Live Long and Prosper: R.I.P Leonard Nimoy

(c) NBC Television Used w/o permission.

(c) NBC Television
Used w/o permission.

by Gene Howington

It is strange how we as humans can effect one another across time and space through the medium of art. Truly spooky action at a distance. If you are of a certain age and a certain bent of mind, you grew up surrounded by (hopefully) your family and the extended family that is the cast of the original Star Trek series. However, everything that has a beginning has an end. Today, February 27, 2015, the path of Leonard Nimoy came to an end. He was a talented actor, writer, poet, director and photographer. Nimoy also turned in memorable performances as Dr. David Kibner in the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and the recurring part of William Bell on the series Fringe. He was 83 when he died from complications of end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

As a child, I learned a lot from Nimoy’s portrayal of Spock. The power of logic, the calm of reason, the value of compassion, friendship and comradery. Although those last three lessons took a bit longer to sink in than the first two, the list is far from complete. Spock was, and always shall be, an excellent role model.

I recall the first time I saw Star Trek in re-runs on television. Kirk, the dashing emotional hero. Dr. McCoy, the heart of the crew. Scottie, the often ironically funny problem solver. All of the characters had their own appeal and function for story telling. But to me it was always Spock who stood out. Calm, rational, dispassionate, cool, logical Spock who rarely let emotions get in the way of his analysis and came up with or at least contributed to solutions for many of the vexing problems facing the Enterprise crew. He was the crews conscience. Even when the half-human side of Spock brought his emotions to the front, the character taught something important about human nature like the nature alienation. In the episode “This Side of Paradise”, Spock’s emotions are set free by aphrodisiacal spores he discovers on the planet Omicron Ceti III. He abandons his mission and pronounces his love for a woman he had once known on Earth, Leila Kalomi (played by Jill Ireland). It showed Spock in a way that was in sharp contrast to everything I had found attractive about the character to date. He was joyful and carefree. But in the end, when the effect of the spores wears off, he returns to being his former colder more aloof self.  And the remarkable part to me was this: he did so without regret but acknowledging that part of joy is the absence of joy. He did not lament or sour from “losing his passionate love for her”. As Spock told Leila after returning to his controlled Vulcan self, “I am what I am, Leila. And if there are self-made purgatories, then we all have to live in them. Mine can be no worse than someone else’s.” It was the first time I recall thinking “We can be many things, different things to different people at different times in our short lives. Even to ourselves.” This character of Nimoy’s in many ways shaped what would go on to become parts of my personal operation philosophies, from my predilection for the works of Marcus Aurelius and Buddha to the works of Douglas Hofstadter and Bruce Lee.

During the days leading up to his death, Mr. Nimoy took to social media to share some of his final thoughts. Two really stood out to me. One is the closing phrase from a poem “You and I have Learned” from his book These Words Are for You.

The miracle is this,

The more we share . . .

The more

We have

The second was a thought posted to Twitter so simple and elegant that it could have been said by the Edo period poet Bashō:

“A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory.”

It has been my great privilege and honor to have shared some of the same time on Earth and be influenced by the art of Leonard Nimoy. But I will not shed a tear for him. Why? In the words of Theodor Geisel (another influential fictional doctor in my life, Dr. Seuss):

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

Live long and prosper.

Leonard Nimoy at ST Con, 2011 photo by Beth Madison

Leonard Nimoy at ST Con, 2011
photo by Beth Madison

About Gene Howington

I write and do other stuff.
This entry was posted in Art, Memorial, Movies, Television and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Live Long and Prosper: R.I.P Leonard Nimoy

  1. randyjet says:

    I am sorry to learn of his passing just now. Though I have to say, it was the most eloquent and better way than any news story. Thanks to you and our great departed Leonard Nimoy.

  2. Slartibartfast says:

    Thanks Leonard. We have prospered through sharing your long life.

  3. Bob Stone says:

    McCOY: He’s really not dead. As long as we remember him.

    KIRK: ‘It’s a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done before. …A far better resting place that I go to than I have ever known’.

    CAROL: Is that a poem?

    KIRK: No, no. Something Spock was trying to tell me. On my birthday.

    McCOY: You okay, Jim? How do you feel?

    KIRK: Young. I feel young.

  4. pete says:

    Always my favorite character on Star Trek. When I was a kid I even tried to raise one eyebrow like Spock did. Until I saw myself in a mirror, never tried it again.

    He even has his own game.
    rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock

    Lived long, and prospered.

  5. “Logic is the beginning of wisdom, not the end.”

    On the origin of “Live long and prosper”:

    “Oh, my. The simplest would be to say, “Languh yoren osta lebn.” It’s a typical Yiddish expression. Parents say it to their kids. It means, “You should live many years.”

  6. As if my geek creds were ever in question, I offer a few of my favorite Spock quotes:

    “Without followers, evil cannot spread.”
    – from “And The Children Shall Lead”

    “Insufficient facts always invite danger.”
    – from “Space Seed”

    “It is curious how often you humans manage to obtain that which you do not want.”
    – from “Errand of Mercy”

    “Those who hate and fight must stop themselves, Doctor, otherwise it is not stopped.”
    – from “Day of the Dove”

    “No, ‘fascinating’ is a word I use for the unexpected. In this case, I should think ‘interesting’ would suffice.”
    – from “The Squire of Gothos”

    Kirk: Shit! (Shatner, sitting in the Captain’s chair surrounded by the crew, forgets his lines.)
    [crew laughs except Nimoy]
    Spock: Don’t worry, Captain. I know exactly how you feel.
    [crew laughs harder]
    – from Star Trek blooper reel

    “You proceed from a false assumption. I am a Vulcan. I have no ego to bruise.”
    – from Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan

    “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.”
    – from Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan

    Dr. Gillian Taylor: Sure you won’t change your mind?
    Spock: Is there something wrong with the one I have?
    – from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

  7. Elaine M. says:

    Mike,

    Like my mother, Nimoy came from the West End of Boston. Like, my father, his father worked in a leather factory. In the video, Nimoy talks about the tragedy of the urban renewal in the West End. My mother told me how it had destroyed a wonderful immigrant neighborhood.

    Leonard Nimoy Remembers Boston’s West End Neighborhood
    “Leonard Nimoy – Jewish actor most well-known for his role as Spock on in the Star Trek science fiction series – reflects on the Boston neighborhood where he grew up. Known as the West End, this neighborhood was radically changed through urban renewal initiatives and is nothing like the heymish ‘village’ he once knew.”

  8. amunre says:

    Sitting here I can almost here McCoy and Spock going at it….with Kirk smiling in the backround when I was a kid I always thought the relationship between those three was the program for me. It was always great fun too see how much they loved and respected each other…Now Spock has gone off to join Bones in the great beyond…..

  9. swarthmoremom says:

    http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/02/28/kirk-is-missing-spock-s-funeral-william-shatner-explains-why-he-can-t-make-leonard-nimoy-s-funeral.html “Once Star Trek was canceled in 1969, Shatner got Nimoy to guest star on his new series T.J. Hooker. Nimoy, a recovering alcoholic, also lent a helping hand to Shatner’s third wife, Nerine, who battled with alcoholism. She eventually passed away in 1999. Shatner wrote about how Nerine drew the two men closer together in his 2008 book Up Till Now: The Autobiography.

    “Leonard Nimoy’s personal experience of alcoholism now came to play a central role in my life and it helped us bond together in a way I never could have imagined in the early days of Star Trek. After Nerine [Kidd] and I had been to dinner with Leonard and Susan Nimoy one evening, Leonard called and said: ‘Bill, you know she’s an alcoholic?’ I said I did. I married Nerine in 1997, against the advice of many and my own good sense. But I thought she would give up alcohol for me. We had a celebration in Pasadena, and Leonard was my best man. I woke up about eight o’clock the next morning and Nerine was drunk. She was in rehab for 30 days three different times. Twice she almost drank herself to death. Leonard took Nerine to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, but she did not want to quit.” “

  10. That is something I did not know, Smom. Thanks.

  11. Thanks for this, especially the vid on Spocks’ West End origins….Boston being my home town I know that area well….but knew nothing of his memories from that vid….. ❤

  12. Gene Howington, I am a Star Trek fan.

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