The Power of Story, or, RIP Leonard Nimoy

vulcan saluteIn case you hadn’t heard, Leonard Nimoy died this morning. The Internet is going to be buzzing with remembrance over the next few days; everyone and their pooch will be posting pictures of him, throwing each other the Vulcan salute, and discussing their favourite Star Trek episodes ad nauseam. The whole of Silicon Valley, I’m sure, will go into mourning.

But why? An 83-year-old Jew from Boston passes away peacefully in his LA home after a long and prosperous life – so who cares?

We do. Millions of us do. Because Leonard Nimoy was not just a person beloved by his friends and family, and a man highly gifted in his chosen profession. Leonard Nimoy was Spock. And as Spock, he brought something to our lives that was unique.

In fact, Leonard Nimoy’s passing, just like the tragic death of Robin Williams last year, illustrates with brilliant clarity just how powerful the impact of Story is on our lives. Nimoy became Spock; he became Story. His embodiment of this character, his telling us of who this – entirely fictional! – person was, allowed us to enter into Spock’s being, let us become, for a short time, another. He, like Robin Williams did in his many roles, gave us a powerful gateway into the realm of Story.

We need Story; we live in Story. And that is why so many of us are touched by the passing of a man who lived thousands of miles away from us; whom we have never spoken to; who, in real life, did not have pointy ears and go around classifying everything as “logical” or “not logical”. It almost feels heretical to say that – Spock is not real, he does not exist. But, actually, he does. He existed in what Nimoy created, and took root in our imagination. And as such, the death of Leonard Nimoy does not put an end to Spock’s existence. The power of Story simply carries on. There was no Spock before Nimoy became him (and created the all-memorable Vulcan salute – there is a very interesting video clip here, where he explains its origins). But now, there always will be Spock.

And we can continue to draw inspiration from his story, from the portrayal of the man who lives in logic but yet has to come to grips with the emotion seething inside him; a story that draws us out of ourselves and lets us grow with him. Leonard Nimoy brought us the empowerment of seeing Spock live – of being Spock.

Life, the Universe, and the Power of Story. Rest in Peace, Leonard Nimoy – you lived long and prospered.

One thought on “The Power of Story, or, RIP Leonard Nimoy”

  1. I am a Trekkie from way back!! Before they had the label “trekkie” or, for some aficionados, the updated “trekker,” I was making the Vulcan hand greeting for “live long and prosper.” Back in the day, I was young enough to actually be frightened by the episode with the reptilian “Gorn.” I also thought that the special effects were amazing, and it never bothered me that all alien planets looked like the Alberta badlands, that a sharp and short karate chop on the shoulder could render unconscious a 220 lb man, that even hundreds of years in the future women were still portrayed as submissive underlings in mini-skirts and go-go boots, and that Captain Kirk was an egocentric white English-speaking male sexist who, while proving repeatedly that he consistently would disobey the orders of his superiors, still Captained the flag ship of a multi-planetary Federation. Nope. I didn’t care at all–even with the muppet-like costumes and the upside-down salt shakers that doubled as Dr McCoy’s medical devices. I remember when the computers on the Enterprise were upgraded by a planet inhabited by a technologically superior, matriarchal society. The computer took on a flirtatious female voice and began to refer to Capt Kirk as “Dear”–because that’s what “female” computer engineers would do, right? Because female sexuality always trumps female professionalism, right? Hahahaha! Oh yes, Star Trek, that campy old 1960s series, was definitely flawed. But then, it was also so ahead of its time that it has literally changed the way its generation of scientists saw science. And it gave substance to how they saw the future–hence cell phones. No really…cell phones are our real world response to Star Trek “communicators.”

    Mr Spock is pre-deceased by Doctor McCoy and Mr Scott. Proof that the 1960s version of Star Trek is dying off. And that’s good. Star Trek has been bequeathed to the considerable talents
    of young men like Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto. It’s time. It’s time for the upgraded version and the upgraded sensibilities. Now, Kirk and Spock don’t just trust and respect Lt Uhura, they’re actually a bit scared of her. Lol.

    And you are very right. There could have been NO Star Trek without Mr Spock. He made science cool and reminded us that lying is not okay and all problems are best resolved through reason and logic. Good-bye Mr Spock!

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