On the surface, there are the many great aphorisms of characters, like Spock’s admonition that “having is not so nearly pleasing a thing as wanting.” There’s also the show’s celebration of culture: Shakespeare, Byron and other luminaries.

For many of us, the end of the year prompts a bit of self-reflection.


In taking inventory of the forces that shaped me, there are just a handful of people at the top my list. But recently, I’ve also come to realize how much I owe to one particular pop culture phenomenon — more on that in a moment.


Like a lot of people, I owe most of who I am to my parents. Detailing their influence, support and love would take more space than I have here, so let’s just stipulate that I remain forever in their debt.


I’m also fortunate to have had two teachers of the kind about whom movies are made.


Greg Bimm, the band director at Marian Catholic High School, easily could have been the basis for the main character in “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” but the movie would hardly have done him justice. Countless people with careers in music and the arts had formative experiences in Mr. Bimm’s band room, and this writer is no exception.


As I write this, I am listening to Karel Husa’s “Music for Prague 1968.” I have a memory of Mr. Bimm subjecting us to its aggressive dissonance and violent imagery in a freshman music class.


We objected, as kids do. But he persisted in exposing us to music that challenged our expectations, and in so doing, he opened our eyes to new ways of seeing the world. Where once I scoffed, today I seek out new experiences in art, dance, theater and music.


Then there was Gary Kopycinski, who taught my freshman and sophomore religion classes. His section on the Old Testament fostered critical thinking and nurtured an appreciation for the diversity of Earth’s cultures.


But, more importantly, Mr. Kopycinski was an unabashed nerd, and thus a role model. He spoke and read several languages, including ancient Greek and Latin, and was a proud fan of “Lord of the Rings” and “Star Trek.”


In him, I saw that the tastes and eccentricities many of us were bullied into hiding in elementary school could be worn proudly in adulthood.


Which brings us to my central thesis: to “Star Trek,” I owe everything.


I have been a fan of the show since early memory — watching reruns of a young William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy dodging foam rocks thrown by rubber-faced monsters in desert landscapes that bore a striking resemblance to southern California.


I stuck with it through “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and all 11 feature films. “Star Trek” provided me with some of life’s most valuable lessons.


On the surface, there are the many great aphorisms of characters, like Spock’s admonition that “having is not so nearly pleasing a thing as wanting.”


There’s also the show’s celebration of culture: Shakespeare, Byron and other luminaries were quoted throughout the series, and music played a central role in the recreation of the crew.


But beyond that, it has inspired me to try to take a rational, logical approach to problems, and to try to bear adversity with stoic resolve.


“Star Trek” also suggests we embrace the future: “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”


The show was optimistic to the core, and in our era of political discord and economic malaise, we could do worse than to emulate its stiff-upper-lip resolve and keep ourselves focused, gimlet-eyed, on the future.


If you’re thinking there’s been a valedictory tone in this column, you’re right. Today is my last day as A&E editor at The State Journal-Register. In January, I’ll join the Statehouse bureau of Illinois Public Radio.


It’s been a privilege writing for you over the past three years.


Happy holidays. Live long and prosper.


Brian Mackey can be reached at twitter.com/brianmackey.