Centuries ago, community was largely defined by geography. Whether the community consisted of neighbors who were within a day’s walk or ride, or part of a faith-based group, the outreach one made or received was primarily visible. Even in death, one stayed close to those who had been in one’s life; visiting a cemetery to connect with a departed loved one did not require extensive travel.
More recently – with the addition of flight and enthusiasm for the unknown – the far-flung community has become more common. Even cemetery visits changed for some, to cemeteries in France or the Netherlands, or to cemeteries far from their birthplaces, where a family member had relocated.
In our current century, community has been redefined again, with some communities composed of members who will never meet – the virtual communities are always available, 24/7.
Some who never met before, and never again will be together, were in Shea’s recently, to experience a community that is enfolded by the time and space defined by “Star Trek.” Over 1,300 people surged into the stellar setting offered by Shea’s, and settled in to share a vision of the universe that touched nearly every one of our senses. The beauty of the hall was matched by the stars we were almost able to touch via an enormous screen that displayed clips from the 12 feature-length films and five television series that have emerged as direct descendants of the original television episode on Sept. 8, 1966.
We were brought into a community of the imagination, one that for many of us has been private.
Many communities thrive on shared values, and the “Star Trek” community resonated to the values that have been at the core of all its forms of entertainment. We listened and watched the intoxicating pull of exploration, and the ever-present commitment to family – biological and crew.
Each captain of the starship Enterprise (a ship that has evolved over the 50 years of the series) has demonstrated leadership that compelled others to act with courage and selflessness. These themes, and others, were highlighted by the voices of crew members who narrated the program. We watched as Captains Kirk, Piccard, Sisko, Janeway, Archer and Pike evolved, and aged. In the forgiving timelessness of the continuum of “Star Trek,” we welcomed the new, younger version of Kirk.
And we listened for familiar quotations (“You haven’t read Shakespeare until you have read him in the original Klingon”) as if we were listening to an uncle tell a well-known story of our mother’s youth.
The orchestra’s passion, skill and perfect union with the visuals heightened the emotions in the room. Laughter was kind at well-known moments when our favorite characters blundered, and applause at the end of the show came from both heart and hand.
The opportunity to re-experience the drama of “Star Trek” inside a magnificent theater clarified the power of the big screen. Not only does everything look transformed, but this was a shared experience. Likely some members of the audience had been coerced into attending, and they probably looked in amazement at the transfixed gaze of their fellow attendees.
But those of us who were there because we chose to attend – listening to others sigh at a sorrowful moment, or applaud a triumph – underscored the unity of being present. We let our imaginations transport us into a community filled with wonder and awe.