In a previous post, I mentioned how my best friend in high school always wanted to be Captain Kirk and wanted me to be Mr. Spock. Of all the Star Trek characters, Spock is most like me—or at least like me as I see myself. I would like to believe that I’m the smart one in the group, the one to whom everyone turns for answers. I would like to believe that I’m capable of solving just about any problem, given enough time and enough information. I would like to believe that I am free from the burden of emotions, able to make wise decisions without being pushed and pulled by inconvenient feelings.
Spock speaks often of logic. If I could travel through time to the 1960s to suggest one change in the Star Trek scripts, I would ask them to mention reason in place of logic. Logic is the set of rules by which reason operates. Reason is the practice to which Spock and the rest of the Vulcans are dedicated. Loving the rules instead of the process makes no sense—preferring logic to reason would be like preferring reading a book of the rules of baseball to watching a baseball game.
Vulcans are not the only beings in the galaxy who prefer reason and logic to emotion. Twenty-five centuries ago the Buddha taught in India that suffering can be escaped by a person who learns to cease desire. The Stoics of the Greek and Roman civilization also proposed a life guided by sober thought and not by emotion. They coined the word “apathy,” but they said apathy is good. They said it is better to go through life unmoved by emotion, because then people can make wise decisions.
It may seem strange for a Christian to speak of approval about Buddhists and Stoics. The Christian is commanded to love: to love God whole-heartedly and to love every neighbor. I countered that love is not a feeling. Love is caring more for the other than for the self. Feelings can confuse love, especially when the world around us treats love as only a feeling. Feelings confused for love can lead to great temptations and great sins. Feelings confused as love can destroy a relationship that was meant to last until death.
Over the years, I have tried to help other people get around their feelings. When they are frightened for no good reason, or when they think they are worthless and life is meaningless, I say to them, “I know you feel that way, and I know that it is a powerful feeling. I also know that it is untrue. You are valuable. You have no reason to be afraid. Do your best to set aside how you feel and to do the right thing.” After all, virtue is always measured by doing the right thing in spite of feelings. Courage is not a lack of fear; courage is doing the right thing in spite of fear. Honor is not a lack of temptations; honor is doing the right thing in spite of temptations.
I gave this advice to others because I thought it worked for me. I thought that, like Spock, I made good and wise decisions by ignoring my feelings and trusting reason and logic to guide me. I thought I could continue to ignore my feelings and would continue to make good and wise decisions. Finally, after several stressful events, I confessed my real inner feelings to the family doctor. Instead of lying, as I had done year after year, assuring him that I felt just fine, I described for him how I really feel about myself and about my life. He listened to me. He prescribed some medications. He referred me to a counselor. He did the very job that I had been paying him to do, but that I had kept him from doing by hiding information from him.
The diagnosis is depression and anxiety. The outlook is good. Feelings I have ignored for most of my life are feelings I can now acknowledge and confront. I don’t expect the future to be easy. Even Spock had to struggle with feelings and allow them to be real from time to time. But I find myself on the highway to health, instead of on the road I was traveling before. For that, I am grateful.