By G. E. Shuman
When this edition of the paper comes out it will have been about two weeks since the passing of one of my very favorite Hollywood actors. For any who do not know the name of Leonard Nimoy, you, at least, certainly must know the name of Mr. Spock. If you do not know of those men, or of that real man and that fictional Vulcan, you were unaffected by his passing. When I heard of Mr. Nimoy’s death, I was not shaken to the core. But I cannot say I was unaffected, and know that I have always been affected, by his life.
Leonard Nimoy was Spock, in the truest sense of the word. He did not merely play the part of Spock. He really WAS Spock. For the somehow uninformed person who has lived in seclusion for the past 45 years, Spock was one of the main characters on the original Star Trek television, and later, movie series.
Star Trek was a series that did affect the lives of many in my generation. Therefore, I write this column about it. I was a young teen when the Star Trek TV show began airing, way back in 1967. Wow…even I can’t believe it was that long ago. I do remember hearing the news that, after only one season, the network it was on had already decided to ‘pull the plug’ on the show. In a quasi-political effort at salvation by vote, I was part of a nation-wide letter writing campaign, (using real letters, envelopes, stamps, spit to lick the stamps, and everything) in which fans tried to get NBC to bring the show back. Our campaign worked, and Star Trek continued to be produced and broadcast into our homes for another two years. Later on came the movies and proceeding television shows.
When I was that young teen, Mr. Spock was definitely my favorite character on the show. Now that I am a young 60-year-old, Mr. Spock is definitely my favorite character on the show. He was half Vulcan, (a fictional race of beings who had, centuries ago, cast off what they thought were worthless and debilitating, vulgar things called emotions) and was perfectly, profoundly logical. In those early days, there was a great attraction to some of us, just in that. After all, teenagers always ride an emotional roller coaster, and the idea of stepping off from that coaster, and onto the cool, concise world that Spock inhabited seemed like a ‘logical’ thing to do. I will admit now, for the first time since the late ‘60s, that I actually made myself some Styrofoam ‘Spock’ ears, or, more precisely, ear tips, and tried to point my youthful sideburns as he did his, also. How embarrassing. I need to tell you that this emulation was not some childish yearning to be The Lone Ranger or Matt Dillon. (Does anyone remember those guys?) It was more than that. Spock was bigger than that, and better than that. At least, in my mind, he was. Spock was not from here, and he was free from those terrible, emotional feelings that tied human teenagers into complicated and frustrating knots. (I hated those knots.)
Much has been said over the years about the ‘Vulcan’ hand sign, or greeting, which Mr. Nimoy actually first experienced as a Jewish youth attending Synagogue. That hand sign was a sign of blessing bestowed on the congregation by the Rabbi. Nimoy, in an act of theatrical brilliance, (at least to me,) incorporated the sign into his Spock persona and heritage as seamlessly as he did the Vulcan nerve pinch, which involved simply finding a group of nerves in a person’s shoulder — the location of which only Vulcans evidently knew, although it worked on many races, not just on humans — causing them to immediately pass out on the floor. I once read that this was done because Mr. Nimoy felt that punching someone in the face, or committing some other act of violence upon them was just not something Mr. Spock would do. How logical.
After Spock’s, I mean, Mr. Nimoy’s passing those few weeks ago, I mentioned to my son Andrew that I was a bit frustrated by the fact that the Fox article I read about it had called him ‘Dr. Spock’, not Mr. Spock or just Spock, as he was known on the series. I have heard him referred to as ‘Dr. Spock’ for years, and it has always shown, to me, that the person talking about him had never even seen the TV show or the movies. They couldn’t have. After all, Dr. Spock was a child psychologist…not an alien scientist. (Wait a minute…) Also, I mentioned to Andrew that some even less informed folks referred to Star Trek as ‘Star Track’. I mean, Wow… Come on. Just hearing that level of ignorance over the years has always left me frustrated and nearly angry. I still occasionally hear it, and am still occasionally frustrated, and nearly angry.
Leonard Nimoy has passed. It is true, and it is sad. He did so, not tragically, but exactly as more and more of the actors of my time are tending to do, as an old man. To me, there may be some personal tragedy in that after all. I, obviously, never knew the man, Nimoy, but feel, throughout these many years, that I have known the character that he personally, seriously, ‘logically’ created. That character, Mr. Spock, has meant a great deal to me.
Before I go, I should tell you that Leonard Nimoy once, long ago, recorded a collection of songs and serious readings, which was entitled ‘Mr. Spock’s Music From Outer Space.’ I still have a copy of that LP. (Raise your hand if you know what an LP is.) On that recording, he recited one of my, and evidently one of his, favorite poems. It is called Desiderata. Desiderata is Latin for “desired things.” The poem was penned in 1927, by the American writer Max Ehrmann. You should look it up, and read it. It is a true lesson in how to live, whether you are Vulcan, or human.
Rest In Peace Mr. Nimoy. “Live Long, and Prosper” Mr. Spock.