I remember watching the original series as a kid with my dad (in syndicated reruns, mind you–I’m old, but not old enough to be alive when it originally aired.)
So let’s jump to junior high when along comes a new Star Trek show. I was really hoping it would be with the original cast and they’d wear those cool red uniforms that replaced the dorky tights from the originals. Instead, they gave us a bunch of new characters, including a bald captain, a Klingon, the guy from Reading Rainbow, and some dumb kid. My junior high self wanted nothing do with that nonsense. Not even the cameo by “Bones” McCoy could save that mess of a first episode.
But then one day my brother introduced me to some new group of bad guys called The Borg.
So, yeah, I discovered that not only did I enjoy The Next Generation, but I was head over heels in love with it.
I was still a little skeptical about trying the spin-offs from that, but a trip to The Star Trek Experience in Vegas changed that. I rushed home from Vegas that year and started taking in all of the other Star Trek shows. I loved them all, even Enterprise.
On a side note, if you dig hard enough in youtube, you can find some of my dork friends and me sipping down Romulan Ales and pretty much looking like the coolest guys in Las Vegas.
And that brings us to this weekend.
I ended up seeing Geordi La Forge himself, LeVar Burton, give a presentation as the keynote speaker to a local event called SciFest.
While LeVar (Mr. Burton?) didn’t play the part of Geordi, he did seem to play the part of “The Reading Rainbow Guy.”
And you know what? It was rather awesome.
If you don’t know what LeVar has been up to lately, he’s pretty much become an activist for education. His focus is on using modern technology to get kids interested in reading and science.
You might be familiar with the STEM curriculum (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), but there’s also a movement for advancing it to STREAM, which would add Reading and Arts.
LeVar is a proponent of that movement and makes the case that literacy is perhaps the most important part of education. And, honestly, how could anyone disagree with that?
“Education is the key to freedom. No one can oppress you and no one can impose their point of view on you. I believe that literacy is the birthright of every single one of us on this planet, no exceptions.”
In order to help bring reading to an entirely new generation of kids, he’s taken the model he used thirty years ago for Reading Rainbow and gave it a makeover to fit in today’s world.
Anyhow, as cool as all of that stuff is, what really got me was something he said earlier in the talk. He noted that humans are the only creatures on earth capable of storytelling.
And that blew my mind.
I mean, I know there’s nothing groundbreaking in that statement and it almost goes without saying, but I’ve never really considered the implications of it.
The ability to tell stories has played a huge part in the evolution of our species. From the very beginning of mankind, we have used stories to answer the questions of space, physics, and creation itself.
By telling stories, we are in fact participating in the continuing event of creation. By asking “what if” we journeying out past what exists and literally creating something out of nothing. Every story we tell takes people and settings that at one moment didn’t exists, and then at another, do.
Throughout history, stories were used as the basis for countless new inventions. Technology we use today–stuff we take for granted–would have been considered science fiction even twenty years ago.
LeVar joked about flip phones and iPads, but on a larger scale, some of the “Star Trek technology” such as replicators and the Holodeck could very well be made reality, much for the betterment of mankind.
I left this talk with way too many unorganized thoughts in my head, and I wish I would have taken some notes, but my biggest takeaway was the storytelling will continue to shape our society and help humanity grow to reach its fullest potential.
So to close things out, if you ever have the chance to see LeVar Burton speak, I’d certainly recommend it. Whether you’re a Next Gen fan, a Reading Rainbow fan, a reader, a writer, or just somebody who wants to listen to a powerful, positive message about where we are going as a species.
I, for one, found myself going home completely inspired to read more stories to my kids and write more stories for myself. And that right there was enough to make it worth attending.
Even if it means having the Reading Rainbow song stuck in my head for next few weeks.