I started watching Star Trek when I was young enough to not be able to not remember my age. I had no idea that those missions were long since retired.
I was young enough that to me the story was real, perhaps a historical document. I was astounded by what I saw. Space travel, aliens, heroics, humor, and Spock. Spock was a half-human, half-alien being. This was a fascinating idea for someone who didn’t grow up around blended families. The conflict of Spock was immense. Being from two worlds but of neither; his constant battle between emotions and logic. Counterbalancing the captain and being alone among a large crew. What a romantic character! Such passion in his dynamic, even as he portrayed an icily logical façade. I knew he was special. Of all the characters on Star Trek, he was the most interesting to me. I wanted to be like him. I became interested in science. I wanted to know him, to ask him questions about how he’d handle predicaments I was in. I wanted him as my mentor. And in an odd way, he was.
Today, Leonard Nimoy, the man who played Spock, passed away. I didn’t know him, never met him, but yet he portrayed a character that left indelible impressions on my psyche. He became a symbol for things that I needed to find for myself. I was a little surprised at how saddened I was by his passing at first. Celebrity deaths always seem to be a cultural touchstone for us, but the impact varies. Today, the impact was great, and I realized how much Spock touched me, and through that the actor responsible for breathing life into Spock.
I know that this is about him, but without him, I wouldn’t have grown up to be the same person. I didn’t understand to what level a pivotal character could be to the human psyche. It doesn’t matter if he was a character. Spock took on a life of his own. He wouldn’t have been as smoothly wonderful if Leonard Nimoy hadn’t played him.
I’ve learned a lot today, about Leonard Nimoy, about myself, and about how stories can help humans empathize. Stories provide situations we would never otherwise experience. I am saddened by his loss but grateful for Leonard Nimoy giving me one last gift. He may have never known my name, but I will never forget his.