Episode 1.1: The Man Trap.
In this episode the crew of the Enterprise confronts the shape shifting salt vampire. The actual episode seems more centered around McCoy, but Kirk shines in some aspects of the this story.
Before we go into the lesson that Kirk teaches us, let us ask about other Starfleet Captains. Sisko loved baseball and cooking, Archer enjoyed water polo, both Picard and Janeway had other hobbies and interests. They seem to be fully fleshed out, while Kirk’s hobbies (if he has any) are never really discussed. So comparing Kirk to other captains, it seems he is limited, he is not a fully realized person.
The thing is Kirk is not like the others. We can say Kirk “lacks” but what he does have and what this episode shows us, is that Kirk is about passion and focus. The others are people who happen to work as starship captains. Kirk IS a starship captain, his identity is tied into being what he loves. For others their jobs are just roles, one of many for them, but for Kirk his being captain is part of his core identity. His passion, his life is his ship and his career. He has a zen-like focus. Through out the story Kirk is never distracted, his only care is for his ship, his crew. His passion is his life. This life of the “now”, this life of focus, puts Kirk as a paradigm of focus and passion. He lives for his passion. It is admirable.
Describing his experiences in a Zen monastery; Janwillem Van De Wetering writes: “Zen training fosters awareness: it produces somebody who concentrates on everything he does, who tries to do everything as well as possible and who becomes aware of his circumstances and of the part he plays within his environment. If an unexpected situation suddenly develops he will know how to handle it, and will, by saving himself, save others.”
That is the lesson Kirk is teaching us. To focus, to concentrate on the now. There is no changing what has happened or fretting about the future. One has to live in the now, one has to have that pure attention on the present moment and live in it. Kirk is captain of the now, Kirk is the man who lives in the moment, a life of passion. Kirk is fully realized. Kirk is, in his own way, the modern and future zen master.