Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Color in the Snow

Vision relies on contrast, and I've always wondered why people in the Midwest, where months of snow bleach color, don't do more to create it--by painting their houses, for instance. But that's not the norm here, where sameness is safety. So I appreciate it when someone dares to brighten up the scene, like this young woman with her lime umbrella and blue coat. She was one of the first people I saw this morning--a vision for my birthday!

I'm not very comfortable standing out much myself, I admit.
I thought about this last night watching "Trekkies 2," a 2004 documentary about Star Trek fans around the world (the first "Trekkies" had only looked at the USA).

In one section, fans discussed how "out" they were about their love for ST. It varied a lot, from people who wear their ST uniforms to work to people who keep theirs in the closet.

One guy said he was so excited when the first Star Trek movie came out when he was in 7th grade (1979) that for the first time ever, he wore his ST outfit to school, where a 9th grader hauled him into a bathroom and beat him up for it. Since then he has been wary about revealing his love. I share his temperament.

The country where fans face the most social disapproval is France, where, as a Frenchwoman explained, loving a TV show is not considered culturally cool. But they also had the best example of fan activities: one Parisian hosts a monthly Star Trek quiche party, and they showed him making these fantastic looking quiches...

The Italians also feature good food at their gatherings, but more interesting was an American Catholic Trekkie priest in Italy saying Mass at a S-T convention. Footage of fans in costume celebrating Mass shows the meeting of both worlds, which share theatricality and similar philosophies, if not theologies.

It's taken me a while to notice Star Trek's lack of religion, actually, since its secular-humanist vision is, or has been, so normal to me. I grew up in an entirely secular household, and during the Cold War (1945-1991), religion wasn't as politically charged, front-and-center, as it is now. People's capacity for evil was expressed through warring socio-economic ideologies, not religious ones.

When books and articles started to appear post 9/11 contending that religion is to blame for human ills, I was baffled. Evil is opportunistic and can attach to any human belief or activity. Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and plenty of others were anti-religious.

Star Trek takes it for granted that people inherently want to be "good": i.e., that love and peace and curiosity and compassion and hope are natural to humans, not something we have to learn or enforce through institutions such as religions.
This is how I was raised, and after years studying theology and practicing Catholicism, I have come back to believing that there is no external god(s), that we are stuck with ourselves.

But it's not enough, obviously, to rely on our natural goodness alone, because our species also has great capacity for self-delusion and destruction. It was through religion (Catholicism and Buddhism, especially) that I learned skills to help me discern who I am, for better or worse, and how to work with that (corporal and spiritual works of mercy, meditation and reflection, rigorous intellectual thought, etc.).

That helped me balance the excellent freedoms of my "if it feels good, do it" Sixties upbringing, which I was starting to find insufficient. It helped me experiment with not feeling good as a way of getting where I want to go. For me, that especially means cultivating bravery (like Uhura) and trying, as the book title puts it, to "Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway."

So, fueled by the example of brave & kooky Trekkies and Catholics, I kicked off my next trip around the Sun this morning by doing something I am a little afraid of--I e-mailed Mark Simpson to thank him for his squealingly pleasureable article "Capt. Kirk's Bulging Trousers". If there's someone who adds brightness to drab landscapes, it's Simpson and other people of the sort who carry lime umbrellas in the snow.


Krista said...

Happy boitday!

Anonymous said...

Breath-taking photograph, and worthy of your beautifully constructed post. Kudo's for writing Mark S.--- just like your horoscope reminds you (see Miscellany)"You are becoming the person you've always wanted to be, but this doesn't happen without changing old thought patterns. One persistent idea is particularly hard to lose now, but keep trying to let it go."