Quiz: Mulder and Scully vs. Lois and Clark in an easter egg hunt in Mordor. Who finds the most?


Fear and Love

You don't need to be harboring a deep, dark secret in order for your fears to sabotage love. I learned that from Smallville.

She’s the girl next door. Spiderman’s Mary Jane. Charlie Brown’s Little Red-Haired Girl. And for Superman, it’s Lana Lang. Perhaps not unrequited, but at least unrealized, the Lana-Clark-ship has always been postponed. If it wasn’t Clark making out with another girl (as seen in Season 2’s “Red”), it was Clark’s fear that Lana would find out his secret identity. And that would endanger her. When it comes to why Clark and Lana never seemed to work out, the blame has always been placed squarely on the shoulders of the Last Son of Krypton. And we all know why. But what about Lana?

While Clark’s fears kept him from pursuing Lana any further than the “friends zone,” Lana herself had her own demons to deal with. And at first glance, it seems like Lana’s problem is Clark’s problem: the secret. Trying to sort things out in her head one day at the Talon, Lana ran into Helen Bryce, the soon-to-be-wife of Lex Luthor.

“If you knew that Lex was keeping secrets from you, but that he was being truthful about the important things like the way he feels about you, would that be enough?” Lana asked.

Helen turned the question back to Lana. “I guess you have to decide: is the part of themselves they’re willing to share with you better than not having them in your life at all?”

What it comes down to with Lana is fear. Fear that she won’t be able to handle a relationship full of secrets. Fear that the problems will become insurmountable. Fear that she’ll never really have all of Clark that she needs. It’s fear.

And, incidentally, that’s exactly what Clark’s problem is too. Fear. But fear and love dance together all the time—you don’t have to be an alien with a dark secret to struggle with this conundrum. Every act of love is a risk. The risk that the love you show might be rejected. We can put on a strong face and say that we don’t care what others think, but we’re just kidding ourselves. Love may be brave, but it would much rather be shared. That’s because when we love, we have to take off the mask of indifference towards others. Love is about the other person. It’s about how you feel about them. And it’s about putting them first.

So when you love, you’re saying, “I’m willing to be hurt.” That’s where the fear comes from. And it’s also where the love comes from. Because love is risk. Love is brave. Love may fear, but it is not swayed by fear. But if you don’t want to get hurt, then stay away from love. Stay inside your Kryptonian shell. Don’t open your eyes. Because once you do, you’ll see that the fears that alienate you are in every single human being. Even Lana Lang has a little Krypton in her heart.

So Superman, the man who can’t be hurt, pursues the one thing that can hurt him: love. What does that make him? Brave? Noble? A romantic? No, none of these things.

Just a dumbass like the rest of us.


Fathers and Sons

Fathers and sons will butt heads, hold their ground, and in the end gain nothing. True strength is having the confidence in yourself to have humility. I learned that from Smallville.

Early in his high school years, Clark Kent had a couple rough patches with his father. It was typical father-son problems—which is strange considering how atypical Clark was. But fathers love their sons; they’re proud of them when they do good things and happy just when they wake up in the morning. And with a little humility, a little repentance, the problems of even a Superman and his dad can get resolved.

A father-son fight seem like a simple exercise in letting go. But in the thick of it, that’s not what it looks like. Not ever. In the middle, it’s like you’re facing off with a bull. Clark had made a rather unconventional choice by befriending local tycoon and shady businessman, Lex Luthor. Clark’s father, Jonathan, had never trusted the Luthors and considered Clark’s friendship with Lex at least foolhardy and at most downright dangerous. When Jonathon found out Lex had been secretly investigating the Kents—and to make matters worse, found out that Clark had known and not told him—Jonathan was understandably angry. When he confronted Clark, the teenaged Superman uncharacteristically lashed out at his dad with the whole “I’m not a kid anymore” argument. Yeah, that one’s a classic.

So this is how it started. And in arguments, everything is always backwards. An argument seems like it’s about the thing it’s about, but arguments are never about what they’re about. Arguments are about a relationship. The next day, Clark talked to his mother.

“You two need to work this out,” she said.

“We will. First we’ll have a week of uncomfortable silence, and then we’ll start talking about something trivial, and then we’ll move on.”

And once again, the mess gets swept under the proverbial rug. You can never turn that rug over—it’s so disgusting under there, full of scars and still festering wounds. Grudges held on to for dear life.

But in the end, it’s the holding on that takes the living out of life. Lex’s father, Lionel, never let go of the deaths of his wife and younger son, Julian. And in the end, it destroyed not just his relationship with Lex, but kept Lex from becoming the good man he could have been.

That’s what Lex told Clark when he came to his friend for advice. And that’s how Clark found the courage to face the truth: that his relationship with his father was more important than “winning the argument.” And certainly the relationship was too important to be damaged by simply letting the wound fester. Both Jonathan and Clark had to be Superman—to themselves. Both had to face the truth and let go of the fight.

In the end, the relationship is the only thing that’s real. The argument is rhetoric; the relationship is life. And letting go is the only way it ever really works.

That’s when we finally, truly, see who we are and can embrace it with humility. Letting go.

Unless you’re holding up a space plane full of people from crashing into Metropolis. Holding on, in that case, is advised.


Conquering Fear

“The ability to recognize danger, to fight it or run away from it, that’s what fear gives us. But when fear holds you hostage, how do you make it let go?”
-Captain Katherine Janeway

All fear can and shall be conquered. I learned that from Star Trek.

During the Dominion War, Nog was shot and his leg had to be amputated. As he lay in the make-shift infirmary realizing that his life was never going to be same, the one thing that comforted him was a song playing over the speakers: an old Sinatra cover of “I’ll Be Seeing You” by a guy Dr. Bashir knew named Vic Fontaine. When Nog returned from physical therapy to his home on Deep Space Nine, he was put on indefinite medical leave and so didn’t have to return to his duties as an engineer for some time. He visited Vic’s lounge often just to hear the song. Outside of the lounge, he basically sat in his room and did nothing. Just played the song over and over.

Nog decided to move in with Vic in his apartment above the lounge. They made a business deal together, and the lounge and casino started to rake in the big bucks. Finally Vic realized what was happening: Nog was escaping his real life—his friends, family, and commission—in the lounge. So he did what was best for Nog: he kicked him out. Nog broke down.

“I’m scared,” he said, “If I can get shot… if I can lose a leg… anything could happen to me, Vic. I could die tomorrow. I don’t know if I can face that.”

Vic replied, “Kid, I don’t know what’s going to happen to you out there. All I can tell you is that you’ve got to play the cards life deals you. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose… but at least you’re in the game.”

Sometimes I believe that fear is unconquerable. And maybe some fear is. But the fear of living, I am certain, can be conquered.

Just kiss a random stranger.

Love and Letting Go

“Love is as strong as death.”
-Rich Mullins

We do not get to choose who we fall in love with. I learned that from Star Trek.

On the day before the wedding, the headstrong Worf and his headstrong bride-to-be Jadzia decided to call it off. As a propos to the situation, the best friends went to their respective pre-marital combatants and talked some sense into them. While Jadzia’s old friend Sisko talked some tough love to her, Worf’s brother-in-arms, General Martok, joined the groom in his quarters on the warship Defiant. Worf’s problem was his belief in the impossibility of the marriage working. “When she is laughing, I am somber… She makes fun of everything. I take everything seriously,” he laments. And Martok, in his old Klingon wisdom, responds that it doesn’t matter. He loves her.

“Love is as strong as death, my friend. Relentless as the grave.”
-Rich Mullins

It is perhaps one of the toughest conundrums of maturity that we both learn to love and learn to let go as we grow older. The problem is that love doesn’t let go of the people it truly inhabits. It is as strong as death’s hold. The similarities between death and love are abundant, but for the growth of the individual, the fact that love doesn’t let go is, quite simply, a bitch.

There must be something more to learn about love or about letting go. But I haven’t yet discovered how to let go of love.

Except for the too long process of time working on the memory. And maybe then we learn what was love, what was not, and what is worth letting go. And how much letting go is worth.

And at the moment, I’m going to guess it’s worth at least a buck o' five, plus tax.

To Boldly Go...

These words helped launch the idea of Star Trek. We are explorers. We find our identity in our insatiable thirst for the unknown. This isn't just what makes us human--it's what helps us become more human. The search leads us to discover new parts of our own world, hidden parts of our own selves, that we must somehow make sense of. In the past, we have seen the unknown and sought to conquer it. In the future, Star Trek dreams, we seek out the unknown to understand it and to better ourselves. Why? Because we've finally realized who we really needed to conquer: ourselves.

These words, and more like them, comprise the gist of this blog: a kind of reflective, moralistic commentary on the great mythology of the modern age: sci-fi. The definition of sci-fi in this blog is rather inclusive, not exclusive. I may occasionally dive into some fantasy or even a few ancient myths and fairy tales. But the main focus will be on the standard understanding of sci-fi--specifically the space opera and space sci-fi subgenres.

Why am I writing this? Because sci-fi isn't just about neat stories, what-ifs, and whatever action sequences Hollywood can conjure up to appeal to the mainstream. Sci-fi is primarily an extension of the human need for mythology to understand our world. And why do humans need mythology?

Why, to teach us how to live, of course. Sci-fi, ultimately, is about the fairy tales we grew up hearing as children. Our parents told us those stories to teach us how to live. Sci-fi is no different. Maybe a little more mature, but not different in its essential goal.

So I see this blog as an opportunity to open up the themes of my favorite sci-fi art and explore their meanings for our lives. Think of it as a weekly sermon from the Church of Modern Mythology. Or an evening lecture with Professor Sci-Fi.

That's it. Class is now in session. You've read the syllabus. Let's get to work.