I never met Leonard Nimoy. I am quite certain he never once heard of me, nor knew I even existed. And yet today, when I learned of his passing, I wept. Sitting at my desk in a office full of people, I was openly sobbing at the deep, painful sense of loss that pretty much wrecked me for the entire day. I would imagine that Nimoy wouldn’t have wanted me to do that. I believe firmly, though, that he knew it would happen, and had learned to accept that with the grace and dignity that he brought to everything he did.
In truth, the only thing I know Nimoy for is Spock. When he died, Spock died. No mistake, Zachary Quinto has done a fantastic job making the role his own, but just as Moses will always be Charleton Heston and Rooster Cogburn will always be John Wayne, Spock will always be Leonard Nimoy. I ache knowing that I will never again see him on screen. I hurt knowing that a vital part of the culture that I based my life on is gone. It points the way to my own mortality and reminds me in its insidious way that I am not ready for my demise yet.
Spock was the perfect combination of intelligence, reason and logic, tinged with just enough humanity to make it matter. He was always calm, cool and collected, yet able to make the right choice not just because of his brain, but because of his reasoned analysis of human emotions. When he died at the end of Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan, he did so because his sacrifice was necessary, because doing the right thing sometimes meant giving more than you could. There have been few better deaths in Science Fiction cinema.
John Siegel and I got into a fight once, back in 5th grade. A real throw-down brawl that ended with me on top of him, holding his arms pinned at his side, trying to stay there like a cowboy riding a riled up bull for all he’s worth. “Don’t make me get violent,” I said, calmly, it being the only thing I could think of to say, but it worked. Johnny relented, I let him up, and we became best friends. He later told me that the thing that scared him the most was how I hadn’t shown any emotion during the fight. Like a boxer intent on a task, I had just worked methodically for an advantage and victory. He said I reminded him of Spock. The comparison stuck, and many friends through the years noted the similarity.
Which is why, I think, Nimoy’s death hurt harder than others. It wasn’t just that he was Spock. It was that I was Spock too, and when he died, I died too.
Nimoy carefully crafted the character of Spock in later renditions of his character. In the television series he was a science officer and a nerd. In the films he became a philosopher. When Star Trek: The Next Generation came, he had transitioned into an ambassador for peace. With the new movie reboots he was carefully positioned as a mentor. As Nimoy matured, Spock did too. The wisdom he gathered on earth found a place in the stars traveled to by the starship Enterprise.
At the end of Star Trek 2, Spock put a part of his soul into Dr. McCoy, who later used that to bring Spock back to us, because the universe still needed that wisdom. I believe that Leonard Nimoy put a piece of himself in all of us who loved him and loved his green-blooded Vulcan. As long as we remember him, remember to always try to balance rationality with emotion, remember that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, he will always be right here with us.
Live long, and prosper.
Peace, and long life.
And boldly go where none of us have gone before.