Let me start out by coming clean: I am a closet Trekkie.
I went to my first "Star Trek" convention when I was nine. I have owned dozens of "Star Trek" toys, models, props and books over the years (and yes, I used to make my Kirk and Uhura action figures kiss). I even have a communicator app on my iPhone (and I'm eagerly waiting for the tricorder app now that Siri has arrived). I don't own a uniform, but I wish I did (Hint hint: Channukah's coming, family. I'll take the classic Captain's shirt in M, please, so that it rips easier when I get into fights).
My love of "Star Trek" began at an early age and has lasted to this day. But why? It isn't just because of the campy sets and costumes that are still iconic. It isn't because of the terrific performance by Leonard Nimoy (Spock) or Captain Kirk's Shatnerific overacting. It isn't even because of the superb sci-fi storytelling and writing or the fact that the toys and accoutrements were (and are) so cool that the culture seems to be obsessed with making them real. Although all of that is true.
No, my love of "Trek" has lasted this long because of what I have learned from my friends on the Enterprise over the years.
From the joys of exploration to the simple pleasures of curling up in your own quarters (often with a hot yeoman and a cold drink), from the value of friendship to the value of calling someone's bluff, I've learned dozens of life skills, lessons and even values from the iconic show that ran only three years in prime time when it originally debuted (before I was born).
I think that's what ultimately motivated me to create and publish (via my company, Quirk Books) "THE STAR TREK BOOK OF OPPOSITES," as an attempt to familiarize children today (including my own) with the world of "Trek."
There are no great life lessons in "THE STAR TREK BOOK OF OPPOSITES" (although learning the difference between BIG and LITTLE, HOT and COLD would certainly serve anyone well). But beyond the basics of opposites, the book is a great way to introduce kids to the world and characters of "Star Trek," in the hopes that someday they will come back to it and begin to appreciate its power and cultural resonance.
I would say there are seven life lessons I learned from "Star Trek" that I take with me to this day. These are lessons I hope to pass along to my own children someday--but for now, I will share them with the interweb.
- The best way to travel is to boldly go where no one has gone before. This is true for vacations, for self-exploration, for life itself. If you want your days filled with adventure, laughter, love, learning and the occasional mind-meld, follow this route.
- The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few--or the one. Sometimes you must make great sacrifices for the greater good. And, like the Genesis device, it will all come back around.
- Expressing your emotions is a healthy thing. Sure, McCoy seemed angry all the time when exclaiming, "Dammit, Jim! I'm a doctor not a mechanic/bricklayer/soothsayer," but he knew that by expressing his anger and frustration it wouldn't get the best of him and he could then perform at his peak capacity.
- When estimating how long a job will take, overestimate--and when you do better your captain will always be impressed. Replace the word "captain" with "teacher" or "mom/dad" and you'll see what I mean. Sure, Mr. Scott might have been telling the truth--maybe it would take six hours to get the warp engines back online in the heat of the battle. Or maybe he was padding things so he looked good. Either way, when the engines did come back on line, everyone was happy.
- Wearing red makes you a target. This is true of cars, dresses and, most especially, shirts. Red gets you noticed--which is good if you want to be noticed, bad if you don't want to end up vaporized.
- When you don't know what to say, pause. It will give you the time to figure it out. Or at the very least, you'll sound like you're being thoughtful. "But....Spock.....why?"
- The most powerful force in the universe is friendship. It's more powerful than phasers, photon torpedos, even more powerful than the force itself. With friends, you can accomplish any task, escape any perilous situation, defeat any enemy--and you get to laugh together when it's all over.
I am convinced that these lessons will serve us all, adults and children, well as we seek out new life, new civilizations, new experiences. In short, thanks to "Star Trek," we may all live long and prosper.