Saturday, May 09, 2009

Notes From My Knapsack 5-14-09 Granville Sentinel

Jeff Gill


Design In Living, In the Village, In Your Life



Painting the old gas station black (ok, charcoal) did not strike me as a good idea at first, and then I though "oh, it'll be a base coat."


What I simply could not have imagined was that this color, even before spring has cast a green and gold shading across the dark exterior, would bring out a new appreciation in me for the lines and angles of this very simple building.


Add some brushed aluminum, or at least what looks like brushed aluminum, and a few well placed lights, and you have a whole new experience as you curve into the village around Mount Parnassus after crossing Clear Run.


Yes, there are some who still don't like it – "why did they paint it that way?" – and as my childhood Scoutmaster said and still says, "Some people would complain if you hung them with a new rope."


Monique Keegan is about to launch Enjoy Co. and you can see a bit more of her work in design at, but it's the very idea of design that intrigues me, maybe because it's a bit beyond my usual skill set. The ability to move a vase and bring in an old trunk and lean it in a corner, after rearranging the furniture and adding a coat of paint to one wall, seems a bit like magic to me. Only a bit, because it works, and those who can make it work do it over and over again, without any goats being sacrificed or pixie dust sprinkled.


Steven Jobs of Apple likes to point out that design isn't about how something looks, but how it works. How a living space works is something we're usually most aware of when it doesn't, but the tricks and techniques of making a place to work and cook and eat and relax is definitely more than aesthetics. Although I suspect design professionals have to convince people quite often that what they think they want in a room is what they are used to seeing, and not what will make it "work."


The design of a life has the same sorts of complication to it, as we know what we're used to seeing or expect to see play out. We've just gone through a generation that had to deal with "life design" assumptions changing, about women staying home and men staying with one business, or even one company, for their whole lives.


Some of us are watching our Boomer friends start to redesign retirement, which doesn't look much like shuffleboard anymore, unless it's full court, full contact shuffleboard with titanium pushers and special stretchy fabric outfits.


In a couple of weeks, on Pentecost Sunday, which is May 31 this year, I get the pleasure of preaching at Centenary UMC so Pastor Steve can focus on his daughter Laura graduating from GHS, laden with well-earned honors. Her life, I'm sure mother Emily would agree, carries a very different set of design criteria into planning a future than did the generation her parents and I share.


What I'm also looking forward to that weekend, though, is sneaking ahead a bit in the timetable for Centenary's bicentennial, since the church was founded in 1810. I plan to preach, in part, about a fellow who wanted to change his life one way, and found it changing in a completely different direction; I'm going to address how the biggest battle of the American Revolution, at least in terms of casualties, may have found its ultimate closure right on the northeast corner of Broadway and Main.


Designing a life doesn't always turn out the way you plan – that may be a good thought all around in this season of graduations, up the hill and around the village.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him a story at or follow "Knapsack" at

Friday, May 08, 2009

Faith Works 5-9-09
Jeff Gill

Engage Thrusters, Helm; Chaplain To the Bridge

Yes, I am a Trekkie.

It’s said that hard-core fans of Star Trek prefer “Trekker,” but i’ve never heard anyone use that term for themselves, and I have trouble believing I’m not hard-core enough.

When “Star Trek” was a TV show (now, with so many later elements of the franchise, that is known as TOS for “The Original Series”), I saw it first in black and white. It was made in color, of course, but I may have seen one of the four or five I saw as a kid on a color set.

Then it went into syndicated reruns, but the basement TV was black and white, so I had a pretty shaky sense of who wore what color – for instance, I was slow on picking up the fact that a red shirt, unless your name was Scotty, meant you were plot filling dead meat, waiting for Bones McCoy, ship’s doctor, to look up and (never) say “He’s dead, Jim.”

I knew where my crew berth was, on Deck 8, aft portside, sector 24 on the TOS USS Enterprise NCC-1701, on Deck 13 (they aren’t superstitious in the 23rd century, or the 24th) on TNG’s NCC-1701D. It looked out from the underside of the saucer section towards the prow of the port nacelle, with an external bulkhead that sloped inwards towards the deck.

Is that Trekkie enough for you?

What I didn’t see a place for in the Star Trek universe was my faith. This was, obviously, no accident; the crew was certainly multicultural enough, with Uhura, Sulu, and Chekov, and more than multiracial with Spock on TOS and Worf on TNG. So presenting any kind of religious perspective would have been challenging, but should have made sense.

Anyone who has ever known a chaplain in any branch of the military would understand the challenge, and have stories about how you work past and around and through them.

But Gene Roddenberry, the creator of the Star Trek universe, saw from the traumas of World War II and in the optimism of the 60’s where it all began, a future where science would give everyone a rational, reasonable, evidence-based, faith-free world.

He couldn’t resist giving Spock a coldly rational kind of spirituality that hinted at . . . something, but for the rest of the crew . . .

It didn’t matter to me, since I always inferred for myself a chaplain and a chapel just around one of those endlessly curving corridors, just out of sight. After my call to ministry came and I went to seminary, one of my papers was written essentially as a story, only vaguely disguised as the Trek universe, with the protagonist a chaplain on board a ship that wasn’t quite the Enterprise. (Actually, it was a Miranda class starship called the USS Bozeman, but that’s another story.)

The professor found the basic elements of what the paper was supposed to contain, graded that, and then added a note “but what happens next?” That’s what makes the Trekkie experience what it is, I guess – it doesn’t end when we leave the theater or turn off the TV.

Our family went Thursday night to see the new, “rebooted” Star Trek movie, and I’ve blogged about it as a movie at the website. There’s still no chaplain, unless you count Bones, who strikes me as a doctor whose grandfather was a Southern Baptist minister just outside of Atlanta and has issues, but still questions that take him back to that childhood congregation, where . . .*

See? We just can’t let it alone. Where else do you see faith at work and at play just under the surface, and how does your own faith weave into those imaginary pictures?

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; he holds the rank of Lt. Commander in Starfleet on a Cultural Contact Mitigation team (in his imagination). Tell him your story, true or imaginary, at, or follow “Knapsack” at

*DeForest Kelley's father was, in fact, a Baptist preacher.

[After ". . .turn off the TV." and before "Our family went . . ." were supposed to be these paragraphs, deleted by my hasty cut-n-pasting, in my rush to get an after-deadline column turned in after watching the Trek premiere Thursday night:

Science fiction doesn't always ditch the clergy or religious context of life in the future. Orson Scott Card, a committed and active Mormon, always shows the life of faith in his novels; not always the Latter Day Saints, either. The best example (from my point of view, anyhow) may be in "The Mote in God's Eye" by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, where an obvious homage to the Trek universe can be seen in the descriptions of the bridge of the INSS MacArthur.

The CoDominium Navy in this future history has chaplains, and in the "first contact" at the center of this book, an Anglican clergyman and linguist is sent along on the voyage, shown performing both roles in the narrative; another ship in the novel, crewed largely by ethnic Russians, is the INSS Lenin, which has an icon corner on their bridge with a nearby samovar of tea bubbling away.

Many science fiction authors, if not Gene Roddenberry, see a lively and vital role for a robust faith when they look into the future through their unique lenses.] [Return above to "Our family went . . ."]