Actors are actors. They usually aren’t people we know and probably aren’t even people we’ve met. If we’re honest with ourselves, we have to admit that we probably don’t know very much about the actors we admire, certainly not first-hand. Yet when they’re gone, we feel as if we knew them and it hurts just the same. I felt that way when Jimmy Stewart died in 1997 and I feel it today upon the passing of Leonard Nimoy.
I grew up watching Star Trek, not as it aired in the 1960s, but in syndication in the mid 70s. I loved (and still love) all the characters: I wanted to be like Kirk, confident and in command. I appreciated Dr. McCoy’s Southern mannerisms, his humanity and even his flaws. But I really wanted to be Spock.
Much of this had to do, no doubt, with when I watched Star Trek, as a young teenager trying to find myself. Hiding your emotions from others is one of the things you learn to become good at if you want to survive those teenage years and I identified with Spock’s struggles to curb his human half. I also admired the fact that nothing shook him. And although I was interested in science as a kid, by the time I hit high school I knew there was too much math involved (which I sucked at) for me to seriously consider a future in that field.
But Spock was also an expert in logic, which immediately became a subject I wanted to pursue. Yet after checking out a couple of library books on logic, I quickly saw how difficult the subject was. (I did manage to read a few logic books through the years and still enjoy reading on the subject from time to time.) Still, I thought that if I knew more about logic and how to apply it, that I could not only impress people (especially girls), but also think my way out of troublesome situations.
Yeah. Like that happened…
Still I loved the show and loved the character. And I still do.
I followed Nimoy’s later career in ways that I didn’t with any of the other cast members including William Shatner. I watched the 70s TV show In Search Of… initially because it was narrated by Nimoy. If a Nimoy movie played at my local theater, I was there, even if it was a bad one like Catlow (1971). Thankfully he made a really good one in 1978, the Philip Kaufman remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I was, of course, delighted to see the Star Trek movies take off starting in 1979 and Nimoy’s roles in them as well as the recent J.J. Abrams Star Trek films.
Nimoy famously resisted being typecast as Spock in his memoir I Am Not Spock (1975), yet published another book 20 years later, finally embracing the character with I Am Spock. I couldn’t help thinking of Nimoy as I watched the recent Best Picture Oscar winner Birdman and wondered if he’d had a chance to see it. Both that film and Nimoy’s books make me think of my own life, the different things I’ve done, and how people view me based on which “me” they’ve known: teacher, librarian, musician, writer, Christian, movie and comic book lover, nerd, etc. Nimoy taught me a lot about acceptance, about embracing who you are and being content with that. And he also entertained. I may not have learned as much about logic as I would’ve liked, but I learned a lot about humanity from Nimoy. Totally illogical? Maybe, but I’ll take it. You can’t see it, but I’m giving the Vulcan salute right now. You know the words… LLAP. Rest in peace, Mr. Nimoy.
(Photos: Agents of Geek)