In 1966 (a full eleven years before George Lucas reinvented the movie industry), Gene Roddenberry pitched an idea to t.v. execs that was so unusual in the day of Andy Griffith and Bonanza that he wound up describing it as the “Wagon Train of space.” In retrospect, that wasn’t a bad description as characters moved from one adventure to the next each week, but never really got anywhere. But that was okay. These people, even the strange one with the pointy ears, were relatable.
They embraced the pioneering spirit that made America great and used technology, ingenuity, and a utopian worldview in a futuristic era “to boldly go where no man has gone before.” But their lives weren’t perfect. They still struggled with the same character defects of all humans, and much like the viewers who tuned in each week, they seemed to always be teetering on the brink of war with their arch-rival, the Klingons. Ironically, after only 79 episodes, they were canceled one month before America’s pioneering spirit and advanced technology helped Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. However, when the show hit syndication in 1970 it quickly developed a rabid fan base and became a cult classic, laying the foundation for movies, animated series, and spin-offs that would so capture the imagination that in 1976 NASA eventually named its first space shuttle Enterprise.
This year Star Trek should be getting its AARP card any day as it hits the half-century mark. As a writer, I cannot overstate how impressive this is to me. To have a television series ingrain itself so firmly into the psyche of a culture and a genre that it persists to 50 years old is not just hitting a home run. It is tantamount to hitting the ball out of the ballpark and across the parking lot. Granted, it doesn’t hold a candle to the longevity of Shakespeare (who recently celebrated his 400th birthday), but come on. We’re talking about television here.
Still, Star Trek has left such an indelible mark on us science fiction fans that filtering our lives through the following phrases is futile to resist (see what I did there?) :
When I was a child my father always emphasized to me that one choice, even a minor one, can forever change the course of a man’s life. At the time, I thought he was being melodramatic so that I would incorporate wisdom into my daily decisions. But as I have aged and have become a father of two sons myself, I realized that this is not melodrama at all. The true measure of a man lies not only in the wisdom he exercises but also in the boldness that follows that wisdom. Unfortunately, most people opt for comfort, sameness, and the familiar because they are unwilling to let go of what they know so that they can exchange it for the possibility and freedom of the unknown. Unless it is immoral or illegal, do yourself a favor: count the cost that your decision will demand of you, clip the cord of fear that holds the “what” and the “if” together, and boldly go where you have never gone before.
We like to think of ourselves as the heroes of our own stories. The indefatigable survivors who through luck and ingenuity escape each successive trial and eventually overcome the evil that is facing us.
But that is not always the case.
Sometimes when we boldly go we must be willing to admit that we may never return. We may not be the Kirk, or the McCoy, or the Picard. We may be … a Redshirt. You know who I’m talking about. Like all members of the Enterprise, the Redshirts also boldly went where no man has gone before. But his was always a tragic end. He was that inevitably expendable member of the landing party whose death exposed the present danger and paved the way for success in the lives of his companions.
As we boldly go, we must ask: Am I willing to make the ultimate sacrifice so that the cause may be accomplished or that others may be protected?
We must realize that not all of us will see the end of the journey. But we are no less a valuable member of the team. Even Spock, one of the most beloved characters of the franchise, once sacrificed himself because “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few…or the one.”
You must ask yourself: Am I willing to do the same? Or am I just boldly going for the glory?
Leonard Nimoy made no secret of the fact that he tweaked a Hebrew blessing he had learned from his childhood to give us this popular Vulcan saying. But whether one is boldly going in this world or in another, it is important to always remember to bless those who share the journey with you.
Sometimes we can get so caught up in what we are doing we forget to nurture the relationships around us. To look out for who they are. To have their best interests at heart. To make their priorities our own. And, if we are in a position in which we cannot do anything physical or material for them, then we ought to pray daily for them, interceding on their behalf.
May we use “Live long and prosper” not only as a blessing but also as a way of reminding those with whom we share our journey that long life and prosperity are often more about quality than quantity. This is not an injunction to extend life or wealth. It is an encouragement to seek wisdom, practice selflessness, and live a life worth emulating. May we provide such a powerful example of all these characteristics and more that others will understand how to pass this blessing on to those who come after us.
No plan is a good one unless we put it into action. That is why we must all follow the advice of Captain Jean-Luc Picard and continually give the command to “Engage!” We cannot be thinkers only. We must be doers as well.
It is too easy to procrastinate because of fear. But the command to “Engage!” or “Make it so!” (another Picard favorite) are not the words of the most clever, best prepared, or least fearful person. Rather, they are the words of someone unafraid to risk maintaining the status quo. They understand that if given time a better plan may develop, but right now is not the time for thinking. Now is the time for doing so that great things can be accomplished.
Make your life full of engagement. Do not hold back, wondering, craving, or hoping that something will change. That is a passive approach to living, an unwillingness to accept responsibility for your own self and a hope that someone will fix your problems for you. Engage life! You may not have the best solution, but that’s okay. An active approach to your problems is always better than waiting for the current to change. Put your plans into action. Set your course. Activate the warp drive, and accelerate towards a future of unimaginable adventures. Make it so!