Have you been a borg?

I recently re-watched First Contact, a Star Trek: Next Generation feature movie featuring the borg.

When I first saw the borg – cybernetic organisms with one mission: to assimilate any species they encounter into their own collective – I was struck with the power of this image. They seem to have the same clear and resonant archetypal quality as classic creatures from ancient and more modern stories, such as cyclops, the centaur, dragons, goblins, witches, wizards and dracula.

The borg qualities

Exploring the borg image for myself, I notice that I see them as cold, inhuman, machine like, relentless, twistedly rational, single-track, without concerns for the views or interests of others.

Attachment to ideas

Where do I find these qualities in myself? When I strongly believe in an idea… When I am absolutely dead certain it is true, that I am right, and that the world does not conform to this idea.

That is when this same cold, inhuman, twistedly rational and persistent quality can arise, and the more seems to be at stake, the stronger these qualities may come up.

When it comes up

It can come up in daily life, whenever there is a strong attachment to an idea and the world does not conform. It can come up in small, apparently insignificant, situations.

It comes up in our culture, and maybe especially clearly seen in politics and religion. I see it in some progressives relationship to Bush. In Bush’s attitude towards terrorists. In some scientist’s view of religious fundamentalists. In some religious fundamentalists relationship to science. In some Americans view of United Nations.

The borg is right here

There is a strong conviction, a world that does not conform, and the ideas become more important than just about anything else. We become single-tracked, cold, relentless, machine like, with an absence of empathy and the willingness take other views.

The borg is right here. And when present, it assimilates and cover up our more human qualities. Our receptivity, flexibility and empathy. A creature emerges that is part human and part machine: relentless, cold, single-track, without concern for the views and interests of others.


That creature is any one of us, when we believe strongly in an idea. Fortunately, there are many ways to soften or disarm the borg.

We can distract ourselves with something more pleasant, temporarily shift attention away from it. We can come to the breath and the body, shifting out of the contraction.

Or we can find the thought we believe in – that which we are so attached to, that we see as so clearly true, that which holds us in its grip – and we can inquire into it.

When a belief is inquired into with some sincerity, it loses its grip. It becomes just another thought, and we are free to shift fluidly among multiple perspectives without holding any one of them too tightly. In a way, we become more human again. More organic.


It is interesting that in the Star Trek universe, the only species the borg has no power over is species 8472. They are all organic, including their space ships, which may represent a more fluid and flexible approach, more organic in a wide sense of the term.

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