I have been a fan of Star Trek (the original series) ever since I was a child. The show means a lot to me on multiple levels, and I spent many hours in my youth watch and re-watching every episode. (And this is before we had these here newfangled VCRs and DVDs. You actually had to wait for a certain time of day when an episode, which you couldn’t control, would appear. Get off my lawn!)
In my present-day house, in which I’m now the dad and I’ve got children of my own, the television is almost never on. Out of a combination of tradition and curiousity, though, I turn on the Thanksgiving Day “Parade” (which is mostly just commercials and promotional snippets from Broadway shows) for my kids to watch. Of course, in between very brief glimpses of the actual parade, there was a lot of time devoted to Black Friday this and Black Friday that, with consumerism blasting its garish, vulgar grasping palms of desire by way of advertisements.
Yesterday was a disturbing day for me on multiple fronts, and one of those fronts was my disgust at all the crap being pushed on both children and adults. One commercial in particular was from Toys R Us, highlighting the fact that their doors would open at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving for all the brats to burst through the front, rush through the aisles, and demand that their parents pay for whatever boxes of stuff made in China that they wanted.
Now I was a kid once too, and I liked toys as much as the next child, but over the years, I have grown increasingly aware of the fact of how short-lived the pleasure of Getting Stuff is. Whether it’s a toy as a child or a sports car as an adult, once you’ve actually got whatever it is that you thought you couldn’t live without, well, it just sort of blends into normalcy.
Which brings me to Spock. In Amok Time, one of the great original episodes, Spock has to battle to the death with Kirk in order to score his Vulcan ‘tang in the form of T’Pring. Near the end of the episode, Kirk is ostensibly dead, and Spock, the victor, decides that his Vulcan male rival, Stonn, can marry T’Pring. He says to him something which I’ve remembered my entire life:
Stonn. She is yours. After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing, after all, as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true.
(FUN FACT offered by your favorite blogger: Arlene Martel, who played T’Pring, was, in real life, married and divorced no fewer than three times; so I suspect her ex-husbands would probably approve of Spock’s wisdom).
I have thought of Spock’s words many times. I’m not sure – – and I’m being very serious here – – that the world has always been as grasping, covetous, and wretchedly excessive as it appears to me now, or if I’m simply waking up to something that has always been there. But this entire season of buying crap is simpy grotesque to me. And the greatest irony of all is that, once all the wrapping paper has been shoved into landfill, the thrills will evaporate, the smiles will fade, and kids and adults alike won’t be any more content than they were than before they had whatever that Thing is that had to be bought.
Wanting is better than having, and we all do too much of each.