Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Thought and Action

I am a strong advocate of lifelong education, I just despair of ever putting it to good use. Some quotes for today:

You are on the battlefield. It is no longer the time to polish your gun, you must shoot.

  — Stendhal as quoted by Prosper Mérimée, HB (1850). Translation taken from Simon L. Altmann, Rotations, Quaternions, and Double Groups, Ch. 15.

It is not society's fault that most men seem to miss their vocation. Most men have no vocation.

  — George Santayana, The Aristocratic Ideal, Ch. IV. Quote taken from Wikiquote.

Those who act without thinking seek failure. Those who think without acting find it.

  — Dan Weston, Rantings of a Crazed Lunatic, "Thought and Action".

Thursday, February 1, 2007

To Boldly Go...

Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: To explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no man has gone before.

Should it not be to go boldly? Or perhaps even boldly to go?

The mission objectives are in reverse order of causality: first you go, then you seek, lastly you find and explore. The order must therefore be a crescendo of purpose. James Tiberias Kirk is the new Ulysses: To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Boldly is a not merely a descriptive, nor even restrictive, adverb. It is an essential adverb, the very purpose of going: not primarily to go anywhere, not even to go boldly, but to be bold in going.

A bad-ass James T. Kirk, powered by the finest starship a bad-ass Federation (read: America) can provide, is boldly going to show those aliens that there is a new bad-ass in town, bringing with him a New Galactic Order, along with a Prime Directive seemingly invented only so that when we (of course we, not Kirk anymore) break it — and are seen to be breaking it — aliens will understand that they cannot use legalistic casuistry to defeat us: the sword is truly mightier than the pen.

The phrase to boldly go where no man has gone before is written to hit the high notes when read aloud: bold, no, fore. We are the strong, we are the first. The man is in there to acknowledge (then dismiss) the obvious fact that every alien in the galaxy got there before us, but presumably none started out boldly. They slinked into space to conquer and pillage, or (worse) to join some larger community of soft-minded naifs who think that wishing makes it so.

We are no mere overlords like the Romulans, no mere warriors like the Klingons, no mere profiteers like the Ferengi, and certainly no mere prophets like the Vulcans. We are all this and more: we are missionaries.

We go boldly, but we do not go first. We follow the Macedonians, the Romans, the Arabs, the Crusaders, the Spaniards, the British. We bring the Pox Americana.

Kirk dared to ask in Star Trek V: “What does God need with a starship?”. What indeed.

George W. Bush is the new James T. Kirk. Don't worry about splitting that bold infinitive. Go boldly forth, O Great Decider. It is, alas, what you do best.