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Tue, Sep 16, 2014 09:30 PM
Issue of September 10, 2014

A hope note
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A hope note
Dr. Wayne Willis reflects on life and hope.

Good vs. Bad

September 03, 2014 | 10:42 AM

Do you live in a "Star Trek" or a "Star Wars" universe?

Gene Roddenberry, creator of "Star Trek," was a consummate optimist. He said: "I believe in humanity. We're growing up; we're moving into adolescence now. When we grow up, man, we're going to be something!" His science-fiction series depicted an improving, increasingly peaceful future.

This was an ultra-positive view of humanity commonly held at the close of the 19th century. Alfred Russel Wallace, in 1898, wrote a book titled "The Wonderful Century." Looking back over the tremendous technological, scientific and medical advances of the 18th century, Wallace felt confident that a human utopia was coming soon.

At the end of the 20th century, no one wrote a book calling it "wonderful." Two world wars, the Holocaust, Stalin's Gulags and the Cambodian killing fields documented the depths of depravity into which otherwise intelligent humans can descend.

In the "Star Wars" trilogy, George Lucas sees the entire cosmic drama as a battle between the forces of good and the forces of evil, between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, between The Force and "the dark side." Lucas wrote the script for the original film during the depths of the Vietnam War. He said in a news conference that the question it poses is, "How does a good person turn into a bad person? Most bad people think they are good people, that they are doing things for the right reasons."

I believe that instead of sorting all creatures into two camps — saints or sinners, us or them — Lucas is saying a constant battle goes on inside each individual to behave compassionately, indifferently or cruelly.

My wishing and hoping want to believe that this is a "Star Trek" universe; my knowledge and experience inform me that it's really more like "Star Wars."

Dr. Wayne Willis


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