It is hard to put into words just how painful the passing of Leonard Nimoy is, and just how much he meant to myself and others.
Leonard’s portrayal of Spock was the perfect embodiment of the pains many of us had to struggle with, and the perfect model for the battles we all had within.
It is a myth that Spock and Vulcans did not have emotions. Those who know the universe well know that Vulcans are highly emotional, and in their past allowed their emotions to destroy. They adopted the facade of pure logic to protect themselves from those emotions that they saw as destructive to themselves and others and became the Vulcans we know today.
They saw their emotions as dangerous, and detached themselves from them.
Does this sound familiar to anyone?
Many of us grew up in worlds where we were not allowed to be emotional. Many of us, especially in Geek culture were made to fear and be shamed by them. We lived at the bottom of the social hierarchy, the socially acceptable targets of anyone who wanted to feel good by grinding someone else in the ground. We lived under constant threat of people wanting to break us down, to get us to scream, or cry, or cower, or beg. When the people are twice your size, or more often, outnumbered you 3 to 1, the only way you could win was by taking your hits, and not showing any reaction. When you had the crowd surrounding you fingers pointed and laughing at every flaw they could find, your only way to win was not to react. When people would seek out what you loved just to cruelly find ways to take it away from you, you chose to hide your joys. And if you were like myself and many others, a gentle empathic soul who became terrified by the violence of your own angered response, your only way defense was to shut the anger down.
Myself and many others in Geek Culture spent significant parts of our lives cutting ourselves off from our emotions. In a world that was reveled in our pain. We became Vulcan because that was the only way we knew how to survive. So it was natural that we would be drawn to Vulcan portrayal in Star Trek.
And then there was Spock.
It was never always clear unless you looked, but Spock’s story arch was that constant and failing struggle to excise his emotions, and his finding of greater wisdom when he learned to accept them. In the TV series, we saw bits and pieces of this. He had to learn that leadership was more than making the most logical choices. He learned to joke with his crew members, relax with them as they played music, and eventually called out the hypocrisy of claims of logic when faced with the manipulations of his bride. When the movies came, Spock’s acceptance of his emotional life became more pronounced in his personal story. The series began as he sought to complete a ritual to purge his feelings, and then was called to reject the ritual with the coming of V’ger. As V’ger connected to his human creators, Spock learned that he was called so that he could also connect to his human side. By the second movie, he had grown and began mentoring others, building his family, and his final words were not of logic, but those of love for his friend.
In Start Trek IV we see it begin with the reborn Spock with his father, the very stately Vulcan Ambassador. Spock’s father, finally accepting of his son’s humanity, asks him how he feels. The reborn Spock struggles at first, and he finds his acceptance of his emotional side by the end of the film, embracing it as his father had asked him to do. From that point on, Spock became one of the most influential members of his universe, keeping his powerful logic, but also accepting his power emotion.
But as Nimoy took this role on the screen, he also took up a second role for many of us holding the Vulcan ideal. As we drifted lost, ostracized, disconnected, and put down, he reached out to each of us by meeting us where we were. And as his character grew, he walked each of us back with him, struggling with us as he showed us how we could learn to safely reconnect to that lost part of ourselves. He taught us that we were allowed to feel, we were allowed to love and rage, and we were allowed to be who we were despite what the harshness of the world had done to us.
He made us whole again.
So it’s going to be hard to say goodbye to Mr. Nimoy. He took a role on a show and ended up healing a legion of broken souls.
And for that we will always be greatful.