Monday, January 25, 2010

Do You Believe in a 'No-Win' Scenario?

I've been watching "The American Experience" on PBS, and its been doing biographies of American Presidents through the 20th century: the choices they have made in very difficult, almost impossible times. Federal jobs and support of arts to bolster the economy (FDR's "New Deal"), the development and use of the atomic bomb, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement, etc.

The consequences of those decisions linger on, and it causes some detractors to question the wisdom and reasoning of those who made them.

I've also been re-watching Star Trek [2009] with Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto. In it, as all Trekkers know, Kirk 'changes the conditions' of a test in order to beat the 'no-win' scenario presented by the Kobayashi-Maru simulation.

In other words, he cheats. He does it because he feels the test itself is a cheat; there is no way to win. What purpose does it serve to put any cadet through that scenario, he asks?

Quinto/Spock's response is that the captain of a starship must experience fear and face it, in order to do his job of leading his crew. He's got to accept his limitations, while facing certain death.

Now, I don't know if I fully agree with that [or maybe with the way it is tested - how terrified can you get in a simulator, I would ask], but I can understand its logic.

You want your captains to NOT believe themselves invincible and thus lose compassion, caution, and common sense. Ship's captains on terra firma, like many medical doctors, often believe themselves to be infallable due to their superior abilities and knowledge. If they become a "captain" and keep a balanced heart and mind is rare bird indeed (whether it is being the leader of a fictional starship, a hospital wing, a Navy vessel, a large corporation or mega-church.) A lot of people will depend on your decisions and if you act from fear, you will not serve their best interests.

In watching these bios of American Presidents, you saw that the very things that drove them to be elected often came back to bite them. They did some good; they did some bad. They made decisions for some forty years out of fear of fascism and communism.

I cannot see any way we would NOT have dropped the atomic bomb on Japan. Our troops were getting ready to fight from island to island, and it was going to be ugly. Fair warnings were given on both occasions - something NEVER done before in war time, AFAIK.

Japan surrendered under threat of extinction by nuclear holocaust. We helped rebuild it. Our enemy became our ally even as our ally, the Soviet Union, became our enemy.

Then came Korea and Vietnam. In both cases, what it would take to win was too enticing, too horrifying - dropping a nuclear bomb. Such extreme action very well could've started a third World War. Even today, we are still in a 'cease-fire' with North Korea; we are not at peace.

I used to have a button that said "If you are willing to die, you can do anything."

I think - no, scratch that - I believe there is no such thing as a No-Win Scenario - its just that the price to win is too high for most of us to pay.

Leaders enter into great depression when they see the cost of 'being right.'

You see, we have this mistaken idea if we 'get it right' and perform admirably, there will be no suffering. The scenario will work itself out painlessly.

But the evil that causes undue suffering is in this world and quite active. And to fight it, you have to be willing to go FURTHER than 'the other guy.'

Let me end by showing how Jesus handled His 'No-Win' scenario: he faced it dead-on and got the job done.

Matthew 26:36-45
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray."

He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me."

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will."

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?" he asked Peter. "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak."

He went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done."

When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!"


I think Jesus shows his humanity so very well here - like us, He doesn't want to die - much less be brutally murdered - BUT HE WIPES THE TEARS FROM HIS EYES AND GOES FORTH ANYWAY TO GET THE JOB DONE!

Personally, I wish Lyndon Johnson had concerned himself more with what was right than what was expedient. I wish he'd pulled us out of Vietnam BEFORE he announced he would not run for the Presidency again.

Vietnam was his - and America's - 'No-Win' scenario. We could not win freedom for the South Vietnamese; we could not fight the war for them.

The best thing to come out of Vietnam, I am afraid, is/was humilation for America. Unfortunately, that humiliation was unjustly cast upon its fighting men and women. Yet there followed a good result as a backlash from that: men and women in uniform are today honored coming and going. We've repented of shooting the messengers; the way our vets were treated was abominable. Today they get due respect.

And when one thinks of how African-Americans were treated during the Civil Rights movement, there is even more shame. Now we have a black President. Johnson would have been proud of that.

So the question remains: do you believe in a 'No-Win' Scenario?

Well, in one way I guess I do. If the 'win' is limited to immediate victory. You just cannot fight and win in all circumstances, folks!

But I do NOT believe in the 'No-Benefit' Scenario. There is more to life than 'winning' - sometimes the 'win' comes from being wise enough to lose, to let go of control.

To say "I am not God; I cannot fix this."

In Christianity, we have this wonderful conundrum: Christ died to win us all back to the Father. He even bids us to die: "If anyone wishes to save his life, he must lose it! For whoever wishes to save his life (in this world) will lose it, but whoever loses his life (for My sake) will find it!"

Folks, if you can get over your pride and die to self, you can reap great rewards.

If you can't, you spend the rest of your life trying to justify yourself.

Jesus beat the 'No-Win' scenario by dying. On the third day God raised him back to life, justifying him as sinless.

In Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan, where we were first introduced to the Kobyashi-Maru test, it is Spock who dies to save his ship, his crew, his friends.



"I never took the Kobayashi-Maru. What do you think of my solution?"

Whether Leonard Nimoy [who's Jewish, BTW] realized it or not, Spock's Christ-likeness was not complete until ST:III until Spock came back from the dead.

Then it is spot-on.

Like Kirk, we all want to cheat.

But Spock had the right answer. You win the 'No-Win' scenario by dying to self.

Its something your opponent cannot expect and cannot defeat, because it is your choice, not his.

Amen.

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