Star Trek, Spock and Emotions

“How do you feel? … How do you feel? … How do you feel?” — Computer, “I do not understand the question.” — Spock, TVH

(Photo credits)

There I was at the living room, a 9 year old girl totally absorbed as I sat on the floor, watching Spock with his pointy ears. Star Trek to a child’s mind seemed totally out of this world. Elfin-eared Spock never failed to delight me every week. Hooked and fascinated by all the trek adventure, I watched Star Trek without fail till 1969 but never became a “trekkie”. For some reason, I never went back to it until today when I watched the Star Trek prequel. Sequels don’t interest me most of the time but a prequel, why not? I was interested to know the early days of the “Star Trek” mythology when Spock and Kirk, and the rest of the Enterprise gang, came together. Mr. Spock, one of Star Trek’s most beloved characters, held many memorable moments in both the original series and the Star Trek movies not because of his pointy ears alone.

I never really understood the Spock character then. The “Star Trek” lore is that Vulcans have long suppressed emotions because they are not logical. But Spock has always had to deal with the added pressures of his human side. What did I know about emotions? (Besides, kids were meant to be seen not heard. I digress) In the movie, I realized there is an obvious duality in Spock, in him being half human and half Vulcan. He exhibits internal struggle between Vulcan logic and human passion which I think is quite an interesting aspect of him as a character. I think Spock feels emotion very deeply but he’s just restricted in the ways that he can express it.

We, as human beings encounter a sort of deeply rooted conflict, or duality every now and then. I’m a Gemini like Zachary Quinto, the new Spock and I definitely hold distinct aspects of my personality. One side of me is generally really outgoing and easy and the other is certainly more withdrawn,analytical and introspective. So yeah, I understand that duality from myself. I also understand the mind versus the heart element of the Spock journey, of his makeup.

I felt so much for Spock when he faced the duality of emotions. Obviously, Spock could not deny the wave of unspeakable grief when he lost his mother. Torn between cold Vulcan logic and warm human emotion, he was grieving but didn’t express it. Spock can make the perfect excuse that he is a Vulcan when he turns off his emotions and sets his grief aside. Is that healthy grief? No. In the end, the bottled grief turned to volatile anger.

What about us? We need to allow enough room for others and ourselves to have and work through feelings. We are humans not Vulcans nor robots. An important part of us, who we are, how we grow, how we live is connected to our emotional center. We have feelings, sometimes difficult ones, sometimes explosive ones that need to be worked on. We allow room for feelings. We let people have time and permission to go through their feelings. But we don’t have to let our feelings control our behavior. We don’t have to act on each emotion that passes through us. We do not need to indulge in inappropriate behavior. It does help to talk about our feelings with someone we trust. Sometimes, we need to bring our feelings to the person who is triggering them. But the most important person we need to tell is ourselves.

The Spock character shows a more logical side which we all have as well. I exercise my logical side by setting reasonable boundaries for my behavior and still leave room for a range of emotions. As I allow my feelings to pass through me, I accept them and release them and I shall know what to do next.

“Is that the logical thing to do, Spock?” — Kirk
“No. But it is the human thing to do.” — Spock, TVH

Gosh, I loved this Star Trek movie. Just before the final credits roll, my heart jumped as I heard their mission “to boldly go where no one has gone before”. Wow, this movie gave enough shout outs to old time staples like me.

Have you watched it? You better!