William Shatner Is My Hero

Photo by Gage Skidmore

Yep, William Shatner Is My Hero

Why? Because he never gives up.

In GalaxyQuest, the parody of Star Trek that’s so wonderful that most people place it high on their list of “Best Star Trek Films,” Tim Allen’s character has the motto “Never give up, Never Surrender.” He says it over and over, and it resonates as something James T. Kirk might have said, although he never did. Trust someone who’s watched James T. Kirk enough to have memorized his dialogue.

You know that song from Disney’s Hercules? The one about going the distance? “I have often dreamed of a far off place, where a hero’s welcome would be waiting for me… I’ll be there some day, I can go the distance… when I go the distance, I’ll be right where I belong.”

I’ve been going the distance for fifty-two years. I don’t feel like I’m where I belong. I have a sneaking suspicion I’ll never feel that way.

I also have a sneaking suspicion Bill Shatner knows how I feel. I remember him, years ago, showing up on the Arsenio Hall Show. (It was an 80s thing.) He was wearing a ridiculous green track suit. It might have been silk, or velvet or crepe paper. Arsenio laughed at it, and Bill declared, “I just wanna belong!” This was about the time that fans started really tearing into him, claiming he overacted every scene, comparing him unfavorably to Patrick Stewart. At the same time, his costars were starting to trash him in public statements, saying he stole scenes and treated them badly. I bet he did feel like he wanted to belong.

But he never gave up trying.

I’ve felt that way. Like I didn’t belong in any place. Like, no matter how hard I tried, I’d never be accepted as one of the group. It looked so easy for others, but it was always hard for me. To this day, in any group setting, I feel like I shouldn’t speak too much. I feel like my opinions aren’t welcome. I feel resented. This may sound to you like extreme insecurity, even paranoia; but I’ve had it confirmed more than once. People have told me that I speak with too much authority, too much confidence. I intimidate people. I know too much about too many things. Which is funny, because I find myself, many times a day, admitting how little I know about some subject or other.

I have a wonderful wife and two children I’m very proud of. They’re my favorite people in the world. I have close friends, and hundreds of acquaintances who wish me well. One-on-one with any of them, I do just fine. But in a group? I don’t feel like I’m home. I don’t get the impression that I’m considered well-in, one of the family, part of the furniture. I haven’t visited that place where everybody knows my name, and they’re always glad I came.

But I won’t give up. I’ll keep trying new things. I’ll be my own home.

And that’s why William Shatner is my hero. That’s my blueprint for how I can live a successful life and come to the end of it feeling satisfied, not because I was loved in the moment, but because I kept accomplishing, and I never gave up.

Think about it, Bill Shatner has played the lead in seven TV series. (Okay, Barbary Coast got canceled after 14 episodes, but he still played the lead in it!) He’s back on TV again with Better Late Than Never. He’s written countless books. Yes, he wrote them with ghost-writers and co-writers, but I don’t think it’s realistic to believe he was not part of the creative process. He’s produced documentaries. He seems to have a passion to learn about the world he’s been part of all these years, and to try to get outsider and third-party views about it. He’s even interviewed people who hate him to find out why they hate him.

That’s courage. And that’s someone who never gives up. The man is over 80 years old. He’s gone from being the sexy young lead to the funny old geezer on-screen. That transition isn’t something every actor can make. And, on the side, he’s written, bred horses, run charities, kept up with Twitter and made his own films. He knows some people make fun of him. He probably cares. He doesn’t let it stop him.

He’s taught me to not give a damn if I belong. I just want to create and learn and teach and contribute until the day I die. And if my doing all those things makes you intimidated, uncomfortable or resentful?

You know what?

Get a life!


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