This was the last time I ever saw him in person–at the Capetown Film Festival at the Egyptian, where he had a brief interview with Geoff Boucher prior to a showing of “Star Trek (2009.)” Thank goodness it hadn’t been “Star Trek: Into Darkness,” or I might have been tempted to pass altogether. He seemed in good spirits, going over the same issues he’d been talking about since I first started seeing him at conventions back in the 80’s, and even treating us to a quick rendition of his trademark song “Bilbo Baggins.”
He died today, 2/27/15, and despite knowing that his health had been deteriorating recently and that this day was rapidly approaching, the loss is devastating nonetheless. By all accounts he was a smart, talented fellow who treated others around him with consideration and compassion–and it’s not like the world can easily spare someone like that, under any circumstances.
But it was his connection with Spock that made him universally famous, and his departure personally affecting. To back up, when I was young (and the Earth was new,) there was no YouTube, no Netflix, no internet, no DVRs, no DVDs, no VCRs, for God’s Sake. If you wanted to watch Star Trek, you had to just hope one of the seven TV channels (2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, and 13) decided to rerun it, and that you remembered to check the TV guide that week for it, and then stay home. I mention this only to point out that being a fan back then involved an enormous amount of effort that is almost unbelievable today even to me…and I was there! I was lucky that just as I came along, the cassette player started to become available at price points a normal person could afford, so I would periodically get organized enough to make audio tapes of the shows, and then play them ad nauseum.
(I was also a sickly child, and consequently spent days on end in bed, listening to the same handful of episodes. This is why, even today, I can quote some of them by memory even though I haven’t watched them in years. “The readings are perfectly normal for me Doctor, thank you. And as for my anatomy being different from yours…I am delighted.“)
There are many out there who think fiction is stupid, and imagination a waste of time, who doubtless roll their eyes at all this investment in something that doesn’t actually exist. All I know, is that, fictional or not, I’ve probably spent more time with and derived more consolation from Spock than virtually anyone considered “real.”
[Nimoy at the LA Film Fest screening of “Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan” on its 30th Anniversary.]
Things I learned from Spock:
- Power comes from self-control.
- The more you know, the more fascinating the world around you becomes.
- Be sensitive to the feelings of others, even if you don’t understand them.
- The scientific method provides a structure for investigating new phenomena.
- There are many different ways people express themselves–look for what they mean, vs just what they say.
- Be proud of who and what you are–prouder, if it’s something uncommon.
- People may ridicule you for being different, but the opinions of the hateful and the ignorant are of little account.
- Acknowledge your strong points and your weaknesses, and then accept yourself for who you are.
- It never hurts to play an instrument.
[Spock’s figure at the old Movieland Wax Museum, shortly before it closed and liquidated all its stock.]
It’s probably not an overstatement to say that there isn’t one other figure who was a stronger influence on my early life. As Glinda told Elphaba, “who can say if I’ve been changed for the better/(I do believe I have been changed for the better.)/And because I knew you…/Because I knew you/I have been changed…/For good.”
Godspeed Mr. Nimoy.
“What mark will I leave behind?
How will anyone ever know I’ve been here?
What sign will tell the future traveler
that I existed?
Shall I carve it on a door?
“I am here!
I believe the deepest impression is made
In those moments when I can say
–Leonard Nimoy, “You and I”