This past weekend, I read an article in the Winnipeg Free Press about how Captain Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation was a role model for the author (Melissa Martin, @DoubleEmMartin) during her youth. She starts by describing the alpha males of popular culture:
In most pop-culture media, alpha males are swaddled in visual signifiers of virility and violence. They swagger, they swear, they have unfussy clots of hair stuck at cocky angles. They solve problems. They wear a stone-cold sneer to show their authority; if that doesn’t work, they carry guns to get the job done. When it’s over, there is always a woman who tumbles into their arms. It’s rarely clear why she loves him; just that she is a thing he’s won.
Then contrasts that image with Captain Picard:
Capt. Picard, though, he wasn’t like that. He was a small man, his head ringed by the last vestige of salt-and-pepper hair and lined with all the worries of the years. He quoted Shakespeare and drank tea — Earl Grey, hot — instead of beer. He turned to his advisers, often. He leaned heavily on Guinan, and rarely risked ship for ego. He took risks when urgency inspired, but his authority was drawn on compassion, wisdom and balanced reason.
When I think back to my own youth, there are two dominant characters that were pivotal in my development as a male in this time (along with fabulous family and great friends, of course): Optimus Prime and Captain Picard.
We’re going to split this into two posts, so let’s start with the Captain.
Here’s the appetizer:
Now, the main courses…
“Things are only impossible until they’re not.”
(Season 1, Episode 17, “When the Bough Breaks”)
For centuries, human flight seemed impossible… the Wright Brothers did it. Similarly, going to the moon, finding cures for diseases, et cetera. Dream big. Always. When you’ve figured out what you want to do, figure out a way to do it.
Even in my personal and professional life, there are experiences that I never thought would happen. I never thought that I’d be composing for a company like Disney, but it happened. I never thought that I would be good enough to be published, but it happened. It’s impossible to sit on your couch doing nothing and expecting great opportunity, but you can double up on opportunity by working hard and putting yourself out there.
“If we’re going to be damned, let’s be damned for what we really are.”
(Season 1, Episode 1: “Encounter at Farpoint”)
My writing teacher used to say “don’t apologize for your beliefs” and, even now, I have a hard time doing it. I’ve since been a lot better, though. I’m okay with having the cast of Final Fantasy VI on my wall in perler beads, or wearing video game shirts to work, or sharing my love of Carl Sagan with my class. I’m okay with that – I am who I am and that’s okay. Be who you are, not who you’re not, right?
“It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness; that is life.”
(Season 2, Episode 21, “Peak Performance”)
“There are times… when men of good conscience cannot blindly follow orders”
(Season 3, Episode 16, “The Offspring”)
Do the right thing. Do the right thing. Do the right thing, even when someone older or smarter tells you to do something so clearly against your conscience. This whole episode is just a masterpiece, btw. Classic Trek.
This entire clip…
(Season 3, Episode 4, “Who Watches the Watchers”)
This articulates my humanism very clearly. More clearly than I could ever hope to explain and it resonates deeply within me.
“Living is making choices.”
(Season 5, Episode 9, “A Matter of Time”)
I often don’t like making choices because I often make the wrong ones, if there is such a thing as a “wrong choice.” But we make them and that’s how things happen. You never get something from nothing, or you don’t get anywhere by standing still, et cetera.
We say that a lot to our band kids. “Do you think that the line should get louder here, or softer? Never play it flat, make a choice and see what happens.” In so many circumstances, it is worse to make no choice than to make the wrong one. Don’t you think?
Next week, Optimus Prime 🙂