Data and Love

Star Trek The Next Generation Cast Photo.jpg

I’m a huge Star Trek: Next Generation fan.  I spent many Saturday nights, freshly showered, forbidden from doing anything which might get me dirty, eating popcorn, apples, and cheese while watching ST:NG.   It was a family tradition for years.  Watching them now is like going home for an hour.  The show has retained its value over the years.  The characters are rich, the stories unique, interesting, and heartfelt.  The setting, while becoming a bit dated as we have similar technologies now, isn’t a hindrance to enjoying the show.  The nice part about it is it’s relatively clean, with pretty descent morals.  I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, I personally think what sells this show and shows like Firefly, Chuck, Band of Brothers, and Sherlock is the personal friendships behind the scenes.  You can’t create chemistry like that.  This isn’t romance, which does create powerful stories, but something more subtle and longer lasting.  This is friendship.  When you watch ST:NG you can sense that the main crew doesn’t just work together.  They have a unique bond behind and beyond the camera.  This is what I love so much about the show.

But, I’m not here to talk about one of my favorite themes: friendship.  I’m here to talk about something I noticed in Episode 25 of Season 4: In Theory.

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ST: NG has a standard storytelling outline.  You have the main plot, generally scientific, and then you have the sub plot, generally human relations.  Once in a while, they swap them.  In Theory was just such an episode.  The focus of the episode was Data’s first girlfriend while the scientific danger functioned as the subplot.  Data, the emotionless android, has his first romantic relationship.  Here’s the question posed: Can you have a relationship, a meaningful love relationship, without emotion?

ST:NG’s answer: No.

The show postulates that due to Data’s inability to ‘feel’ love for someone, he is incapable of being in a meaningful relationship with a woman.

I found this odd and disturbing.  Data has a wonderful friendship with Geordi throughout the entire show.  They’re best friends.  But it’s not just Geordi.  Data is a part, a very important part, of the entire crew.  The crew accepts him, helps him, protects him, defends his rights, and in no way seem inhibited in their expressions of love for him because he’s incapable of feeling emotions.  In the movie, Star Trek: Nemesis, Data gives his life for Picard.

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. – John 15:13

How much more could Data love or be loved?

Over and over again, the show works to develop Data’s humanity.  It surrounds him with acts of love expressed through friendship and family all the time.  If you think about it too long, like I have, you begin to realize that what Data is incapable of feeling is not love, commitment, belonging, familiarity, or anything along that line, but romance.  It is the bubbly warmth of romance Data is incapable of feeling.  Does that mean he’s doomed to a life without a woman at his side?

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Show of hands.  Is your husband romantic all the time?  Do you refuse to be around him when he’s not being romantic?  Are you romantic all the time?  Is your life just one big montage of romance?  Is Nicholas Sparks whispering in your ear?

Please!

If marriage depended on any of us feeling love every waking moment it would quickly end in divorce…oh.  Oh.  Oh foolish world, look at what we’ve done.

We’ve filled our children’s heads, and our own, with the evil lie that love is an emotion.  Love is a feeling.  You can’t control your feelings, thus you can’t control your love.  Love is a feeling.  A warm fuzzy – I learned that on Sesame Street.  And when that warm fuzzy is gone?  When the person you married wakes up and isn’t looking so super-model-ish?  Then it’s over.  You’re done.  Just get a divorce and move on to the next warm fuzzy.  Why do you think so many movies and shows stop before everyone gets married?  Because true love, real love, love that will last you all your life isn’t a warm fuzzy.  It’s an act.  It’s a daily act of self-sacrifice, of giving.  (That’s one of the reasons I love the show Chuck.  They didn’t stop at the ‘I Do’ moment, and they didn’t trash their marriage afterwards.)

Guess where warm fuzzies mistaken for love leads as a whole?  Not just to a high divorce rate.  They also leads to a ridiculous monster called tolerance.  Do you know why someone making a statement and me disagreeing with them is considered mean?  Do you know why we no longer view an honest and wise statement as loving, but as bigoted, racist, and hateful?  Because love is a warm fuzzy and you just busted mine.  How dare you?  How dare you bust my bubble of warm happiness with your cold logic or your rigid belief system?  You need to tolerate me.  My warm fuzzy!

If love is an emotion and not an act, we become a nation of weak, whining children pouting over all our assumed emotional injuries.  Real emotional injuries and abuse gets lost and tangled up in our worship of emotions.  Healing gets pushed aside.  We no longer recognize real love when we see it.

Back to the Data episode.  Date rewrites his personal program for his new girlfriend.  He asks her what he can do to be a better boyfriend.  He goes way out of his normal programming to accommodate her.  In the end, she rejects him because he can’t feel romance.  She lumps Data with her other ex-boyfriends who were just selfish.  As a long time Data fan, it was frustrating in a silly way.  How could she reject him?  As a thinking Christian, it was sad and scary.

We can’t trust our emotions.  They are a gift from God, a beautiful gift, and one I’ll be the first to admit I’m very thankful for.  But I don’t trust them.  I don’t follow my heart.  I guard it.  It’s a wayward lying thing.  If I don’t guard what I watch, read, and hear, it will believe anything that gives it a warm fuzzy.  Put some sappy music behind it and a wide-eyed child or puppy and I’m already crying.  If I don’t guard it, I’ll read into my husband’s actions things he never ever intended and he’ll do the same to me.  If I don’t guard it, I’ll destroy every relationship around me as one by one they stop exciting me and start requiring real work.

Love is not an emotion.  It’s an act.  Believing otherwise is dangerous, unhealthy, and following a lie.  Our country believes and has believed for a long time that emotions are our guiding star and we are reaping what we have sown: a high divorce rate, bullying in the name of tolerance, an inability to practice common sense, exultation of youth, and an elitist mentality.

Guard your heart.

I Corinthians 13: 4-13:

 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

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2 thoughts on “Data and Love

  1. Two thoughts: 1. This is the most creative approach I have read to the issue of impassibility.
    2. As I read your discussion of guarding one’s heart, I suddenly realized we are not only guarding our hearts from the outward influences, but also guarding our heart to keep it from becoming too emotional in its approach to life. The guarding is a two edged sword, if you will. I am a big fan of ST:NG as well. How could I not? Picard has an appreciation for a good cup of tea.

    • I hadn’t really thought about it as a way to explain Impassibility, but you’re right! 😉 This would be a very me way to explain it. 🙂
      I love the idea of guarding your heart with a two edged sword. Great image and I also love Picard and his tea. It’s probably why Earl Gray, Hot is the only tea I drink consistently.

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