Saturday, December 20, 2008

Where No One Has Gone Before - Are You Kidding?

The Bucket List. Funny movie. The premise is two older terminally ill men escape from a cancer ward to pursue a wish list of things to do before their number is punched. Even if we haven’t reached the expiry date yet, it’s interesting to me how interested my friends and I are in the obits. I am still only an occasional obits reader. Perhaps we are unconsciously doing probability assessments of how much time we have left. Sounds grim, but it’s not as if no one has gone before. It’s the rest of the story that fascinates me.

Is this introduction familiar to you? “Space... the Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.” Click the line to listen.

One of two people whose death announcements I noticed on December 18, 2008, was that of Majel Rodenberry, The other was Mark Felt. Majel was 76 and Mark was 95. Majel was the wife of the legendary screen writer and producer Gene Rodenberry, best known for Star Trek. He predeceased her in 1991 at age 70. His Star Trek universe was so prominent that in 1981 Australian scientists named a newly discovered asteroid in his honour - 4659 Roddenberry and also one of the bazillion impact craters on Mars bears his name. His ashes were aboard Space Ship Columbia in 1992 and in 1997 a small capsule of his ashes were sent into earth orbit. Majel married Gene in a Shinto ceremony in Japan in 1969. She was an actress who appeared on Bonanza and Leave it to Beaver before she was cast as USS Enterprise's Nurse Chapel in the original series and in subsequent films. She later appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation as one of its beloved: Betazoid ambassador Lwaxana Troi and as the voice of the starship's onboard computer — a job she held in spin-offs Deep Space Nine and Voyager as well as the forthcoming J.J. Abrams prequel film to be released in spring 2009.

Mark became an FBI chief agent in 1942 (actual photo on right) and worked as a Nazi hunter during the Second World War. He was serving as deputy associate director when he became the anonymous source of damaging information about Richard M. Nixon and his aides to Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Their coverage of the Watergate scandal eventually led to Nixon’s resignation in 1974. Felt was known only by a code name Deep Throat which remained secret until 2005 when he publicly disclosed his identity. Woodward and Bernstein wrote a book entitled All the President’s Men which was made into a movie in 1976.

Gene Rodenberry, rejected his Southern Baptist family-faith and became a humanist. In 1941 following university he studied aeronautical engineering, gained a pilot’s license and joined the U.S. Army Air Corps. He flew the B-17 Flying Fortress on Pacific Theatre missions and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal. He became a Pan Am commercial pilot and received commendation for his efforts following a 1947 crash in the Syrian desert during a flight from Istanbul to Karachi. He joined the LAPD and served for seven years before resigning to pursue his writing career in 1956 which as we now know was immensely successful. And he was gone at age 70.

Few of us boldly go into this after life. It is usually a reluctant entry. But when we can have confidence that someone has gone before and his passage has made a difference to each of us, it makes the journey less strange and not at all worrisome. That’s what Jesus has done. I am pleased that my obit reading friends agree.

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