For the second time in a year, I’ve lost a man who was part of me in the truest possible sense. My father passed away last September. I eulogized him here.
Today, Leonard Nimoy, another man who became part of my very essence, is gone.
“You (humans) find it easier to understand the death of one than the death of a million.” — Spock, “The Immunity Syndrome,” Stardate 4307.1
I’ve struggled today with what to say about Nimoy‘s passing, or if this is even the place to say it. So much has already been said and will be said by so many who knew him better and have voices far more eloquent than mine. Yet I can’t let his passing go without comment, and surely the best way I can remember him is to speak of the many ways he and his character touched me at the very deepest level. With regards to sharing this message in this blog, I never thought when I launched this site a few weeks ago that I’d be writing about a topic like this. But this blog is now my voice and my platform, and much of what I learned from Nimoy‘s Spock applies quite directly to The Domino Principle. We will leave the business lessons for a more appropriate time, and today I’ll just talk about what Nimoy meant to me personally.
“For everything, there is a first time.” — Spock, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
The person I am today has been shaped by what I have learned and absorbed from a host of individuals and characters, both fictional and real. They make up the zeitgeist of who Cliff Kurtzman is, right now, at this very moment. Those of a fictional nature who have who have inspired and influenced me the most include Tony Stark, James Tiberius Kirk, Jean-Luc Picard, Mr. Data, Lazarus Long, and Maxwell Smart. But none make up more of my essence, more of the path I have traveled and the person who I am today, than Leonard Nimoy’s Mr. Spock.
Nimoy was the only principle actor from the original Star Trek series who I never actually had a chance to meet, interview or see speak in person. I’d planned to see him this April in a talk he was scheduled to give at UCLA, and now that will never happen.
Leonard Nimoy was not Spock. Yet he was the man who brought Spock to life. The cultural icon that Spock became, and the meme that “Live Long and Prosper” came to represent, are known across virtually every corner of our planet, as well as an electromagnetic sphere of approximately 49 light years in radius that encompasses the television transmissions of the Star Trek series as they head out into the cosmos.
“I like to believe that there are always… possibilities.” — Spock, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Spock could not have become the “SPOCK” that we knew without Leonard Nimoy. Watching Zachary Quinto play Spock in the latest Star Trek reboot is fun and amusing. Yet watching Quinto always seems as though I’m watching an actor play-acting Nimoy’s “real” Spock, in the same sense that Ben Kingsley played Gandhi and Daneil Day-Lewis played Lincoln. (Ref: 23 Incredible Photos Of Actors Vs. The Historical Figures They Played).
Quinto’s farewell to Nimoy is touching, eloquent and well worth sharing:
Nimoy the man went through phases of dealing with his “Star Trek” legacy and stereotyping very similar to what all the other characters of the original series experienced. Almost without exception, the actors went through a period where they deeply hated being identified with the roles they had performed. Their royalties from Star Trek ran out early on, while the characters they played typecast them and made it difficult for them to find new work. They all went through many hungry years, although at least for a while Nimoy did better than the others at finding new projects.
It was while working on Star Trek that Nimoy became an alcoholic. The moment work was done, he would desperately want a drink; he also became suicidal and depressed. (See him talk about it in this video, starting at 3:10).
“If there are self-made purgatories, then we all have to live in them. Mine can be no worse than someone else’s.” — Spock, “This Side of Paradise,” Stardate 3417.7.
It is truly ironic that the actors themselves took many years longer to understand why Star Trek was greatness in the way so many fans realized so many years earlier. It achieved greatness in a way that is unlike any other television show has ever achieved. The actors had trouble seeing it because they were too close to it, and because they saw it from the point of view of it being produced, and not as we all saw it as a final product. Star Trek was great because it provided an extraordinary vision of what the human race could become, a deep insightfulness into struggles of the human condition, and a spirit of and belief in the day in which we could again boldly explore where no one had gone before. But in time, Nimoy did come to embrace Spock, as did all the other actors with their characters. (Ref: “Nimoy says he was wrong when he said ‘I Am Not Spock’ in the ’70s.“)
“Change is the essential process of all existence.” — Spock, “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield,” Stardate 5730.2.
As for how Spock affected me personally, I would note that I was a rather odd and slow growing child, one who grew up mentally and intellectually long before he physically developed. It would be fair to say I was picked on by those bigger, stronger, and less mature on a frequent basis. From Spock I found a framework for viewing the world in a way that let me cast aside any discomfort from such treatment. I really became quite immune to it. Spock knew that words could only affect us if we chose to let their emotional value bother us, and he showed that we didn’t have to allow that to happen. Spock also showed that, at least to some extent, physical pain was something that could be controlled by one’s willful mind. And most of all, Spock demonstrated that learning and intelligence were something to be treasure, nurtured, and greatly valued.
“Computers make excellent and efficient servants, but I have no wish to serve under them. Captain, a starship also runs on loyalty to one man. And nothing can replace it or him.” — Spock, “The Ultimate Computer,” Stardate 4729.4.
Spock’s attempt to control his “human half” provided a key theme that was core to many of the Star Trek episodes and movies. Spock’s relationship with Jim Kirk, while certainly not of a romantic nature, was clearly one of deep love and respect that transcended Vulcan logic, time and again. And it was Spock’s “cracks in his armor,” leading his emotions to shine through, that became his, and the show’s, most defining moments.
“Logic is the beginning of wisdom, not the end.” — Spock, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
Yet as Nimoy went through an arc over the years that transformed how he viewed Spock, Spock the character over the years went through a similar arc that dealt with and eventually allowed him to embrace his emotions and his human half. And my personal growth has paralleled Spock’s arc quite closely too. I can still find the “old Spock” within me when I need it. It is a safe place where nothing in the world can hurt me. But as time has progressed, I have often come to allow myself to travel my journey on this planet relying more on embracing what is in my heart than is in my head.
“We have here an unusual opportunity to appraise the human mind, or to examine, in Earth terms, the roles of good and evil in a man: his negative side, which you call hostility, lust, violence, and his positive side, which Earth people express as compassion, love, tenderness. And what is it that makes one man an exceptional leader? We see indications that it is his negative side which makes him strong, that his “evil” side, if you will, properly controlled and disciplined, is vital to his strength. Your negative side removed from you, the power of command begins to elude you.” — Spock, “The Enemy Within,” Stardate 1673.1
As I write at the end of my personal profile, after talking about all of my business and personal achievements, “And finally, and most importantly, I believe that nothing in the world is more powerful than true love.” What I achieve in my business life is important. I believe that I have it within me to do good in the world, and I want to use my potential to its fullest to make that happen. But at the end of the day, I can’t think of anyone who ever went to their grave wishing they had worked more hours. It is who I have loved, and how well I have loved them, that is most important. True love is worth believing in, and it worth crying over, and it is far more important than my intellectual achievements. And oddly enough, I learned that from Spock as well.
“I have little to say about it, captain. Except that for the first time in my life, I was happy.” — Spock, “This Side of Paradise,” Stardate 3417.7.
Kirk’s eulogy to Spock in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is well worth remembering:
“We are assembled here today to pay final respects to our honored dead. And yet it should be noted that in the midst of our sorrow, this death takes place in the shadow of new life, the sunrise of a new world; a world that our beloved comrade gave his life to protect and nourish. He did not feel this sacrifice a vain or empty one, and we will not debate his profound wisdom at these proceedings. Of my friend, I can only say this: of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most… human.”
And Nimoy’s final Twitter posting is quite timely indeed:
A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP — Leonard Nimoy (@TheRealNimoy) February 23, 2015
Star Trek taught us that how we face death is at least as important as how we face life. I choose to believe of Nimoy, as Dr. McCoy once spoke of Spock… “He’s really not dead, as long as we remember him.” The impact his life, and the character he defined, had on me and countless others, is incalculable. And it will likely continue to be impactful for generations to come.
As I write these words, the tears flow unashamedly, and freely, down my cheeks.
Goodbye, Leonard Nimoy. And farewell, Mr. Spock. I will learn. And watch the lights in the sky.
Please feel free to share on Facebook and Twitter if this resonated with you. Hugs.