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qaStaH nuq (“What’s happening?”) August 19, 2020

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Uncategorized.
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“Captain’s Log, Star Date 2263.2. Today is our 966th day in Deep Space, a little under 3 years into our 5-year mission. The more time we spend out here there harder it is to tell where one day ends and the next one begins. It can be a challenge to feel grounded when even gravity is artificial. But, while we do what we can to make it feel like home.

The crew, as always, continues to act admirably despite the rigors of our extended stay here in outer space, and the personal sacrifices they’ve made. We continue to search for new life forms in order to establish firm diplomatic ties. Our extended time in unchartered territory has stretched the ship’s mechanical capacities, but fortunately, our engineering department – led by Mr. Scott – is more than up to the job. The ship aside, prolonged cohabitation has definitely had affects on interpersonal dynamics; some experiences for better and some for the worse.

As for me, things have started to feel… a little episodic. The farther out we go, the more I find myself wondering what it is we’re trying to accomplish. If the universe is truly endless, then are we not forever striving for something forever out of reach?”

– quoted from Star Trek Beyond (2016), voiced by Chris Pine (b. 08/26/1980) as Captain James Tiberius Kirk

Ever feel like you’re in the middle of an episode of Star Trek? Or maybe a scene from one of the movies where things are not only NOT going according to plan, they’re not even going in a way you ever anticipated. You’re like, “qaStaH nuq jay (What the bleep is happening?)” It’s been 157 days since I taught an in-studio class. Even when I imagined having more online engagement, occasional pop-up classes, and students from all over the world attending my classes, I never imagined the sequence of events that have led to our current reality. I mean, who could have imagined the world would come to this…oh, wait! – Scientists, engineers, even computer moguls anticipated exactly this! While we can’t go back and listen we can go forward, listen, explore, and consider how we come together in peace. Star Trek has its roots in ancient Indian philosophy. So, as we go forward, we also go back.

Today is the anniversary of the birth Philo T. Farnsworth and Gene Roddenberry. Born today in 1906, Farnsworth was an American inventor who revolutionized television. He started exploring mechanical and electrical engineering at the age of twelve and by the age of fifteen had developed the principle of the image dissector that would make an all-electric television possible. His work contributed to the television tube that was used in all television up until the late 20th century. He also developed the “image oscillate,” a cathode ray tube that displayed the images captured by the image dissector and was the first person to publically demonstrate a fully functional and all-electronic television.

Roddenberry, born today in 1921, revolutionized what we watch on television. A World War II veteran and former police officer (whose father was also an LAPD officer), Roddenberry became a freelance script writer for television who drew from his experiences as a combat pilot and member of law enforcement. While he had success working on shows created by others, he couldn’t seem to get his own creations to take off. At one point, in the late 1950’s/early 1960’s, he was asked to write a series set in 1860’s Mississippi – only without any Black people. Roddenberry argued about the premise so much that he lost the job. But it was during this pivotal time in his career, however, that he became a producer and “met” some of the people who would become important in his life: including Majel Barrett (then known as Majel Leigh Hudec), DeForest Kelley, Leonard Nimoy, Nichelle Nichols, Gene L. Coon, Gary Lockwood, Joe D’Agosta, Philip Pike, Edward Jellicoe, and James T. Irvine.

“Space – the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission – to explore strange new worlds – to seek out new life and new civilizations – to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

– Opening monologue from the original Star Trek series, voiced by William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk

Roddenberry originally intended Star Trek to be a science fiction version of spaghetti westerns. Only when he pitched it, he downplayed the science fiction aspect and highlighted how similar the series would be to successful shows like Gunsmoke and Wagon Train. In fact, he called it “Wagon Train to the stars.” After pitching the series to a number of studios, including Lucille Ball’s Desilu (where he was hired as a producer), Rodenberry received a deal to produce the script “The Menagerie” (known as “The Cage”) and three other episodes. He immediately hired Dorothy Fontana (known as D. C. Fontana) as his assistant, making Star Trek one of the most diverse shows on television before it even aired.

Even though it didn’t do well with test audiences, the original series ran for three seasons (79 episodes) and create a franchise that now includes six additional television series, thirteen feature films, an extensive collection of books, games, and toys – not to mention college curriculum and language courses. It’s a cult classic that has greatly influenced popular culture.

“First of all, our show did not reach and affect all these people because it was deep and great literature. Star Trek was not Ibsen or Shakespeare. To get a prime time show–a network show–on the air and to keep it there, you must attract and hold a minimum of 18 million people every week. You have to do that in order to move people away from Gomer Pyle, Bonanza, Beverly Hillbillies, and so on. And we tried to do this with entertainment, action, adventure, conflict, and so on.

But once we got on the air, and within the limits of those action/adventure limits, we did not accept the myth that the television audience has an infantile mind. We had an idea, and we had a premise, and we still believe that. As a matter of fact we decided to risk the whole show on that premise. We believed that the often ridiculed mass audience is sick of this world’s petty nationalism and all its old ways and old hatreds, and that people are not only willing but anxious to think beyond those petty beliefs that have for so long kept mankind divided.

So you see that the formula, the magic ingredient, that many people keep seeking, and many of them keep missing, is really not in Star Trek, it is in the audience. There is an intelligent life form out on the other side of that television tube!

The whole show was an attempt to say that humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day that it begins not just to tolerate, but to take a special delight in differences in ideas and differences in life forms. We tried to say that the worst possible thing that can happen to all of us is for the future to somehow press us into a common mold, where we begin to act and talk and look and think alike. If we cannot learn to actually enjoy those small differences, take a positive delight in those small differences between our own kind here on this planet, then we do not deserve to go out into space and meet the diversity that is almost certainly out there.

And I think that this is what people responded to.”

– quoted from a 1976 philosophy lecture by Gene Roddenberry

I am a Star Trek fan, you might even call me a Trekkie. Although, in all honesty, my favorite episodes and characters are ones that (ironically) diverge slightly from the way Roddenberry wanted the Star Trek universe to be portrayed. Gene Roddenberry was a humanist, who questioned religion and his religious upbringing. He wanted to show, not tell, and wrote accordingly. So, while I personally find the original James T. Kirk misogynistic, sexist, and a little racist, no one can deny that Rodenberry intentionally portrayed diversity and equality among races, genders, ethnicities – and even species. And, I happen to like the episodes and movies where that diversity, equality, and spirituality is front and center.

The series continues to be so spiritually infused that members of various religions uplift it – sometimes without realizing that many of its foundational elements hail from the Vedic (Indian philosophy) tradition. In fact, Roddenberry was rewarded by the American Baptist Convention and spent years corresponding with John M. Gunn of the National Council of Churches – until Roddenberry explained “But you must understand that I am a complete pagan, and consume enormous amounts of bread, having found the Word more spice than nourishment….” He said he believed in God, “just not other people’s God” and called Catholicism “a beautiful religion” even as he railed against organized religion as people’s malfunctioning substitute brain. Perhaps one of the reasons he wanted to subtly allude to spirituality was not only because of his beliefs as a humanist, but also because of the way he saw the American public’s double standard when it came to certain religions: condemning violent acts committed by members of a religion different from theirs while simultaneously praising and/or accepting violent acts committed by members of their shared religion. So, Rodenberry gave us the spirit rather than the religion.

“Odo: When you return to the Link, what will become of the entity I am talking to right now?

The Female Founder: The drop becomes the ocean.

Odo: And, if you choose to take solid form again?

The Female Founder: The ocean becomes a drop.

Odo: Ah, yes, I think I’m beginning to understand.

The Female Founder: Then you can answer your own question.”

– quoted from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine conversation between the Odo (played by René Auberjonois) and  the Female Changeling / Founder (played by Salome Jens)

Please join me today (Wednesday, August 19th) at 4:30 PM or 7:15 PM for a yoga practice on Zoom, where we will boldly go where only you can go. Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You will need to register for the 7:15 PM class if you have not already done so. Give yourself extra time to log in if you have not upgraded to Zoom 5.0. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below.

Wednesday’s (Courage filled) playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify.

This interview appears on YouTube playlist.

### bISeH’eghlaH’be’chugh latlh Dara’laH’be ###

Comments»

1. Laura Matanah - August 19, 2020

Welcome back!

ajoyfulpractice - August 19, 2020

Thank you. Miss y’all.

2. Jeremy - August 20, 2020

Love this post! Thank you for sharing.

Life is getting in the way of living at the moment. I’m endeavoring to be back soon! Much to do before moving house!


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