Category Archives: Rambling Introspection

RIP Leonard Nimoy

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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.”

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[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.

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[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.

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“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!

                           Today…

                                                I exist”

I believe the deepest impression is made

In those moments when I can say

I Care.

I Love.”

–Leonard Nimoy, “You and I”

 

 

 

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Dying Is Easy; Comedy Is Hard

Robin Williams is dead, and there’s nothing to be done for it.

It’s a cruel, tragic waste of a brilliant, if often uneven, talent that obviously has affected people the world over–people who never met him, never interacted with him in any way except watching him on screens and monitors.  It seems grossly unfair and incomprehensible that someone who had the power to make so many people laugh apparently had such trouble finding happiness of his own.  How could it happen, that someone could be in that much pain, who seemingly had everything to live for?

The truth seems to be that it doesn’t matter if you drive a lovely car or live in a lovely house, or are surrounded by lovely people who care deeply for you, if it’s raining 24/7 inside your skull.  Some clearly have some sort of problem, whether it’s a chemical imbalance, or faulty neurological wiring, or a small demon setting up house on top of their hippocampus, which torments them and keeps them from living the great lives that they deserve to live.

It always seems even more shocking when something like this happens to comedians, as if it’s insult to injury that someone we depended on so frequently to make us laugh, now gives us grief.  While the notion that comedy doesn’t come from a joyous well of glee probably shouldn’t be surprising, the frequency with which depression and addiction attack comedians is an unpleasant reminder of the exact opposite.  An acknowledgement that the comedic sensibilities we admire are often forged from a lifetime of frustration and internal struggle.

I don’t know if there’s anything to be learned from this.  I don’t know if there is anything that would have helped him, or if this is just some malign fate that he could forestall but ultimately not escape.  If the phone had rang, or if someone had come to the door, would he have been safe after the moment had passed?  Or, perhaps, was it all something that had happened before, and only managed to make it to completion now?

There’s no way to see any grand lesson from something this senseless, except maybe the need to appreciate things.  Appreciate the good things, the things that make you laugh and give you joy, and appreciate too the bad things that plague others; appreciate that we all ride through life in our own little meat vehicles without any knowledge of what’s going on in the car next to us, and maybe appreciate that it’s better to err on the side of kindness accordingly.

None of this helps the anger or sadness of course–only time will help any of that.  They say that laughter is the best medicine; what a huge injustice that it often kills the doctor.