Today, the world lost one of its best humans. Over the course of nearly 50 years as Spock on television and film, Leonard Nimoy had more to say about humanity while playing an alien, and said it with more profundity and relevance, than many actors have done playing human characters. And it should be noted that Nimoy did as much to develop his character as any writer or director. With every performance, he seemed to add more and more layers to Spock’s enigma.
It is a common misconception about Vulcans that they have no emotions. Actually, it is much the opposite. They experience emotions more intensely than perhaps any other race. In their ancient history, Vulcan society had developed methods to control their emotions rather than be controlled by them, and thereby be driven to war and extinction. But although their ancestors had managed to mask the volatile feelings lurking beneath their stone-faced exteriors, and passed that knowledge down through the generations, their emotions still had a way of bubbling up to the surface sooner or later.
Spock’s internal (and often externalized) conflict with his emotions, as well as with his human/Vulcan genetic duality, made him a relatable character to me ever since I made first contact with the world of Star Trek as a kid. And of course there was all that stuff about being the odd man out in a crew of humans, who were always poking fun at him for his pointed ears. For all the assets that should have made him a valuable and respected bridge officer, he was still an oddball and a weirdo. And so was I.
My father was a man who refused to cry, even at his own brother’s funeral, and he expected me to be the same. He often attempted to present himself as someone who was distinguished and reserved, but his bottled up emotions had a tendency to eventually erupt in destructive fashion. I never had his skill at hiding my feelings, and I’ve never been sorry for it. But I have experienced much the same difficulty with dealing with intense emotions. “Just get over it” has never been helpful advice. My doctors have confirmed that these unusually intense emotions are one of the many symptoms which point to me being a candidate for Attention Deficit Disorder. It could be said that the problem is in my blood.
Leonard Nimoy’s signature role as Spock gave me and many others an inspiring handhold on these problems. In watching him play his part, I saw an example I wanted—and have often needed—to follow: Spock met mockery with dignity, provocation with coolness, sorrow with mindfulness, and love with sincerity.
In real life, Nimoy eventually came to embrace Spock as a part of himself, acknowledging that his influence as a beloved character could be a force for good in the world. He created a philosophy all his own by melding the teachings of his Jewish upbringing with the profound humanism forged by a non-human character in a make-believe universe. And he expressed this philosophy daily, signing each post from his Twitter account with the hashtag #LLAP—Live Long And Prosper.
Leonard Nimoy the man may be gone, but his legacy and influence will live on in the hearts and living rooms of people all over the world. Certainly in mine.