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Missing Spock Already

February 28, 2015


Leonard Nimoy has been part of my entire remembered life – as he has been part of the entire remembered life of most people.

I cannot remember a time when he wasn’t part of my affectionate imagination. I can’t remember a time when his face and his voice didn’t make me smile inwardly. Nimoy himself somehow managed to combine intellectual pretension with a kind of sublime innocence. His artistic aspirations managed to be amusingly pompous and touchingly naive at the same times. There were times when you felt that he was disasappointed that he hadn’t managed to become Allen Ginsberg or Leonard Cohen.  The sort of terrain he sought to claim was the kind of place where a rhythmic strain of Jewish mysticism meets a scenic inflection of Buddhist sublimity.

What he wouldn’t do, is insult trekkies. What he couldn’t do, is sneer in the faces of those who loved him for the most famous thing that he’d done. And that turned out to be a great many faces he managed to treat with affection and gratitude.

So from disavowing Spock, he moved to meeting Spock and the road from I am not Spock to I am Spock became a journey of discovery in which Nimoy discovered that he had much in common with Spock and that Nimoy and Spock had much to discover.

One thing that Nimoy and Spock discovered together is that “logic” only makes sense as a means to something else. In the case of Spock, “logic” became a commitment to empathy that made him the perfect explorer and the perfect ambassador.

Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner were born about a week apart. Hard to imagine two individuals more different in some respects, yet Nimoy was one of the few cast members never to have a problem with Shatner – presumably because he knew that Spock was at least as rewarding a role as Kirk. Spock also had a big advantage over William Riker in Next Generation, in that Riker’s lack of promotion could not but be interpreted as professional frustration. Riker could either command his own starship and leave the series or remain in the series and look increasingly disappointed. Spock on the other hand, was detached from the whole human promotion structure. Getting to wear a different colour shirt, or sitting in a particular chair had no special appeal for Spock.

Why did Spock inspire such love and affection despite claiming to have purged himself of all emotion? Largely because, Spock’s logic was actually suboordinate to a commitment to fascination. The emotion that he managed to purge himself of was largely selfish emotion. He remained profoundly driven by his was own aesthetic agenda. Neither was he truly an ascetic. He lived for pleasure in many ways. He just took his pleasure very seriously. And his pleasure was knowledge and discovery, a pleasure which was characterised by that peculiar refinement of humility which is a prerequisite for all continued learning.

Furthermore Spock’s commitment to “logic” made him study the thought processes of others. He was enduringly “fascinated” by the chain of events and experiences that brought others to a various contradictory positions. Understanding “logic” involved a fascination with how others think and feel. His supposedly cold blooded logic led, paradoxically, to a profoundly empathetic sensibility.

Thus Spock became the ultimate ambassador for Vulcans everywhere.
And Nimoy a pretty good ambassador for a flexible and open ended definition of humanity.

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One Comment
  1. Reblogged this on conradbrunstrom and commented:

    Today would have been Leonard Nimoy’s 90th birthday.

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