Sunday, June 25, 2006

Live long and prosper...

We have had the happy privilege of hosting a family gathering this weekend. My mother's memorial service was Saturday and our family gathered at a small cemetery a mile from the farm to say goodbye.

My sons and nephews - ever a colorful lot - are now grownups. Or as close as they are likely to get. At one point, as we visited here at our farm, I notice that two of them had on Star Wars T-shirts.

I gave them a hard time, of course, as required by law. They immediately returned fire about my Star Trek obsession.

Realize that we are talking about 3 engineers, 1 physicist, 1 med lab supervisor, and 1 scientist.

Pretty predictable.

It made me stop and estimate how lame I actually was at my advanced age to be relatively unashamed of my attraction to an admittedly silly, low-budget, badly-acted TV series nearly 40 years old.

Upon sober reflection, I think I have found some common ground with the Star Wars generation and legitimate reasons justify my continuing enjoyment of this make-believe world.

Most of all, Star Trek was hopeful. Problems were solvable if enough ingenuity and passion were applied. This is the attitude that took the US to land on the moon, and it is the attitude that has been sorely damaged by the cynicism that passes for conventional wisdom. Optimism may be passe, but it is also empowering.

Star Trek had places for new ideas. The resistance to change in the future was shown as much diminished allowing for whole new worlds of possibilities. While I am old enough now to appreciate things NOT changing, I am persuaded that opposition to progress is a problem mostly for those who have already got their piece of the pie. Conservatism is the philosophy of choice for beneficiaries of previous change. Star Trek depicted a world where the power and logic of an idea held greater sway than the status quo.

Like Star Wars, there were heroes, and the heroes had to not merely do extraordinary deeds but agonize over what was right or wrong. Does the "good of the many always outweigh the good of the few"? Exposing boys' minds to ideas of right action and qualities like honor and loyalty didn't hurt many of us, and was curiously effective.

All cultures have their mythologies to explain shared values. For better or worse, Star Trek and Star Wars, have become an integral part of America's, at least for a while.

So if you want to make fun of Star Trek events like this one in Riverside, Iowa - fair enough. But underneath the silliness, even a critic must acknowledge there was a power to touch the future.

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