William Shatner in Space
by Robert Maniscalco
Consider the young and the old Shatner,
both, who, in the understatement of any century,
I deeply admire.
But I don’t go to Star Trek conventions
because I am not a joiner.
That’s because of my emulation,
often to a fault,
of the fabled Captain James T. Kirk.
The modern-day Odysseus, my gestalt.
from the Iliad and the Odyssey, that epic poem.
I too am on a journey, forward-seeing
encountering terrible obstacles and alien forces,
trying to find my way home
– that sense of connection, familiarity and wellbeing.
I even played Odysseus in a traveling children’s theatre
back in my New York City acting days.
But in all my adventures and experiences in life,
Too many ways of being to consider here,
that feeling of belonging was never present, barely seen.
It was ripped from me
when I was sexually assaulted at the age of fourteen
by my sister’s fiancé’,
a radiologist from Children’s Hospital,
Dr. Gustovo Fernandez.
I say his name so we don’t forget the monsters
even though they have mostly forgotten us.
I glammed onto Captain Kirk.
He was my survival pod, my omnibus,
commanding my ship through strife
in this ongoing mission of my life,
and the absurdity of my odd existence,
forever altered by that fateful weekend
held prisoner by that carnivorous centaur,
not unlike so many villains in the Star Trek lore.
It lives in my core, to be that lone traveler through life,
separated from others, holding on to my command.
How fortunate for me,
after plenty of therapy and maybe too much soul searching,
to stumble and land on a Christ-centered family
built around my grounded and most beautiful wife, Cate
who doesn’t understand the hate
or why people would want to travel into space in the first place.
Which brings me to the painting about Shatner’s journey,
from iconic TV hero to real life space traveler.
It is about his insight from his momentary fling with space,
which relates to me so deeply, to my story up above.
While traveling in Bezo’s spaceship,
struck by the blackness and foreboding of space
juxtaposed against this beautiful place,
our deep blue earth,
teaming with life and possibility.
I set out to capture that sense, for whatever it is worth,
his younger and his older face,
with the Earth and Sun the only constants.
we are alone in the blackness of space,
which creates a hole in the painting, in the wall on which it hangs,
indeed in time and space itself,
from the angst of Freud
to that empty, meaningless void.
One of my fondest memories as a lad,
when I was between the age of six and nine,
sitting on the sofa with my dad,
eating popcorn, drinking Coke,
watching the first run of Star Trek,
every Saturday evening, getting woke.
Fast forward forty years to the premier of Star Trek,
with a brand-new cast, fully realized by the genius of J. J. Abrams.
There I am at the Detroit science center,
with my six-year-old son,
my first marriage having just ended,
experiencing Star Trek again, for the very first time.
The symmetry is both overwhelming and fun.
I weep in the face of that beauty’s run.
Danny is so worried to see his daddy cry,
so I hold him tightly. Damn, that IMAX screen is high.
As we know, Star Trek deals a lot with time travel
And in that moment,
I feel my linier sense of time unravel.
I see myself as a child, a middle-aged man, and old man – all in one,
a free soul trapped in this distracting tomb of flesh.
Indeed, I realize time itself has had no meaning, now or then.
But on the level yet to come, it’s true,
the past, present and future coexist as one
and we will live in the blank spot of zen,
in the what and who – and not the when.