Deleted Scenes: Searching For Wisdom in ‘Star Trek’

I went to church this week for the first time in a few years. Like a lot of born and bred Catholics, I don’t believe in God. And that’s not, “Oh, I believe in a higher power that I’m too chickenshit to call ‘god’ because intellectually I know Christianity is a slave doctrine,” it’s, “I don’t believe in god,” period. Any god, capital ‘G’ or otherwise.

So going to church, which I did to mark the occasion of a nephew’s baptism, was a bit of a thing. Flashing back to doing the same as a child, I whined on Sunday morning about not wanting to go as I put on my khakis, buttoned my shirt. I moaned as I got in the car, and when we got to mass, I rolled my eyes so hard I could hear it.

The way I see it, it stands to reason that if you’re a believer, you believe in whatever you believe in because you see wisdom in it. The closest I come to that is art. If there’s anything remotely “spiritual” in humankind, art is driving it and art is the result. And I don’t care if you’re ripping a urinal out of the wall and putting it in the middle of the room, or writing Walden, or thrashing through “Raining Blood.” Art is art. A lot of it sucks, but if it’s worthy of the word, at least it’s creative.

Maybe it’s not that surprising then that when I want perspective or to expand my horizons, instead of going to straight information, I want it filtered through something creative. Lately I’ve been watching Star Trek. The original. Shatner, Nimoy, Bones, Uhura, Scotty, the whole gang. I acquired the entire original series, and I’ve been making my way, albeit slowly, through the entire 79-episode run.

And in doing this, I’m paying homage to camp. That’s a big part of it, and I can admit that. I’m watching Star Trek because I think it’s funny; Captain Kirk chasing down a different space-hottie every show, the technology that explains things in beeps and boops, the bizarre imperialism of it. I’m enjoying it on that kind of comedic level. It’s condescending, but it’s true. I’m a prick in a long list of ways and that’s probably one of them.

But as I stood in mass this past Sunday and smelled the incense-stink and heard the same droning hymns sung by some local girl who at some point made the unfortunate mistake of showing a little talent to end up where she was, I realized that even more than the comedy, the reason I’m watching Star Trek is the same reason people read the Bible. I want the kind of wisdom that only ancient pop can give.

Trouble there is—I have no idea what that means or what that wisdom might look like. I’m more than 10 episodes in, and if there’s wisdom to be found other than in adding “No blah blah blah” to my repertoire of references, I don’t know what it is. Perhaps it’s a tremendous waste of time, and that’s the lesson. I’ve got another 70 hours yet before I figure it out, if so.

I’ll keep going with it, though, and maybe that’s an act of blind faith on my part—following a widely-scoped fiction without question on a path the end of which I can neither see nor predict—but I don’t think I’m the first person to take on that kind of burden, and at least Star Trek doesn’t indoctrinate bigotry. That’s got to be points, right there.

Could ramble on, but hell, you know the score. Whatever gives you faith or reason to keep looking, try not to stink up the room with it.

JJ Koczan