I watched Star Trek: The Motion Picture a few nights ago because Stephen Collins was on it, and I wanted to see if he was anything like Eric Camden on 7th Heaven. Catherine Hicks was on Star Trek IV, and she definitely acted like Annie Camden, in the sense that she was rather feisty and strong in her convictions.
Stephen Collins wasn’t like Eric Camden on Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but he was more like the role he played on one episode of the Waltons: stiff, rather formal, not much voice inflection or ability to connect with people. On the audio commentary and the documentary, however, he was much more like Eric Camden: real, thoughtful, likable, ability to connect with people, open, somewhat mesmerizing, etc.
I wish that he commented more on the religious dimensions of the plot, but many of his comments were about the technical aspects of the film. I appreciated one thing he said about the role of actors. For one scene, he said, he was told to look at the screen ahead and act like he was seeing the most beautiful thing that one could behold. In reality, howevr, he was looking at a big fat “X.” Collins then remarked that actors are paid to exercise their imaginations.
Regarding the religious dimensions, he made a statement near the end of the movie about his character’s assimilation with the V’Ger space vessel. In the movie, Collins’ character, Decker, merges with a NASA space probe that had attained knowledge and consciousness. It was pure logic, so it had a lot of loneliness and inner emptiness. But Collins gave it a human dimension, and it became an omniscient, omnipresent being after their merging.
Collins said that he would have liked to do what Decker did: to leave everything behind and become part of something larger than himself. Nowadays, he said, he’d be less willing to do that, since he has a family that he doesn’t want to leave behind. But he said he would have been more willing to undertake such an endeavor in his younger years. Collins also said that, around the time of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, he started to practice meditation, which was a way for him to transcend himself and nature. That corresponded with something I read in wikipedia: that he’s a practitioner of Transcendental Meditation, a New Age technique.
While I was listening to the audio commentary, I was reading Book II of the Christ Clones trilogy, which touched a lot on New Age religion. In the book, the Antichrist and his associates maintain that the world is entering a new era, in which people are advancing in their human capabilities. They are on the verge of being able to read one another’s thoughts and feelings, which could lead to mutual understanding. And the Antichrist said that religion must go out the door, since it has led to a lot of division and bloodshed. For him, people must learn to appreciate the “god within.”
The part about mutual understanding somewhat appealed to me, probably because I find that I am often misunderstood. But I doubt that people would necessarily like me or sympathize with me if they could read my thoughts and feelings, even if they were to discover that I’m not really that different from them. I know people who love to critique and psychologically analyze others. They claim to understand people’s insecurities, yet they don’t necessarily sympathize with or like those people.
When Psalm 139 says that God knows us intimately, does that mean that he sympathizes with us? Or does he know us as a distant judge, one who knows our number, even as he critiques us?
There are aspects of the Christ Clones model that resonate with me, but I can’t imagine myself ditching God in favor of a nebulous “god within.” Even if we understand each other and solve the world’s problems, there will still be an emptiness or feeling of disconnection that only God can fill (in my opinion). So many religions try to deal with human alienation. Buddhism attributes it to human attachment. Gnosticism stated that we are actually divine sparks trapped in an alien world. The ones who deny human alienation seem to be atheists, who believe that this world actually can meet people’s needs. Maybe that’s because they see this world as all there is, so they think it has to meet our inner desires.
I didn’t entirely identify with Stephen Collins’ religion. I can identify with going beyond myself, but not really with transcending nature and becoming an omnipresent, omniscient being. Does that mean that I want to be a servant of a higher power for all eternity? I’m not sure. I don’t know what I want.
That brings me to a key message in Star Trek: The Motion Picture: V’Ger was looking for his creator, who could explain to it the purpose for its existence. And V’Ger wanted physical contact with the one who had made him. That’s one reason many of us search for God: we want to know our purpose. And if my purpose is to serve a higher power, then that’s fine with me. I’d be acting according to who I am, as God made me.
My problem is that Christianity often requires me to be something I naturally am not–a happy, happy social extrovert. I wonder what my purpose is in light of how God made me: an insecure introvert who struggles socially.
Anyway, these are my ramblings for the day.