Star Trek and Strawberries – staying sane in scary situations

“Captain’s Log Star date 01 01 2021 …”

I grew up with Star Trek, not the movies, the TV programmes with the doors that went ‘swish’, the devices into which ‘beam me up Scotty‘ was the most frequent and desperate request, the inscrutable and ever logical Mr Spock, the pessimistic doctor ‘Bones’ (pessimistic inspite of owning a magic wand thing with a whirry light that made you instantly well, so essential for almost every plot line) and the brave and always triumphant Captain James T Kirk.

I LOVED it!

“To Boldly Go…” where no other split infinitive dared to tread.

It was the stuff of fantasy… or so I thought.

Last night I had a Star Trek experience! No really, I DID!

I spoke to seven of my cousins around the world and we passed what was (for some us) the midnight hour in the UK (I forgot to take a screenshot but here’s one of our earlier family meal).

If someone had told the 7 year old me that one day, far in the future, I would be able to have a simultaneous conversation with 7 people around the globe where I could hear them AND see them and they would pop up in front of me on as if on the screen on my very own ‘bridge’ (aka study) in my very own starship (aka home) all by pressing a few buttons on my very own console (aka computer), I would never have believed them. Come to think of it, if I’d been told just 20 years ago that such a thing would be possible, I’d have still been incredulous.

Truly a star-trek experience. It is the stuff of wonder. And as for mobile phones, I still vividly remember the huge excitement of using one for the first time. For a while I had one of those models that flipped open just like the Star Trek communicators and, oh how often, has my grown up self longed to say the words ‘Beam me up, Scotty’.

Get me outta here!‘ It is a heart cry that comes to us whenever life is discouraging, disappointing or downright dangerous and life on planet earth has always been and will always be, just as scary, dangerous and threatening as the monsters, polystyrene rocks and terrifying creatures of those far flung planet adventures.

I don’t necessarily mean that we want to die only that we experience a longing for life to be better and safer and sweeter… and that’s where strawberries come into this blog.

On these dull and bleak days between Christmas and an even bleaker New Year, when the news about the pandemic and its impact feels like a meteor crashing into planet Earth, I have been reading The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning (thank you HD, O Wise Woman that you are, what a great recommendation for my bruised soul).

There is so much that I have found so deeply helpful and I’m only 100 pages in. In the introduction, Brennan Manning gives a long list of categories of people for whom he is writing, as I read down most of them I was saying “tick, tick, tick” to pretty much all of them but this one did make me laugh out loud with its accuracy: he writes the book for “inconsistent, unsteady disciples whose cheese is falling off their cracker.” Ha, ha, Brennan ‘you had me with that hello’.

Later in the book he writes about the value of childlike faith and this is where we moved from cheese to strawberry. I hope I can get away with quoting the story in full.

The meaning of living in fidelity to the present moment, neither retreating to the past nor anticipating the future, is wonderfully illustrated by a Zen story about a monk being pursued by a ferocious tiger. The monk raced to the edge of a cliff, glanced back, and saw the growling tiger about to spring. The monks spotted a rope dangling over the edge of the cliff. He grabbed it and began shimmying down the side of the cliff out of the clutches of the Tiger. Whew! Narrow escape. The monk then looked down and saw a quarry of jagged rocks 500 feet below. He looked up and saw the Tiger poised atop the cliff with bed clause. Just then, to mice began to nibble at the rope. What to do?

The monk saw a strawberry within arms reach, growing out of the face of the cliff. He plucked it, ate it, and exclaimed,”Yum! That’s the best strawberry I’ve ever tasted in my entire life”. If he had been preoccupied with the rock below (the future) or the tiger above (the past), he would have missed the strawberry God was giving him in the present moment. Children do not focus on the tigers of the past or the future but only on the strawberry that comes in the here and now.

This story has really stayed with me over the last few days in spite of the grey bleak overcast weather, the cold and the mud I have waded through on my daily walks, I have thought about the strawberry. Where is your strawberry gift today Lord? And I have found them. Being thankful for each one and allowing a little bit of childlike wonder to seep back into my soul has reminded me that I am beloved, I am Abba’s child. Because I am loved just exactly as I am with my failings and my weaknesses, my self-worth is not at stake whenever I try to love no matter how weakly or inadequately. I will never love perfectly nor will I ever be perfect, but I am perfectly loved and therefore at peace and able to enjoy the strawberries.

I feel very like that monk dangling on a rope. This week we partially emptied our loft (yes, Heather it WAS a bad idea) letting go of every little thing from the past feels like a series of mini deaths, it felt like unleashing tigers. Not tigers of regret with bared teeth, just soft tigers of nostalgia, who don’t appear so very dangerous at first but consort with them for any length of time and you will miss the strawberry moments of the present day.

And who knows what lies ahead … are there cliffs at the bottom of this rope? I told this story to David on one of our daily walks and he totally didn’t get it (‘so, what happened to the monk?‘) He is an engineer, you can’t blame him, and I do love him. But he did enjoy another fact, also quoted by Brennan Manning, that we are travelling through space at 68,000 miles per hour and we both understood how this helps us keep ourselves in perspective.

“He’s wrong of course” David added after a few moments of walking in silence… “we are actually going much, much faster than that. That is merely the speed of the Earth around the sun… your writer has overlooked the fact that the whole universe is also spinning crazily through space”.

Light speed, hyper drive and supernovas…. suddenly, I am back with my Star Trek buddies and we are off on a rollicking adventure. “To boldly go… and not to miss the wonder of it all … O Lord, hear my prayer”.

The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning

David’s mug

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