Sunday, March 15, 2015

Leonard Nimoy RIP

Leonard Nimoy, famous for his singular portrayal of Mr. Spock, half-human First Officer aboard the USS Enterprise, died two weeks ago this past Friday, a month shy of what would have been his 84th birthday. He died of end stage COPD which came from smoking for a long time before he gave it up.

Guess all that talk about the dangers of smoking proved right. But that's another discussion.

Leonard Nimoy grew up in Boston in a Jewish family and he realized at a young age that he wanted to be an actor. He'd had a bit of a career in television and in the movies before Star Trek came along, but it was the role of Spock that, as has been said many times, really defined his career. Nimoy lived long enough to see the affect his portrayal had on the culture. A whole lot of thinking has been done as a result of Star Trek, about the kind of world we want to live in, about negotiating the differences between races and cultures, languages and customs, mythology and the stories we tell, the conflict between logic and emotion. Our obsession with technology and the tug of war between the pace of technological advancement and our evolution as human beings all evolved out of Star Trek and it was embodied most definitively in the character of Spock, the Vulcan Science Officer and right hand to William Shatner's James Kirk.

It turns out Nimoy understood the sense of isolation that being different can bring. He brought that to his portrayal of Spock. Cooly efficient and logical, yet deeply moral in the most meaningful sense of the term. So often as a member of an "out" group, one needs to view the world with a kind of cool detachment and objectivity in order to survive. Artistic expression in whatever form holds up a lens that allows us to understand the world we're in and how to deal with it effectively. It also allows us to see ourselves, our own mythology, our own sense-making mechanisms for good or ill. It helps us become conscious. Fans of Star Trek in particular and science fiction in general will no doubt recognize some of their own journey through consciousness in the journey of Spock.

And all this took place in the day-to-day grind of series television. If you follow the craft at all, you know that being on a sound stage or a movie set is a long working day, especially if you're in a lot of scenes. William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy were of course, the featured players, but they were working actors, working artists making a living and trying to capture that moment of inspiration in a performance when it seems like God (however one understands the term) manifests in a flash of perfect illumination. Every artist knows that moment, and if you can nail that, you can pat yourself on the back and be in awe because you were present for when it showed up. I'm quite sure Leonard Nimoy knew about that moment.

Artistic expression is about reaching beyond the materiality of logic and order. It's a tool we use to answer the questions that V'Ger was asking after Spock tried to mind-meld with it. "Is this all that I am? Is there nothing more?"

In the 2000s, Nimoy left the acting business and turned to fine art photography, perhaps answering his own question in the way that artists do: by trying something new, exploring a new passion, ever evolving, ever becoming, using a camera to reach beyond the veil. Now he has gone beyond that veil. Certainly we are the better for his having been here, striving in workaday fashion to be present for those flashes of brilliance. I applaud that he was able to turn it into a pretty great living, and in doing so, he was able to leave his distinctive imprint on all of us. On stage and off.

Leonard Nimoy
born March 26, 1931
died February 27, 2015

Rest In Peace

More Later