Posts Tagged ‘Star Trek’

Two-thirds of the way through the year 2012, the future still has between twenty-eight and thirty-five months for Mattel to get their act together and give us this before a class action lawsuit happens as a result of false advertising, although I’ve heard rumors that it might happen as soon a Christmas 2012.  Let’s not even get started on the issue of why we don’t have jet-packs yet, but an article by Bill Winningham pretty much sums it up:  we’re too afraid, although the Breitling “Jet-Man” is showing the world that some have it in them to overcome that great fear.  Much of this has to do with the conflict between what is deemed possible and what is deemed otherwise.

If some crazy Albert Einstein haired scientist showed up in the parking lot across from my apartment building with a working Flux Capacitor installed in his car – be it running on plutonium stolen from the Iranians, since Libya is more of a state in flux with the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi, or a Mr. Fusion Bio-Reactor – I’d probably try it even if I wasn’t trying to escape the guys the scientist swindled.  Chances are I’d have it take me back in time time 30 years so I could witness my birth, my genesis (just as an observer of course; there is that whole fabric of space time, wibbly wobbly, timey wimey, prime directive thing to worry about).  To actually witness that moment in real-time and not just get to see where it happened, even if the location is somewhat unchanged by the passage of time, would be something.

Or I might go back to the night I cried myself to sleep in the hospital as a young teenager thinking I might die but having a comforting voice tell me I would be ok.  If I did that, what if that voice was my future self?  It wasn’t, but that would definitely be meta.  Imagine a future me telling the teenage me everything I know now, all the adventures, the general craziness of the journey.  I’d be pulling a Rhino and telling my doubting self that I’m the human version of Bolt; that “the impossible can become possible…” and I wouldn’t be too far off the mark because the impossible has become something greater than possible in many cases, it’s become my past.  It’s not because of me though, it’s because of Him, the Heavenly Father, for with whom all things are possible because He can do more than we can ask or think.

What’s your “impossible” that needs to become your past?

I’ve been thinking some about action figures lately.  When you’re young you don’t think past tearing the miniature plastic superhero or villain off the card and using the figures to re-enact your favorite scenes from a show or movie.  I did this a lot with Batman figures such as the Caped Crusader, Robin, The Joker, Riddler, Mr. Freeze, and even the Joker’s henchman Bob – alongside the Joker Van, all the Bat-vehicles, and the Batcave playset.  Might as well add to that a collection of Playmate’s Star Trek: The Next Generation action figures too; along with the Enterprise D bridge and Transporter.  When you’re older, all you can think about is how much those plastic toys would be worth if you hadn’t opened them; they’d be collectibles then, not just toys.

The best collectibles are “Mint in Box”; never opened, never played with. Much like my Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire Dash Rendar, or Chewbacca in Bounty Hunter Disguise from 1997.  Or Sheldon Cooper’s Mint in Box 1975 Star Trek Transporter toy with “real transporter action” on Big Bang Theory a few weeks ago (Leonard Nimoy voiced Mr. Spock action figure not included, sadly). Open the box, and the object loses it’s value.

But then there’s the philosophy from Toy Story that “toys are meant to be played with” and that toys have value because of who they belong to (be the owner’s name Andy or otherwise).  But in the process of being used they often can become worn out and even sometimes, broken. Fortunately, toys can be replaced, but people cannot; and I think much the same scenario applies.

People want to do something spectacular with their lives, to use them to great ends (partially because of what society bombards us with and because we’re wired to worship something and sometimes twist that into wanting to be worshipped); some are motivated by a love for God, others by a love of Self.  Although not everyone has a destiny before them that is “loud and spectacular”, there’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to do something with your life – as long as it remains untwisted.  The difficulty often comes with the realization that to achieve those ends, you have to go from “Mint in Box” to “played with”, used, often well worn, and sometimes broken.  A.W. Tozer once said that “for God to use a man, he must first wound him deeply”. We desire to be used for great ends but often also desire to remain unchanged by that process. We want to tell the great stories associated with the scars, but not receive what is a prerequisite for those tales; we want The FENX without the Tricycle accident.  We want a grand story to tell without having to live through it.  Jesus said that if you want to be great, you must first be a servant, and service can bring weariness.  Therefore Paul admonishes “lets us not grow weary in doing good, for we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” – that’s perseverance; steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success or existing in a state of grace until a state of glory is reached.  As warn out as life can make us, we have to keep waking up in the morning, in hopes of reaching that state of glory.

Will you step out of the box and into a state of grace?

I really like books; I like owning them, having shelves full of them, and reading them.  I’m currently in the midst of four separate books between various small groups and my own personal reading.  I started reading Frank Peretti at 11 years old and started collecting the Star Wars expanded Universe at 12; 17 years later my Star Wars  novels count is well over 80 and takes up three shelves of one of my bookcases.  I was obsessed with Christian apocalyptic fiction for most of Jr. High and High School thanks to the Left Behind books (but I won’t say anything more about that – except that I never finished the whole series).  When looking at my bookshelves, I never expected for it to hold a book by Donald Miller, the author of Blue Like Jazz (which is going to be released as a theatrical film soon)JRR Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Susan Cooper, G.P. Taylor, Chuck Colson, and two series on Philosophy and Popular Culture (Star Wars, Star Trek, Transformers, Terminator, Green Lantern, Batman, X-MEN, Battlestar Galactica, 24, LOST) sure, you’d find those, but Donald Miller?  Wasn’t he the guy that the “cool kids” read, those on the 21st Century cutting edge of Christianity?  Yeah, that was way too “Christian Hipster” for me when I actually thought about it, and I honestly would have rather read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books if given the choice (which I own but  haven’t finished).

All that changed one night a few weeks ago.  It was a cold Tuesday night and I’d just finished leading a C.S. Lewis reading group called “The Inklings” (what else would you call it?) when I ran into my friend Andy.  We hadn’t seen one another since the Leadership retreat for National Community Church a few weeks prior, so we got to talking.  Before we knew it we got talking about dreams, destiny, and how it takes intense conflict and perseverance to make a good story (all in “epic superhero/comic book movie” context as well as some of my own life story).  All of the sudden a light goes on inside Andy’s mind and he asks me “Have you ever read Donald Miller?”  I said “no”, and I wasn’t so eager to begin.    Andy began to explain that he understood my hesitation, as he didn’t like Donald Miller either, at first.  It wasn’t until he read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years that his perspective began to change (and he has now lead multiple smallgroups though this book).  In fact, my friend believed so much that I should read this book that he bought me a copy and had it sent to my house.  When that happens, you’ve got to give the book a shot because someone you respect sees it as a powerful vessel for wisdom, transformation, and change.  So I began reading.

This being my first experience with this author I didn’t know what to expect.  I had recently seen a trailer for the theatrical release of Blue Like Jazz and it looked very “indie and weird” (redundancy?).  I don’t really like “indie and weird”, except when it crosses over into “epic, super-ish, and full of awesome” like Scott Pilgrim vs. The World does (and SO WELL), because I live in the land of epic and I don’t’ like to stray outside those borders.  As I read I began to realize that one of the threads going through this book was the story of how Blue Like Jazz was going to become a movie: a ground floor account of the author’s life though that process and how it all went down (from characters, to conflict, inciting incidents, plot turns and the like).  I began to wonder “Has George Lucas done this?” and I found myself wishing the answer was yes.

Miller uses this book to look at his life as a story, and to ask the overall question of “what makes a good story and am I living one, a story worth living and inviting others to be a part of?”  As I read I realized that these were questions that I was (and am) consistently wrestling with in light of some of my experiences.  It brought to mind the ending of the two part episode of Facing Life Head On that I was featured in last year, when the host of the show, Brad Mates, says that I and my fellow interviewees had made our lives “stories worth telling”.  Does that mean that at the end of every day you have to be able to say that the day that just ended was worth it?  No, it does not, but worthwhile things have sure happened.  Often in our own stories it’s others that see the worth that we can’t as we’re in the midst of it, as I wrote about Kirk and Spock yesterday.

The book talks about how in Star Wars, the viewer can pause the movie at any point and ask the question “what does a certain character want and what do they have to overcome to get it?” and you know the answer.  Luke wants to become a Jedi and join the Rebellion; Leia wants to defeat the Empire; Han Solo want money so he can pay off Jabba the Hutt.  Ben Kenobi wants to teach Luke the ways of the Force.  Reader finds themselves asking, “what do I want and what do I have to overcome to get it?”  (Along that line of thinking I started to read Quitter by Jon Acuff and will blog about it when I finish the book).  I started asking myself, “is mine a story that is one others should be invited to participate in?” once the book raised this question.

In addressing this question, thoughts drift to The FENX (how can it not?)  I think of how that part of the my story touches and relates to so many other parts and is the fulfilment of some aspects (like wishing I were a superhero).  It’s also something that so many have been invited to be part of.  From Carl Sears and his wife Sheila at NBC to Brad Mates at Facing Life Head On; from radio show hosts Aleksander Danilov, Rick Amato, Anthony DiMiggaio, and Armstrong Williams to writers like Kate Tumerello and Roll Call newspaper.  Even two wonderful ladies who work at NASA and have become good friends of mine (one I actually went to high school with).  Not to mention friends in DC that find themselves part of the crazy incidents that happen on a regular basis and become wondrous tales.  It isn’t just my story anymore; they’ve all been invited to be part of it, and in accepting it’s become part of their story too.  One of the pastors at National Community Church once said that “everyone had that friend on college that was the crazy one that stuff happened to all the time; you either wanted to be around them or run from them because of that.”  I am fortunate to have friends that haven’t run away yet.

There’s still much ground to cover any always improvements to be made, and some of them monumental ones, but yes, I think my life to be a story worth living on the whole of it.  Remember that a good story requires intense conflict and perseverance – the road of The Greater Miracle is unpaved and sparsely trod – the Apostle Paul speaks to this in Romans 5:3-5 for a reason, venturing into the realm of suffering where Yoda dared not go.

What sort of story is your life, is it one that people want to be a part of?  Are you inviting people to be part of it?

Author’s note: I’m spoiling the plot for a few of the original Star Trek films here, so if you have never seen them and plan to, stop. reading. now.

The genesis of a blog post will often come in like The Flash, swift and mind jarring, and at the most random times.  Recently I was thinking back to a few summers ago when a local cinema in Washington, DC was showing some of the original Star Trek films at midnight in preparation for the imminent release of the reboot directed by J.J. Abrams.  As such, when some friends of mine asked if I wanted to go see Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Kahn with them at midnight I couldn’t turn down the offer to see the finest film in the series on the silver screen, as it was released shortly before I was born.  Over the years I’ve developed a deep appreciation for the film (and it’s sequel) because of how it handles issue of life, death, loss, love, and responsibility (or lack thereof) and the reality that “no one is ever safe” in the midst of characters that for many are synonymous with popular culture.

The tale begins with Admiral James Kirk overseeing a batch of cadets at Starfleet Academy undergoing the Kobyashi Maru scenario, a test of command ability that everyone fails.  It’s Kirk’s birthday and he struggles with aging and riding a desk job instead of exploring the galaxy from the bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise.  Soon enough, they are asked to take the Enterprise on a mission with the training crew of cadets to investigate an incident at a Federation starbase, Regula I.  Meanwhile, another Starfleet vessel, the U.S.S. Reliant, has been hijacked by an old enemy of Kirk’s, an enemy bent on revenge for actions from 15 years prior.  This enemy comes across knowledge of the Genesis Device – technology that can create life from lifelessness (as well as the reverse), which happens to have been created and stewarded by an old flame of  Admiral Kirk’s and the son Kirk never knew.  After a brutal battle fueled by the rage of his old enemy, Kirk’s best friend makes a great sacrifice to keep the  “ship…out of danger…” telling James that “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one” and the film concludes with the hope of new life from lifelessness.

Star Trek III begins with little time having passed.  The father of Kirk’s best friend visits him, begging him to find his son and return him to his home planet so he can be restored.  To do this, entails great risk and possible loss, because he must return to the planet that the Genesis Device was unleashed upon, something the United Federation of Planets has forbidden, as wonderfully expounded upon by a minor character in the film with “Genesis?!  Genesis allowed is NOT, Genesis forbidden…”  Gathering his willing crew members, Kirk steals the Enterprise from Starfleet and returns to Genesis to find his friend, only to find his son (and his friend) planet side and in danger from the   mortal enemy of the Federation, the Klingon Empire.  Rescuing the friend entails great personal  loss to James Kirk and when the the friend is restored he asks Kirk “why?  Why did you come back for me?”  The unspoken secondary questions being why did you sacrifice your ship and the chance to save your son to save me?  Why did you allow yourself to risk and ultimately lose the things that have defined you for as long as we have been friends?”  Kirk simply responds, “because sometimes the needs of the one, outweigh the needs of the few or the many”.

I ruminate on this idea every so often because we live in a culture that loves to talk about “the greater good” or the “greatest good for the greatest number” and yet in our actions it is more about “I want what I want and I wanted it two days ago so why isn’t it here yet?”  Two conflicting ideas that very rarely work together and always live contentiously within one another’s orbits.  Neither of them are always right and sometimes neither of them are the proper choice in a given situation.  I think about Christ’s parable of the Lost Sheep in Matthew 18:12-14, wherein he asks if the Shepherd won’t go in search of the one who is lost and leave the ninety-nine to do it.  The answer is of course “yes, he would” as the question is a rhetorical one.  It flows into the same sort of question that the Apostle Paul asks in Romans 8:31 “If God is FOR Us, then who can be against us?”  Answering the question is GOD for you?” is much easier than answering the question”Is God for YOU?” or to put it at eye level “Is God for ME?”  The answer is yes, but coming to terms with that answer in our finite confines is a challenge that can take a lifetime to overcome, because we often do not see ourselves as God sees us:  worth the risk and the potential for loss.  Spock didn’t see himself as Kirk saw him.

Sometimes when I meet others as a result of the FENX, occasionally I will be asked the question of “why did your dad do this?” after I tell them the tale of it taking three years to build.  Some don’t ask the question because the answer is an obvious one, but to those that ask it I simply say that he built it because he loves me, he built it because he sees me in a better light than I see me, he built it because I had a need, and sometimes the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the few or the many.

Often, the hardest thing about blogging is beginning; finding a way to allow that kernel of an idea (or in this case a recent experience) to flow onto the screen coherently though the keys.  Sometimes, the difficulty comes because you’re still processing your experience as you are trying to write about it; this is where I am.  This past weekend, I travelled to Baltimore with some friends to attend Farpoint, a DC/Baltimore area Sci-Fi convention (often referred to as a “con”) named after “Encounter at Farpoint”, the pilot episode of Star Trek:  The Next Generation that aired in 1987.  I’d never been to an event like this (an admission that I am sure surprises some).  Growing up, my Star Wars/sci-fi fandom was really contained between certain members of my family and a few close friends, very much of the Fanboys variety.  Yes, we collectively spent a small fortune (to us) on the Star Wars Customizeable Card Game in our teenage years and read all sorts of novels and comic books, debating this or that, and saw the Star Wars Special Edition in theatres in 1997 and the prequels after that, but yesterday was the “first step into a much larger world”, to quote a wizard who’s “just a crazy old man.”

Upon registration and meeting up with a new friend named Rob, whose idea this was from the start, we met Michael Hogan (a.k.a. Colonel Tigh from the Battlestar Galactica (BSG) and Slade Wilson/Deathstroke from the final season of Smallville).  It’s a slightly jarring but welcome experience to realize these folks are just normal people playing a role, but fans often idolize them nevertheless.  (For Rob, who is a ardent BSG fan, this was the highlight and it happened right out of the gate.)  Mr. Hogan was rather gracious as we all discussed BSG and I asked a question or two about Smallville.  Before I knew it, we were listening to a panel about creating a “webisode series” and what that takes (think Felicia Day and “The Guild” – as it happens I kept thinking of the latest season of this web show when trying to imagine what yesterday’s experience might be like).  The down side sometimes being that at these panels some individuals in the audience won’t stop talking and you can’t learn anything useful (what a grand initial experience).  During the BSG panel I began to realize how these local events tend to work, with the local folks who put the event on moderating panels, and while some of them seemed to be with it, I certainly felt like my friends and I could have done a better job.

The fulcrum of the entire experience came unhinged during the panel discussion on The Big Bang Theory: the realization that there really are those that truly live for these events and honestly have little else in their lives…and that compared to them I am, thankfully, a rank amateur (that, and everyone in the room danced around the issue that there are those that watch The Big Bang Theory just to laugh at folks like us because they cannot believe such people exist in this world – or they want to see what the kids they picked on in high school grow up to become).  That was a somewhat comforting moment of crisis, in stark contrast to being told I “out-geek” myself on a regular basis.     Not to say I can’t hold my own in such a place (or a later panel on the Thundercats).  A question inevitably bubbles up as this moment passes and further reflection transpires:  how deep into such a culture are you willing to go, and do you even want to, is the pay-off worth it?  Conversely, are you presently within the happy medium and would rather stay there?

Diving into the costuming facet of that sub-culture though, some of the ladies that show up should know better than to degrade themselves via the scantaly/tightly clad persona they choose to inhabit for the day (or weekend); I understand it is an individuals cognisant choice too do this but this is liberation? I digress…

The jury is still out on continued experiences to knowingly further embrace this culture , but one thing can truthfully be said : I learned something about myself, and never felt more normal in recent memory then when I arrived home that night, but wondered what might happen next year if I were to returned ensconced in the FENX.

(This blog post brought to you by the 20th Anniversary edition of the Transformers:  The Movie soundtrack and the new Ghost Rider movie)

Riding Towards Eternity,

Aaron

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country is one of my favorite Star Trek movies. But anyone who knows me knows I’m more of a Star Wars fan (kinda like J.J. Abrams; didn’t he direct a Star Trek film?). At this point I can hear the “snap/hiss” of lightsabers and phasers being set for kill all over the world-wide-web. How in the word can a Star Wars fan love a Star Trek movie? Well, the sci-fi genre has always been one to take issues of the time away from Earth and tackle them in a safer environment; Star Trek VI does this. At the time Star Trek VI released (12.13.91) the Chernobyl incident had occurred, the Berlin Wall had come down, and the Iron Curtain had recently fallen. The story in Star Trek VI mirrors this with a energy disaster on a Klingon moon and the need for peace between the Klingon Empire and the United Federation of Planets. Add to this plot great performances by the Trek cast and additions like Christopher Plummer as General Chang and David Warner as Chancellor Gorkon and things get better. Throw William Shakespeare quotes into the dialogue and make it relevant to the plot and it’s amazing. Now, how does this relate to the FENX? Well, one of the themes to Star Trek VI is fear of the unknown. Peace between the Klingon Empire and the Federation was a scary thing for some because it would change the galaxy.; it was something folks just couldn’t understand.

A few weeks ago I was driving the FENX home from the movie theater in Chinatown when some hooligans decided that it would be a lot of fun to cause me grief by messing with me and the FENX while I was trying to drive. Both incidents happened so fast I didn’t have time to do anything about it, but I was upset. I was very thankful that I wasn’t alone and my friends who were with me made sure the law enforcement officers knew what happened. I was angry, that’s an understatement. It’s tough being defenseless. It’s hard accepting weakness and being forced to trust my circumstances to One greater than I am. The FENX sticks out, it attracts attention from droves of people who don’t understand it. Just like in Star Trek, and life in general, folks fear what they don’t understand – attracting the attention of the K9 unit of the Capitol Police because they think the FENX is a weapon is certainly an example of this. Trying to do something new, trying to change the way people think about handicapped folks and transportation is difficult, some people aren’t going to get it, others give you grief; but like Spock said to Kirk when Kirk and the Enterprise were volunteered to escort Chronos One to the signing of the peace accords – “Only Nixon could go to China”