Known to Star Trek geeks everywhere, “The Kobayashi Maru” is the name of a civilian space vessel (or “wessel” as Chekov would have said). In Trekkie lore, this simulated ship was the focus of a test by the military for it’s prospective commanders. In the simulation the tested officer would face a “no-win” situation in which his or her leadership decisions would be scrutinized. The intent was to see what the candidate for captain was made of – whether they had the “right stuff” to see it through till the end, if that time ever came.
Of course, Captain James Tiberius Kirk, of sci-fi fame, ‘beat’ the test by cheating and so became a legend among those characters of the fiction series. Those of us who have watched and longed to merely be able to make a Vulcan “V” with our fingers cheered his every conquest. There is, in many of us, a little bit of Kirk. Often, we don’t believe in “no-win” scenarios where circumstances won’t budge. Life suggests that we are clearly in denial.
So, what’s a puny mortal to do? The opening stanzas of the “Serenity Prayer” intone:
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference….
There is wisdom and a certain contentment in acceptance, but the temptation to be fatalistic is always with us. Surely, for the Christian at least, trusting that God will make it all right in the end is a significant source of comfort. It is the traditional view and carries the endorsement of the scriptures. However, if a “fix” is not always within reach, what then constitutes a “win” in the here and now?
This life isn’t science fiction and we are not Kirk. Even if we manage to avoid all other tests, it seems reasonable that we all will face growing older and the wearing out of these bodies we occupy. We exercise, we moisturize, we tan our thighs, but in the end….. we realize. If moving the immovable is what we are all about, then all is indeed vanity.
These days we live in are often difficult and discouraging, but I have come to see that it is just “life.” In my time of testing I have been cast into a meditation on being an adult. It is remarkable how slowly the romantic notions that we entertained in childhood are replaced by the cold, hard realities of responsibility and duty. Yet, in the midst of struggle, there is a secret life that is offered by Jesus that is a “spring of water welling up to eternal life.” That life, defined in the Bible as “knowing the Father” ennobles our existence, not by a cheat, but by fulfilling the end for which we were made. The pointless, from the human point-of-view, suddenly brims with meaning as we see Eternity all around. That, James T., is winning.