Saturday, February 28, 2015
A long life, and a prosperous one
He spent his final months trying to keep others from the same fate as him. He blamed cigarettes for wrecking his health and he encouraged others to quit smoking before it was too late. I would see him on Twitter, periodically imploring his many fans to not be like him in this respect. I hope people listened to him. If his death serves any kind of purpose, I sincerely hope it acts as a lesson to others.
In addition - and I'm afraid I don't remember what spurned him to do this; perhaps it had to do with his failing health as well - he also spent his final months encouraging his fans to adopt him as a surrogate grandfather. It seemed like a joke at first, but it wasn't, and from what I saw on his Twitter feed, his virtual family grew by leaps and bounds. And yeah, I, too, accepted him as my adopted "grandpa," though it didn't come with any kind of reward or benefit beyond bragging rights. It wasn't a contest of any kind, and I don't believe it was meant as a publicity stunt.
So when I say that his death hit me almost as hard as the death of a family member, I'm not exaggerating too much.
He was part of my life for a long enough time to qualify. While I identify more with the Next Generation era and beyond, there's no doubt that I've always had a great appreciation for the original incarnation of Star Trek. Much has been written and said about the cultural impact the show had, and continues to have, on society, and his character, Spock, was a huge part of that.
Think about what Spock represents. Prior to 1966, the year Trek was born, aliens in science fiction tended to fall into one of three categories: bug-eyed monsters; strangers who stood above and apart from humanity, often times in judgment on us in one way or another, or so human looking and acting that the term "alien" hardly seemed to apply. As much as humanity was drawn to the dream of space travel and extraterrestrial life, there was a lot of fear about what may happen to us and what we may find out there within the final frontier as well.
Then along comes Trek, which envisions a future where humanity gets its act together and works to expand its knowledge by exploring space. And what do we find? Aliens who clearly look alien, clearly look and act different from us - pointed ears, arched eyebrows and seemingly emotionless - and not only do we learn that they're nothing to be afraid of, but we're able to find common ground with them. We're able to see in them the things they share with us, and one of us finds beauty and love in them as well.
Spock's existence is proof of that. He may seem aloof, but he works with humanity. Many of his goals are the same as ours, and though he may get treated as an outsider at times, by his own people as well as ours, he doesn't let that stop him. He represents what can happen when we face the unknown and discover it to be not as scary as we may have thought.
That's a difficult role to embody, one full of nuance and great subtlety. It's the kind of challenge many actors would give their eye teeth for, but not exactly one that comes with any kind of road map. Portraying such a character from week to week would require time to grow into, to learn from the inside out so that he would be taken seriously, and not be seen as campy or childish.
It would require an actor like Leonard Nimoy.
You know the result.
His career contained much more than Trek, of course. Other television and film roles, directing, photography, being a husband and a father. We know that it took him a long time to accept the significance of his character within pop culture - he did, after all, write an autobiography called I Am Not Spock - but once he did, I suspect, I hope, that his life was better for it, because he had, and still has, legions of fans worldwide who love him and are grateful to him and Bill and De and Gene and all the rest for what they gave to the world.
I'm disappointed he won't be around for the 50th anniversary of Trek next year. It will seem a little somber without him around, to say the least... but I know that Trekkies everywhere will keep him in their hearts.
I sure will.