Leonard Nimoy: Long Live His Legacy

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“I think it’s my adventure, my trip, my journey, and I guess my attitude is, let the chips fall where they may.”

Leonard Nimoy was more than just Spock. Playing all kinds of roles during his life, from an early leading  role as a boxer in the 1952 film Kid Monk Baroni, a cowboy in multiple TV shows, a spy on Mission Impossible, a psychiatrist in the remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, to the enigmatic William Bell on Fringe. His career was filled with roles of all sizes and types of which he explored with a range of ability that made his straight-faced Spock seem almost anachronistic. He was a film director, a poet, a photographer, and, occasionally, a singer. Who can forget “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins?” He explored his Jewish culture, narrating a documentary about Hasidic Jews, he made a photographic essay exploring the feminine aspect of God’s presence as inspired by the Kabbalah, and produced a movie about a lawsuit pursued by a Auschwitz survivor against a Holocaust denial group. Even the Vulcan hand salute, which he created himself, was inspired by the way Jewish priests hold their hands when giving blessings. But with all of the things he did in his rich lifetime, the character of Spock is who we identify him with the most.

Inextricable from the role, Nimoy himself tried to distinguish himself from the character with his first biography “I am Not Spock”. Later feeling that the book, which was largely and incorrectly assumed to be an attack on the character, was a mistake, he wrote a second biography “I am Spock”, coming to terms with this identification that he himself created; much of his character on the show came from Nimoy himself who was allowed a large amount of input into his evolution. The book made peace with the public perception and featured conversations between Nimoy and Spock realizing that they are in many ways the same man. Nothing could make this child of Star Trek more happy to hear.

Spock was more than just a pointy-eared side-kick to Captain Kirk. He was the voice of reason, the super-ego that calmly analyzed the facts balanced by McCoy’s Id and Kirk’s (of course) Ego. He was part of a rich cultural heritage that he actively explored, and yet felt marginalized because of his other identity as a half-human. Among his many wondrous journeys was the life-long path to make peace with his own unique identity, his father, and both cultures he came from. He was a explorer of the universe, a dedicated saviour of the lost, and a spokesman for peace when peace seemed all but unattainable. To say that Nimoy and Spock were not similar men would be, as he has asserted himself, a mistake.

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Perhaps most importantly to me, he was the very model of a best friend. The bestest of best friends. As we watched the adventures of the Enterprise and did our best to identify with Captain Kirk, Spock was the friend we wish we all had, who would follow us without question on our fantastic and sometimes foolhardy voyages, would question us when we were wrong, would not protest much when they were the butt of a joke, and ultimately would die to protect us. He was a fantasy mixed with cold logic, a best friend and a teacher, and a symbol for peace and reason whose identity has reached archetypal status.

Already some cynicism, mere minutes after Nimoy’s announced death, has crept onto the internet, childing fans of the show for not separating him from the character in the tributes to his passing. Nimoy, in his own words, was Spock. He created him, he developed him, he became part of him and in his final analysis, was incredibly proud of that. He was part of all of us too, the part we wish we could be more like, more often, striving for intelligence, dignity and enormous kindness. Spock was more than just a character on a silly, low-budget, “wagon train to the stars” 60’s tv show. He was an essential part of a cultural desire to become more than what we are, to explore the entirety of the universe within and without, and he was one of my heroes. Nimoy, and his own strivings and interests that he brought to the role, was the biggest part of why Spock mattered so much. It’s hard to even put into words the incredible legacy of hope Leonard Nimoy left us with.

Goodbye, Leonard. To say you will be missed is an understatement. I won’t leave you with a ‘Live Long and Prosper’-ish thing. You did that already in the way you lived. In your own words you spoke of a journey in life, and certainly in a different context, one you hoped to be beginning now. Even as coldly logical as I can be about some things, I want to believe that you were right…

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“That is the exploration that awaits you! Not mapping stars and studying nebula, but charting the unknown possibilities of existence.”

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