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Trek Wisdom


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Report this Aug. 01 2013, 10:23 am

I was introduced to Karl vonUhl back in 1999 at a three day punk rock fest in Kansas City, MO. It was a hot day and with no hat I saught out shelter from the sun. It turned out the shady spot I found was Karl's shadow.

Yea, he was a big man.

A women at one show told him, "You're the scariest looking person here."

"Ah, shucks. I'm just a big ole puppy." Karl said.
Yes, he was a puppy. A pit bull puppy that liked the taste of blood, but a puppy non the less.

He invited me and my friends to a "sleep over" at the house he rented on a farm. When he was a kid he'd have sleepovers and saw no reason to discontinue the practice.

When we arrived in Iowa, he picked us up in an old car the seats of which were covered with dog hair and filled with the fragrance of wet dog.

"Mmmm. Wet dog." I said.

He had gotten an Akita puppy as a Christmas present and was looking forward to introducing us to his "outstanding" animal but first he wanted us to have the "full redneck experience" and put in a cassette of some country music for us to listen to while driving the dirt roads to the house he rented in the middle of a field of soy beans.

We arrive and are greeted by other guys and a grill with chicken, burgers and ribs that had been marinating. Interesting thing about the Midwest. Lots of soy but no tofu to be found.

There was also a huge roll of paper that was a yard across laying on the ground. I asked what it was for.
"This is our Romper Room activity for the day." One of the guys said. "We're making targets for target shooting."
It was then I noticed the sheets of paper with human outlines of everyone in attendance drawn on them.
I was told to lie down so I could be traced.
"If you want you can draw a heart or a kidney to aim at."

After eating a variety of cute and delicious animals we went out to a field, nailed our respective targets to hay bails and placed some beer bottles on a fence. Then Karl showed me how to use his other holiday gift. A 9mm pistol.

With with Karl's arms around me and his crotch against my backside I heard one of the skins laugh and say, "This is why Pedro came!"
While photos are taken Karl demonstrates how to aim and tells me to slowly squeeze the trigger after a slow exhale.

"Breath in. Breath out." he whispers in my ear.

"That's one beer bottle that won't be giving me any shit!" I said.

Afterwards we headed back to the house and to aid our digestion Karl played some classical piano. He was very fond of contemporary composers and he guided me through the notes of sheet music while a recording of a very fast and slightly discordant piano piece he especially liked played on a CD.

The only thing about Karl that intimidated me was that he was a writer. To me a real writer. Not just that he was published but that he paid attention to what was going on around him.  He listened to how people spoke and the way they talked. He remembered things I'd said years before that I'd forgotten. He wasn't taking notes.
He simply took note of what people said.

As well as making him a fine writer it made him a good judge of people.

I wanted his opinions on my writing but was afraid of his critiques. Of course his advice was helpful and stern.

One night a friend and I got it in our minds to bake an apple pie. Of course we had no idea how to go about it so I phoned the only expert on pie baking I knew.

"Have you the necessary ingredients?"
"Do you have a crust for the top?"

"Yes sir." I answered.

After I put it in the oven I mentioned the book I was writing.

"It never occurred to me but writing is a job! It's work." I said.

"That's right! It is." Karl said.

I realized then that the reason he never mentioned this critical fact was because I had to find that out for myself. I learned writing was to be enjoyed and taken seriously. Like baking a pie.

There were other lessons he shared with me.

When he heard that a friend of mine had committed suicide he gave me a phone call.

"Have you ever had a dog or taken care of someones dog?"

I said I had taken care of friends dogs.

"Dogs live in the moment. When you walk in the door it's always the greatest homecoming ever. 'You're Here! NOW!'

When you go for a walk it's always the greatest walk. It doesn't matter that the rock they're smelling is the same rock they smelled before a hundred times. 'But smell the way it smells today!'"

And that's how we all should live. We should learn from the wisdom of dogs and appreciate every moment.

Last week I watched the episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series titled "Yesteryear." In it Spock said, "...every life comes to an end when time demands it. Loss of life is to be mourned, but only if that life was wasted." 

That's what I thought and kept repeating in my mind when I got the news a week later that Karl had finally succumbed to the cancer that had returned.

I lost my stoic demeanor and shed some tears when I saw a photo a friend posted on Face Book of Karl saluting smartly and wearing his Marine dress uniform.

Sadness is to be expected and accepted. But there's no need to mourn or despair if a life hasn't been truly wasted.

I hope Karl knew his life wasn't wasted. I hope he knew that everyone who met him was the better for it. I know I am.

RIP Gunny.

What lessons from the series; joyous, serious or sad have you taken?



Keep your hailing frequencies open.


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Report this Aug. 03 2013, 11:16 pm

Well I don't really have a single story to tell as such. But I was very young when I started watching Star Trek. About 9 years old. I began with TNG. I am a very religious person, and remarkably, despite Star Trek overall being fairly anti-religion, I have learned new truths and found parallels in the messages of Star Trek and in my religion. I have learned a lot from Star Trek, and I feel that God has used my love for Star Trek to teach me things, and help mold me into the person I was intended to become. An example I can give, is that I see everything through Star Trek eyes. By that I mean, growing up, watching Starfleet officers, I grew up understanding how a command structure works, and my love for Star Trek taught me that you don't disobey orders from a superior officer, and you don't smart off to your captain or a superior. Even if you disagree with them, you are still to show them respect. And having that mentality has helped me in my life with my job. One of my short comings as a person as that I tend to be a bit of a hot head at times, and there have been quite a few times I would have loved to go off on my managers, but look at my work structure like a Starfleet Command structure. I see my manager as my Captain, and in Starfleet, when your captain makes a decision, you don't question it. Having this mentality has earned me the respect of my managers and has kept me my job. These are ways that Star Trek has taught me things in my life.


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Report this Aug. 05 2013, 10:27 am

  Thanks for sharing.

What you describe sounds like a way of instilling what I refer to as "emotional discipline."

There have been times over the decades when crew members have disobeyed but the situations were exceptional. For example being ordered to fire on an unarmed foe or have someone executed.

But I agree, the command structure has definite benefits.


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Report this Aug. 05 2013, 10:32 am

Here's a link to a 15 minute You Tube video titled Captain Picard's Words of Wisdom.

I never realized how morally anchored the series was.

Keep your hailing frequencies open.

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