WE ALL FACE A HUNDRED DECISIONS a day from what to feed the kids to whether or not we should have that third beer.
The question of the essential self and how we want to portray ourselves can be simplified—sometimes.
But when that isn’t enough, try this short list of what to do in those times of peril when you’re wondering who can help guide us through each shadowy valley.
These archetypes are the stars of our own updated Anglo-Saxon Heroic poems, but with modern sensibilities that consider selflessness as a guiding virtue, whether or not the characters are aware of it at the time.
We should all be so fortunate.
What would Han Solo do?
Act like Han Solo. Or Indiana Jones.
Rough, rugged, skeptical, pirate-like Han was always my go-to growing up, rather than the bratty, whiny, privileged-with-Jedi-powers-he-somehow-overlooked-until-he-was-much-older towhead gringo Luke Skywalker (some farm boys have it all, and by “have it all” I mean endowed by birth with the power to rule the galaxy, or not).
Han shoots another scoundrel before getting hit himself, outruns a mafia boss, helps the good guys (acting as the deus ex machina) fight the Man (the Helmeted Man, that is), stays loyal to his co-pilot and best friend (without ever betraying him, as pirates do), suffers the torture of being frozen alive, and gets the girl respectfully after she saves him (she being the only girl in an entire universe, it seems, except for some of Jabba’s dancers).
At first Han appears to be woefully trapped inside the typical “Man-Box” of machismo stereotypes, but over and over he lays down his life for his friends as if it was his job. He grows as a character, like the worst and best of us.
Then “he” (considering the viewer, always) hops franchises and becomes another iconic character, Indiana Jones, a somewhat morally pure professor whose line “this belongs in a museum” is simply crawling with good intentions for stolen, privatized goods that an aboriginal culture may or may not have been worshipping at the time.
He is wise and naive, loving yet distant, loyal, and again, grows as he learns, all the while crafting a great guiding directive for how to think about material things and wealth.
Plus he outsmarts millennia of gold-seekers as to what cup Christ would have sipped from, just to save his dad.
Be either of those guys. Chewie isn’t so bad either.
What would Spock do?
Act like Spock. When in doubt of what to do or who to be in life, act like Spock. Sorry, Kirk.
In the Aristotelian rhetorical triangle of life, we all need to appeal to Logic a bit more, without committing the fallacy of only appealing to logic a little more. In that logic, good luck finding the logic in only ascribing to Logic. That’s why we have the Kirks of the world, but I never liked Kirk, so I’m going with a modified Spock. And Spock was modified because he was half-human and half-Vulcan. He was the go-to adviser, and always knew the right answer.
Spock is a nonviolent (except in self-defense) vegetarian who will outlive all of his friends, and part of a race of Vulcans who were once barbarians. Aside from the awful haircuts and ears, sign me up.
Do you always know the right answer? If not, just channel Spock through a hands-free mind-meld, and you’ll be alright.
What would Picard do?
Make it so. Just make it so.
When was the last time you took on an Ultra-God and a race of cyborg killers? And it was on your very first mission, nonetheless? You think life is hard? What, you’ve got needy kids and you’re tired? Your job is hard and your days are long? Try being Picard. Seriously, try it. Or assume what it’s like, call upon his center-bald spirit, make that hot Earl Grey, and decide. Make it so.
Maybe you’re constantly being called on the carpet for crimes against humanity or dealing with the demons of having been possessed by a technological communist-zombie cult (draw appropriate metaphors wherever), but, in the end, if you rely upon your indomitable, stubborn spirit for adventure and truth (and the right thing, above all else), your Number One, and a solid crew of tried-and-true professionals, you’ll make it out okay in the end.
Hell, Beverly Crusher will wait years for you to book that Holodeck vacation so you two can finally get together.
Finally—every day—what would you do?
Eventually in life you’re going to have to forego your heroes (real or fictional) and what they will, would, or won’t do, and just do you. There is no try—there is only do. And when you do, don’t doodoo.
Doodoo is a big metaphor here, not just a quick joke. Seriously—don’t doodoo. The world is full of it and we don’t need any more.
And remember that all these characters were real people and had stable, steady lives where they were married and spent a good time raising multiple children in the real world.