Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Search for Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy is gone, and there's almost nothing we can do about it.

I remember lying in bed one night as a child, my parents tucking me in as was their way, with no shortage of whiskey and depraved tales of suburban invasions by crazed rural folk who had stuck it rich with "black gold," clutching a toy I had scammed off of some kid from school in one of the few standout moments of my elementary school career.  It wasn't until later I would learn the social significance of the toy I had grifted; it was a die-cast model of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D.  Shortly thereafter, my mother began schooling me in the geeky arts of science fiction, not the least of which included the increasingly expanding Star Trek universe.  Star Trek would eventually become not only a viable source of entertainment but also open the door to an entire sub-culture of which I am still proud to count myself a member of, if only in the slightest sense these days.  It would come to serve as a source of inspiration to a budding imagination, provide a place of solace in the turbulent social storm of adolescence, and have a subtle yet profound impact on my sexual awakening (Counselor Troi, oh yeah).

In a way that wasn't necessarily so with other sci-fi narratives in various media, the crews of the Enterprises (yes, even the Enterprise C from the ST:TNG episode "Yesterday's Enterprise" (which, without even looking it up, I can still tell you was an Ambassador Class Federation Starship)) seemed almost as much as surrogate families as casts of characters.  There was something about the optimistic view of the future that Star Trek embraced unabashedly, the sense not only of social justice but of inclusion that made them especially appealing to those of us on the outskirts of other circles.  There was always a sense of hope, that things could get better, and that we could get there together.

On February 27, 2015, we lost another member of the family.  At age 83, Leonard Nimoy died due to obstructive pulmonary disease.

Perhaps it's the nature of the beast, where sub-cultures such as Star Trek's that truly embrace the key players and social markers as more substantial and tangible than other sub-cultures.  Nimoy was best known, of course, for the half-vulcan, half-human Mr. Spock.  (That's Captain Spock to you.)  It was, perhaps, the very best and very worst sort of typecasting ever to befall a human being.  No matter how hard he might have tried, Nimoy couldn't shake the Spock legacy even when he had wanted to at one point (see: his novels, in chronological order, I Am Not Spock and I Am Spock).  Portraying such an iconic character may have had an effect on his career path in his chosen field, but there's no denying the positive impact that icon had for many people, myself included.  I truly hope that before he passed he realized the true scope of his influence and the positive effect he had on people's lives.

For myself, as I'm sure was the case for many fans of the show, Spock was a favourite character not just from the original series but from the entire Star Trek cannon.  Spock was a man caught between two worlds, being half-human and half-vulcan.  Though most of us can't relate to being half-extra terrestrial, most of us can relate to the same sort of inner turmoil, an especially apt metaphor for anyone in a transitional phase like adolescence.  Though he wholeheartedly embraced his emotionless and logical vulcan heritage, he was still able to grow to accept his chaotic and passionate human side and draw strength from both.

Most of all, Spock came to embody an ideal. He represented a sort of dignified stoicism, unshakable no matter what the galaxy threw at him.  Where others let their emotions get the better of them, he relied on logic and reason.  And despite his logical ways, he still allowed for variables such as intuition in his calculations.  He wasn't endearing because he was emotionless, but because he was in control of his emotions.  He had had mastered the chaos in a way most of us can only envy.  He was calm, cool, collected. Logical, analytical, philosophical.  He was a loyal friend and a trusted mentor who wouldn't hesitate to sacrifice himself for "the good of the many."  If ever there was an ideal to shoot for, you could do far worse than Spock and little better.  This was the gift that Leonard Nimoy gave to the world, and his absence shall be missed.  And may the rest of us abide by those famous words: Live long and prosper.



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