A Father, A Life, A Legacy

I carefully aimed the remote control as though it were a hand phaser and I were Captain Kirk preparing to stun a hostile alien.  I pressed the power button and watched the image disappear from the screen as the TV flickered and went off.  Having just finished watching the lovingly crafted documentary Trek Nation, I was struck by two thoughts: I hope I have formed close enough bonds with my children that, when I’m gone, they don’t feel like we never got to know each other … and… if my legacy, whatever that happens to be, includes touching peoples’ lives for the better as Gene Roddenberry did, I will have been a success.  Of course, I’d like to think the lives upon which I will have the greatest positive effect are those of my family.  If that’s the case, I will not only have greatly differentiated myself from Mr. Roddenberry, but my achievements as a man will have reached a pinnacle and any good I do afterward will be just a bonus.

The documentary followed Roddenberry’s only son on a poignant journey of discovery as he familiarized himself with his father’s greatest work – Star Trek and, by extension, came to better know the man with whom he’d had a mostly uneasy father/son relationship.  The elder Roddenberry passed away before they could enjoy the closeness that many adult sons eventually find with their fathers.  In any case, the film was appealing largely for the same reasons that Star Trek episodes are.  Its focus was decidedly on the human emotional components of the story to which we can all relate.  The fact that it relied heavily on input from the producers, writers, performers, and fans of Trek just made it that much more interesting.

For rabid fans of Star Trek, there wasn’t a lot of new information revealed.  I think we all knew that Gene Roddenberry was just as flawed as any other human being.  Nevertheless, his son provided a very tasteful treatment of the subject matter which allowed me to come away with a new appreciation for the man while, at the same time, leaving my previous image of him relatively untarnished.  The interviews helped to cement the idea that, through Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry became known as a  visionary and  had a profound impact on a very large number of the shows’ fans – ultimately causing many of them to better themselves through life altering choices.  At the same. there was a good deal of emphasis on Roddenberry’s roles as a husband and father and his seeming inability to model his private behavior on the visionary philosophies he espoused through his TV shows.

Seeing and processing just how human the man really was didn’t make me appreciate his work any less.  It did, however, make me realize the importance of giving loving attention to those closest to you.  I believe it is in that way – by giving fully of yourself where your family is concerned and teaching your children the values of Star Trek by example –  that we will affect human evolution to the point where our society will one day resemble the kind Gene envisioned.  That is the legacy I hope to leave behind.

The End of an Era

Anyone who checks out my posts regularly may have noticed a drop in the frequency with which I have been writing new ones.  This is due in part to the typical things life throws at us but, in larger part, is a result of my feeling that there is less and less to write about regarding my beloved Star Trek.

Perhaps it’s just a phase I’m going through.  However, with the exception of the forthcoming followup to J.J. Abrams’ 2009 re-imagining (which I despised), there isn’t very much new going on for an aging Trek fan like myself to get excited about.  In fact, in a perfectly appropriate imitation of life itself, Star Trek, at 45 years old, is at the point where it is experiencing more endings than beginnings.  To quote Jean Luc Picard, “Lately, I’ve become very much aware that there are fewer days ahead than there are behind”.

Nowhere in the world of Star Trek was this more evident than in Leonard Nimoy’s final appearance at a trek convention, which took place in Chicago this past weekend.  Mr Nimoy, who is 80 years old now, has stated publicly that he wants to focus his energies on other things – including his family, his work in photography, and just generally slowing things down a bit so he can enjoy himself.  He’s certainly earned the opportunity.  Nevertheless, among the fans, he will be sorely missed.

I first saw Leonard Nimoy at a Trek convention at the Hotel Commodore in New York CityLeonard Nimoy at Star Trek Las Vegas - 2011 in 1973 when he was a surprise guest alongside George Takei and James Doohan.  I have seen him 4 times since and was more and more impressed each time with his warmth, joviality, genuineness, and appreciation for his fans. The simple fact that he is now an octogenarian is startling enough in and of itself – to say nothing about the realization that comes with that fact, namely that Star Trek is a thing of the past.

The biggest impact of all this, I suppose, is the addition of Star Trek to a growing list of things that constantly remind me how old I am.  It’s an unsettling feeling as I used to think of Trek as something that made me feel young.  This is why I wish I had some new beginnings to write about!  However, it’s an unrealistic hope.  It seems to make more sense for me to accept the aging of Star Trek and its subsequent exit from the limelight much as I try to accept my own aging.  So, I will count myself lucky if I can get through all the changes later-life hands me by exhibiting the same dignity and class with which Leonard Nimoy said goodbye to the convention circuit.

Thanks for the memories, Mr. Nimoy!

Do Unto Others…

For over four decades I have been a rabid Star Trek fan.  Some fans of my ilk are referred to as “Trekkies”.  Others prefer the moniker “Trekkers”.  I like to think of myself as a “Trekologist”; a person who has devoted considerable energy to the study of all things Trek.

When I have asked myself the question, “What is it about Star Trek that appeals to me so much?” I have come up with numerous answers.  Moreover, the answers change from time to time, depending upon my state of mind, which Trek incarnation I happen to be watching, and any number of other factors.  There is, however, one reason for my unbridled affection for Star Trek which never changes.  I am continually impressed by the positive outlook for humankind’s future which is depicted in all the Star Trek television shows and movies.

Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek’s creator, was convinced that we have the potential to overcome our petty differences and, one day, become united in a way never before witnessed on Earth.  He believed, as do I, that we are capable of sufficient intelligence, kindness, understanding, patience, and tolerance to survive our relative infancy as a race, to figure out how not to destroy ourselves, and to learn to live in harmony with each other and with our planet.  It stands to reason that, when that happens, atrocities like poverty, disease, war, hatred, and prejudice will become things of the past.  The day that comes to pass is a day I look forward to with great anticipation.

In order to reach such a lofty goal, however, we will each be required to make a contribution.  To that end, I have often tried to determine how best to do my part.  There is no single correct answer.  The one that carries the most weight with me though is this:

Do unto others as you’d have done to you.

The Golden Rule.  That little tidbit of wisdom that we all have heard since childhood and, yet, often forget to enact.  The implementation of this simple tenet is really rather easy most of time if one makes a conscious effort.  That is not to say it’s always easy, or even possible.  We are human and we have so many negative aspects to our nature that it is sometimes difficult to master and put into practice such a basic philosophy.  But we must try.  Always.  Sometimes, the biggest benefit is in the attempt rather than in the result.  The more attempts we make, the more likely we are to eventually get it right.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers.  I only know how I feel when someone else is quick to judge, quick to criticize, or quick to deride me.  I try to remember that feeling whenever I’m presented with the opportunity to interact with another person.  Doing so helps me in so many ways.  It helps me to be polite.  It helps me to be considerate.  It helps to me to praise, to admire, to assist, and commit random acts of kindness.  So what does all of this have to do with Star Trek?

One way in which I stay immersed in my Star Trek fandom is by participating in an online bulletin board devoted to Trek.  It doesn’t matter which one – what matters is that it’s the virtual version of social interaction with like-minded folks.  Yet, my mind is constantly boggled by the intolerance and derision heaped upon others by folks on this BBS; folks who supposedly consider themselves fans of Roddenberry’s universe.  Just today, I found myself posting an explanation of why I was willing to help a newcomer who was apparently there only to glean information about selling a collectible.   Several other users got on this newcomer’s case and then decided to ridicule me for my willingness to assist him.  It was at that point I felt the need to write today’s blog entry.

It has taken me many years to figure this out but I am proud to be the person who offers assistance with no thought of reward.  I like the fact that I can trust one person regardless of negative experiences I may have had with another.  If someone has given me no reason to distrust him, I won’t do so unless or until I am given reason.  Furthermore, I’ll go out of my way to be kind, generous, and helpful rather than standoffish, difficult, and selfish.

If everyone could take it upon himself to approach others with this same attitude, the world would not only be a better place but the dream that it might evolve into the one Gene Roddenberry envisioned would be realized within our lifetime.