldly Go…How ‘Star Trek’ Taught Us To Dream Big.” Inside, there’s an extended preview essay about the upcoming “Star Trek” motion picture (http://www.newsweek.com/id/195082). Writer Steve Daly gives his approval of the new big screen release:
A movie built to celebrate diversity, understanding and hope is definitely audacious. It’s enough to make anyone feel that right now, here on earth and out in the final frontier, we have liftoff.
I’ll leave it to others to determine how the new Star Trek movie may speak to our current political and social milieu. Instead, let’s briefly consider how the Star Trek phenomenon validates the quest for work that matters to us, while affirming the kind of work-life imbalance that is the scourge of many a personal “mission.”
Between the original Star Trek, its inspired sequel Star Trek: The Next Generation, and the motion pictures emanating from both, the ideal life is portrayed as passionate adventure, full of risk and peril, but always with a zest for discovery and an affirmation of the intellect. There are no homes or shopping centers, few kids or pets, and very little of the everyday humdrum and detail that make for so much of middle class life. Instead, the individuals of the starship Enterprise are on a mission, which they pursue with an almost single-minded devotion.
With Star Trek and its heirs, life on a starship is all encompassing. The officers and crew live where they work. There rarely is such a thing as a “vacation,” unless beaming down to a planet that may serve up life-threatening beings or diseases counts as Club Med or the French Riviera. Alas, to my knowledge, none of the Star Trek incarnations feature an employee assistance program or union shop steward to address issues of overwork or chronic stress.
Perhaps I can identify with Star Trek’s depiction of life and work because even though academe is quite the opposite of a bold mission to other galaxies, both realms share an immersive state that allows one to pursue passions at the frequent expense of meaningful separation between home and office. Plenty of other vocations foster the same dynamic.
The chance to do work that brings deeper personal meaning along with a decent paycheck is indeed a blessing, but there are downsides for those of us who get too caught up in it. Indeed, a more true-to-life version of Star Trek might feature a long line at the office of the starship’s therapist and a lot of Star Fleet personnel fantasizing about retiring to tend to a vegetable garden, read novels, or watch Monday Night Football.