Spock's Wisest Words

Tim Knight from Slope of Hope's picture


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 to1129-spock 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 bloggerArlene 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.

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Sat, 11/30/2013 - 23:09 | 4202916 I Write Code
I Write Code's picture

Stonn, as I recall, just stands there like a lump.  I'm sure T'Pring ate him up and spat him out.

Wanting is probably more fun than being had.

Otherwise, wanting is fine, but if you don't get, you get Vulcan blue balls.

Sat, 11/30/2013 - 22:33 | 4202854 The Heart
Sat, 11/30/2013 - 21:46 | 4202788 barroter
barroter's picture

I agree. The chase was always more intersting than the kill.

Sat, 11/30/2013 - 21:13 | 4202715 honestann
honestann's picture

Wanting is better than having.
Not wanting is best of all.
Ahhhh, what a relief! 

Sat, 11/30/2013 - 20:18 | 4202643 failsafe
failsafe's picture

May I suggest doing is more fun than having.  I will, of course, defer to individual preference when it comes to "doing what" versus "having what." lol

Sat, 11/30/2013 - 20:03 | 4202620 kurt
kurt's picture

May I suggest the: "Deluxe Box Set of Startrek the Series with Commentaries and Out-takes in Textured Cortura".

Sat, 11/30/2013 - 15:53 | 4202228 skank
skank's picture

Star Trek: Kirk vs Spock Battle Soudtrack Full + Download

Sat, 11/30/2013 - 12:59 | 4201895 nah
nah's picture

Chinas' got B52s' bitchez!

Sat, 11/30/2013 - 15:54 | 4202234 skank
Sat, 11/30/2013 - 11:21 | 4201781 Caveman93
Caveman93's picture

Take my wife PLEASE! I have and do no longer want. 

Sat, 11/30/2013 - 11:16 | 4201770 J S Bach
J S Bach's picture

My take is a little more phiiosophical...

Wanting things is not abnormal... it's WHAT we covet that matters.  Things we can take with us to the next world are what I want.  A soulmate wife, loving children, the experience of art (especially music)... whatever of worth we carry around INSIDE us.  The "toys", the money, the high-life that most people desire are mostly superficial, which is why they end up feeling bored, unfulfilled and always wanting MORE.  They chase the dragon of greed, but never attain it.

Sat, 11/30/2013 - 13:20 | 4201912 Amagnonx
Amagnonx's picture

New information and the wisdom to apply it, that is something in which the wanting and the having are both equally fulfilling.

Fri, 11/29/2013 - 17:43 | 4200519 discopimp
discopimp's picture

Want what you have and all your wants will be satisified

Fri, 11/29/2013 - 17:37 | 4200505 DrWhy
DrWhy's picture

Arlene Martel also appeared in possibly the best episode of The Outer Limits - "Demon with a Glass Hand" (1964) written by Harlan Ellison and also starring Robert Culp.



Worth a watch if you haven't seen it.

Sat, 11/30/2013 - 20:32 | 4202661 BigJim
BigJim's picture

Haha, that was fun... but very silly :-)

Fri, 11/29/2013 - 17:20 | 4200468 Douglasnew
Douglasnew's picture

If more people thought like you the GDP would be half what it is today, landfills would be half, peoples savings would be greater and everyone and the planet would be the better for it. The best things in life are free but one has to value and want those things instead of the ridiculous things in stores with wrappers on them. Especially the crap fom China made of plastics. Better to give one meaningful and significant gift which improves knowledge or adds real value to your life than to give a thousand trinkets.

Sat, 11/30/2013 - 20:47 | 4202680 The Final Straw
The Final Straw's picture

The best things in life are rarely free. They are affordable once you have eliminated what is frivolous. Consider love and marriage. You must devote time, compromise, share your space etc. While these things may not be $$$, they are still a cost. Even knowledge has costs. If you are using the internet to learn rocket surgery, you need to devote a considerable amount of time filtering through useless information, then spend countless hours in study. Even the best things in life must be subjected to cost benefit analysis.

Shameless plug: http://www.tumblr.com/blog/troy-k-r

Sat, 11/30/2013 - 20:48 | 4202679 The Final Straw
The Final Straw's picture

The best things in life are rarely free. They are affordable once you have eliminated what is frivolous. Consider love and marriage. You must devote time, compromise, share your space etc. While these things may not be $$$, they are still a cost. Even knowledge has costs. If you are using the internet to learn rocket surgery, you need to devote a considerable amount of time filtering through useless information, then spend countless hours in study. Even the best things in life must be subjected to cost benefit analysis.

Shameless plug: http://www.tumblr.com/blog/troy-k-r

Fri, 11/29/2013 - 16:52 | 4200407 williambanzai7
williambanzai7's picture

Too many people don't realise that the only thing they really need thay already have between their two ears and the only thing they ought want in order to reach a modicum of contentment is to empty it of as much useless clutter as possible. That sort of idea once prevailed in China, now all the meaningless junk the world lusts for is manufactured there.


Fri, 11/29/2013 - 16:17 | 4200325 Conax
Conax's picture

I always joked that I learned everything I need to know in life from Bugs Bunny and Star Trek..

When I was a young fellow I lusted after a new Harley.  In 1977 they came out with a gray and blacked out Super Glide, and by hook and by crook I got me one.

A month or two later, I realized that I wanted it a lot more before I got it.

People are strange.

Fri, 11/29/2013 - 15:39 | 4200236 ebworthen
ebworthen's picture

I grew up watching the original too; quality stuff there.

The commercials yesterday during the parade were so sad; petty, shallow, lustful, cynical, angry, selfish, and sexist (against men of course).

"We've gone mad" was what I said to myself.

No wonder people are beating each other up over shopping; they've been primed for it and conditioned - stimulus/response.

Fri, 11/29/2013 - 16:13 | 4200315 Mi Naem
Mi Naem's picture

"We've gone mad"

Yeah, every once in a while the pervasiveness of our collective insanity really hits me, and it's sad and scary as hell. 

I really don't object to advertisements, in principle.  However, television and radio programming, and now movie theaters, gas stations, etc. offer a relentlessly edgy amoral carnival barker atmosphere.  I have had radios all over the house for many years, but they are virtually never on anymore, not even in the car. One TV in a 4 bedroom house of 5 people - strictly for selected DVDs or streamed internet content.  Most corporate media feels like standing at the wrong end of an effluent pipe spewing wretched, dehumanizing, permanent-revolution propaganda - soft porn for the desensitized, prideful, lustful, covetous, and gullible. 

Fri, 11/29/2013 - 15:25 | 4200209 Inbetween is pain
Inbetween is pain's picture

Actually "wanting" gives us a lot of pain, too.  And that is the essence of Buddhism:  The source of our sufferring in life is attachment, whether that be to things, overvalued beliefs, or to people.

Fri, 11/29/2013 - 15:19 | 4200194 GrinandBearit
GrinandBearit's picture

Vulcans never bluff.

Fri, 11/29/2013 - 15:08 | 4200170 Big Johnson
Big Johnson's picture

The Reveran Lawrance Shannon would suggest that TPring wasn't capable of love in the first place either on or off the TV

Fri, 11/29/2013 - 14:46 | 4200095 squid427
squid427's picture

Thanks Tim, I very much enjoyed the article. Also, I just was looking around your site the slope of hope, and I will be visiting it often.

Fri, 11/29/2013 - 15:59 | 4200288 Mi Naem
Mi Naem's picture

Me, too.

Fri, 11/29/2013 - 14:34 | 4200050 kchrisc
kchrisc's picture

While I generally agree with the author, some things/gifts do enrich a person.

A bicycle gave me adolescent freedom and adventures that have long stayed with me.
An Atari computer allowed me to learn programming and later networking and have a group of like minded friends.
Legos?! Who knows how much of my intellect was built, pun intended, by the hours I spent with them.
My Big-Trac was a huge eye opener of what was possible with computers.

Somethings I coveted and received were a waste, but not all.

Sat, 11/30/2013 - 11:42 | 4201809 snodgrass
snodgrass's picture

When my friend bought one of the first apple computers, I lusted after it. After I bought one for myself, I loved it although I subsequently graduated to a PC. Cheaper. Some things are worth lusting after - others not so much.

Fri, 11/29/2013 - 14:21 | 4200016 jon dough
jon dough's picture

The world always has and you are just waking up.

Refrain from the either/or, it diminishes you.

Fri, 11/29/2013 - 15:59 | 4200286 Mi Naem
Mi Naem's picture

Covetousness practically IS the culture, so survival of a reset will be that much more challenging than surviving the 30's depression/dustbowl, for example. 

Fri, 11/29/2013 - 14:00 | 4199955 Gringo Viejo
Gringo Viejo's picture

Spocks Worst Words: "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."

Fri, 11/29/2013 - 14:06 | 4199973 Vendetta
Vendetta's picture

Some of Spocks' best words:  "Change is the essential process of all existence" ... with the exception of Obama would be best described as "No change is the essential process of the status quo"

Fri, 11/29/2013 - 15:03 | 4200150 gmrpeabody
gmrpeabody's picture

"The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."

... or the one.

Sat, 11/30/2013 - 12:33 | 4201869 TheFourthStooge-ing
TheFourthStooge-ing's picture

The wants of the Dimon and Blankfein outweigh the needs of all.

Fri, 11/29/2013 - 13:55 | 4199948 CH1
CH1's picture

+ 10 for quoting Spock.

+ 50 for doing it in a meanigful way!


Fri, 11/29/2013 - 13:26 | 4199861 spinone
spinone's picture

A wise man told me that we soon tire of the works of men, but the works of god are always treasured.

Sat, 11/30/2013 - 14:31 | 4202081 AGuy
AGuy's picture

"A wise man told me that we soon tire of the works of men, but the works of god are always treasured."

Not really. Most religions get abandoned after few thousand years. Greek, Paganism, Aztecs, Egyptian, Celtic, Norse, etc all ended up getting abandoned. The works of man, momuments built in those abandoned religions are still treasures (Pyramids, stone henge, machu picchu, etc). It wouldn't surprise me that at least some modern religions, perhaps all, will be abandoned in a thousand years or less. I am sure that participants of those abandoned reglions had just as much faith in them people do in modern religions.

Fri, 11/29/2013 - 13:24 | 4199856 whatthecurtains
whatthecurtains's picture

I'll remember to use Spock's line on Christmas day when there are no presents under the tree.   My wife will "Amok time" my ass.  If you thought the fight between Kirk and Spock was intense just come on over and see how my wife throws me around the arena.

Sat, 11/30/2013 - 20:02 | 4202619 Notarocketscientist
Notarocketscientist's picture

Have you ever thought of ditching your wife?  Sounds like a nightmare from hell

Fri, 11/29/2013 - 13:11 | 4199786 goldandsilverguy
goldandsilverguy's picture

"How much better to get wisdom than gold, and good judgment than silver!" (Proverbs 16:16)

Fri, 11/29/2013 - 15:54 | 4200274 Mi Naem
Mi Naem's picture

Down arrow = would gladly trade good judgement for bad-judgement-and-silver, which suggests that they are already in possesion of plenty of bad judgement. 

Fri, 11/29/2013 - 12:18 | 4199650 SunRise
SunRise's picture

"We all do too much of each."  Sounds like a government pronunciation - You don't even know me.  How would you know "I" do too much of each?  Rejected for lack of respect for what you don't know.

Sat, 11/30/2013 - 19:53 | 4202612 jim249
jim249's picture

He works for the NSA AND knows you!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Fri, 11/29/2013 - 13:23 | 4199854 Solarman
Solarman's picture

LOL, it was a genralization. But maybe your paranoia is coming out.

Sat, 11/30/2013 - 13:26 | 4201915 Amagnonx
Amagnonx's picture

Nah - the article was all about him of course - ego much?

Fri, 11/29/2013 - 11:27 | 4199461 theeseer
theeseer's picture

I have been touting that quote since the original episode and it is the best one in so many ways. I do beleive however that the direct reference to women is the most telling and the divorce statistics prove it !!!

Sat, 11/30/2013 - 12:14 | 4201845 Beam Me Up Scotty
Beam Me Up Scotty's picture


Oh wait, that was Kirk.

Sat, 11/30/2013 - 22:28 | 4202842 SMG
SMG's picture

Hey Tim,

This is a great article and great point.  Really visionary writing in those days...


Don't know if you've seen this, but I think you would enjoy it.




They did a really good job.



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