Saturday, September 15, 2007

Where's a Star Trek Transporter when you need one?

Our weary but enlightened travel group is on the way back from Rome to Chicago. We fly from O’Hare to DFW, then we’ll take a bus into Tyler. I’m somewhere over the North Atlantic as I type these words on my laptop. It’s one of those “long travel days.” We left the ship at 6:30am, and flew out of Rome at 11:30am on Friday morning. Because we’re traveling from the East, we’re crossing backwards into time zones so it has been daylight for the entire trip. We are scheduled to arrive in Chicago at 3:30pm. We should be arriving in Tyler before midnight. Almost 24 hours of travel on a Friday afternoon!

I love to travel, and I really enjoy taking groups on mission trips or inspirational trips like this. But like most people, I dread those long flights to get there and back. I’ve decided that I need one of those transporters that used to be on Star Trek.

If you ever watched Star Trek, the television show of the 60’s and 70’s, you’ll recall that Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock could step into the “transporter” on the Starship Enterprise. Chief Engineer, Scotty (“I’m givin’ her all she’s ghat, captain”) would push a couple of levers, and presto! In a few seconds they were transported to a planet thousands of miles away. Although you see t-shirts with the slogan, Star Trekkies insist that Captain Kirk never actually said the words, “Beam me up, Scotty.”

I never watched many of the early Star Treks episodes. I’ve seen the reruns, however. By modern standards the sets and dialogue were pretty lame (but better than the old "Lost in Space" show. Remember the robot saying, "Danger, Danger, Will Robinson"?)
However, I was (and still am) a big fan of Star Trek the Next Generation. When our girls were young, it became a family activity to watch Star Trek TNG. We would carefully set the huge, hard-to-program VCR to tape an episode on Saturday night and then after church on Sunday evening we’d sit around eating Taco Bell tacos watching Star Trek, the Next Generation.

We came to know all the characters including Captain Jean-Luc Picard, the android, Data, Riker, Counselor Troy, Dr. Beverly Crusher, and Jordie. But my favorite was the Clingon warrior, Warf. Clingons are real men … uh, at least they would be if they were actually men!

I have a strong personal opinion that Jean-Luc Picard made a MUCH better Captain than Kirk. I think Picard could take Kirk any day of the week. So, if you're a trekkie (or even have an opinion) – leave your comment: Kirk or Picard? And why?

Getting back to the whole transporter idea – it’s time that somebody invented something like that. Over the last 40 years, we've been in a transportation rut.

In the 60’s and 70’s most Americans believed we would be more advanced in space travel by now than we actually are. Those were the days of the space race and in one short decade we progressed from putting a monkey in space to putting men on the moon. Imagine where we might be now if we had maintained that same pace of development.

Do you remember the movie, “2001, A Space Odyssey?” It was produced in the 70’s and the writers predicted that by 2001, we would be involved in interplanetary space travel. They were wrong – but it’s a pretty cool movie, if for no other reason than hearing the spooky voice of HAL the deranged computer.

Our pace of transportation technology development has slowed to a crawl. In the 20th Century, we made quantam leaps from buggies and trains to airplanes and cars. In 2007, we’re still driving cars using internal combustion engines like they were doing in 1910. They look fancier and go faster, but it’s the same technology.

We’re still flying jetliners than bascially follow the scientific principle that the Wright Brothers discovered - a cambered wing produces lift. We're still flying on Boeing 747’s that were built in the 1970’s. The avionics and engines have been upgraded, but they basically still fly as fast and as far as they did 35 years ago. Even the new Boeing 787 due out next year is just a larger, lighter version of the jumbo jet.

So come on! Why don’t some of you MIT or Auburn graduates get on the stick and invent a transporter so none of us will have to endure these 11-hour flights?

I'm not holding my breath. Or canceling my airline reservations. Even if nobody invents a transporter, I'm still going to be transported one day. And it will be quicker and more glorious than Kirk or Picard. In a moment … in a twinkling of an eye .. at the last trumpet ….. those of us who are alive and remain shall be caught up together to meet the Lord in the sky …. Hallelujah!
Beam me up, Jesus!