Alright, I’m going to level with you guys. I did not want to write this post. I wasn’t sure how to get everything I have to say in any kind of sensible order. I even used the entire front of my fridge as a whiteboard and made a multicolored flowchart. It did not help, so I scrapped all those ideas. I’ve written about five pages worth of false starts. But, as with most things I’m loathe to do, I will take a breath and jump in with both feet and try not to make too big a mess of things. I’ll do my best and keep it simple.
By now you’ve all heard that Leonard Nimoy died. I feel obligated to write something about that. There’s no disrespect intended in my using the word “obligated.” It feels like I need to find a way to pay my respects or say goodbye. Because he wasn’t just a man, he was an icon, an institution. I doubt my little screaming-into-the-void blog can do him justice, but I think I should say something.
The obvious starting point here is Spock. That might be why this is so hard for me. I’m honestly not that big a fan of Original Series Trek. I do enjoy it, but I love it only in the vague way one loves Shakespeare or Greek democracy or concrete: it is the foundation on which everything I love firmly stands, yet I haven’t dedicated nearly enough time to studying its mechanics. That’s my personal shortcoming. But I will say that there would be no modern scifi fandom as we know it without that show. There was scifi for a century before it and I may live to see the state of it a century after. Nothing, and I say this without hyperbole, nothing has made more ripples through pop culture since pop culture was separated from culture culture by the people who decide what’s high art and what’s not (we could spend a lifetime parsing that last sentence, but you know what I mean – let’s just skip it).
Trek doesn’t work without Spock. If that character weren’t there it would just be Kirk having cowboy adventures in space with a shockingly coed and multiracial cast. No offense to Kirk, his frontier spirit, or, for that matter, William Shatner or any of the other great actors on that show. But think about it. Spock was coldly logical, yet empathetic and loyal. He brings Kirk back to reality and keeps his hot temper in check. More to my current point, he’s also the reason that show is so beloved by the scientists and artists and other weirdos who have changed the world. He was an alien in a human crew and, for lack of a better term, biracial. He was funny-looking on purpose, with those ears that made him immediately identifiable as non-human. He stood, sometimes too firmly, on principle (making his relationship with Kirk reciprocal, as Kirk talked him into doing things he would normally deem impulsive or rash). He was delightfully dumbfounded by human behavior a lot of the time, but always questioning, curious, open to new ideas. These are the qualities that have struck a chord with fans for almost fifty years. He made it okay to be strange, to be “other.” He gave three generations of nerds the go-ahead to be forward thinking and innovative and to go against mob mentality. Many of us would do better to be more like him, and to always remember that “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one.”
But that’s all Spock (and the writers, obviously). His work will live on. Nimoy himself is who we’re mourning here, as difficult as it may be to separate them in our minds. He seemed like a genuinely upstanding gentleman. Quietly devout, a good father and grandfather, a good friend, patient and loving with even the most rabid of his fans, a musician, an artist. He fought with Roddenberry to get Nichelle Nichols equal pay on the show, an important statement in 1966. When he was diagnosed with COPD, he asked his Twitter followers to please stop smoking. He seemed to genuinely give a shit about us, about our well-being. A while back, he volunteered to be an honorary grandpa for anybody who needed one. I never had a grandfather. I don’t know what that’s like. I gather that it’s a very special relationship when done properly. How sweet of him, to offer that to us, even if in a limited 140-character capacity. Especially for the folks who never had it, or, maybe more importantly, for those who had lost it.
Here’s the thing: I cried when Nimoy died, but I couldn’t tell you why. I cried when Hunter Thompson died. I cried when I thought Stephen King had died. I cried when Robin Williams died. Those all make sense to me. But when Nimoy died it was different. William Shatner couldn’t make it to Los Angeles for the funeral and a lot of assholes were mean to him on Twitter about it (completely disregarding the fact that Jews sit shiva for a week and he had plenty of time to make it back for that, those ignorant jerks). In response to these heartless assholes, Wil Wheaton said that he could mourn any way he wanted, it was none of their business, and that “we had a death in the family.” I think that really summed up best how I was feeling. Obviously, I didn’t know the man, but his mythos runs deep through my community, and I was sad that my brethren were sad. I imagine this is a small percentage of what it felt like when the nation wept together over the loss of JFK. They didn’t have a personal relationship with him, but he was important to them, to their way of life, he was their leader and their example of greatness.
I had a list of my favorite Spock quotes that I was going to sum up with but, again, those credits should go to the writers. So, I’ll leave off with his last tweet instead. It’s more relevant anyway: “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP.”