In 10th grade, on the first day of school, my home room teacher introduced himself and floated an idea for a club that he thought would be fun to start, a Star Trek Club.
Now, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I would not have considered myself a Trekkie or Trekker at the time. Of course I knew about Star Trek. I watched The Next Generation pretty regularly. I played Star Trek-based role-playing and board games. I knew the references, and I generally liked them. But I wasn’t steeped in the culture. I was more of a Star Wars kid, but without a VCR or cable or the expanded universe books, the franchise was in a state of dormancy. I’d also discovered anime, mainly Robotech, but other titles that a friend had introduced me to. I was most definitely part of the target audience for Star Trek, but I was really not a hard-core fan.
So, naturally, I joined the club. And was elected captain. And introduced the club to the school at an assembly. And served for three terms before being term-limited and promoted to commodore.
In entering the world of Star Trek I discovered a vision of a future where humanity had made it. We’d made it out of the cold war and boldly ventured out to the stars on the wings of science and dreams. And yet, we had still maintained our humanity. The bridge of the Enterprise was a revolutionary collection of heroes for the day. You had a Russian serving with an American. You had an asian man and a black woman and of course Doctor McCoy. You had a 23rd century engineer who maintained his identity as a Scotsman. It was a picture of diversity before its time.
And there was Spock. Spock was the emotional center of the show. Half human and half vulcan, his story and his relationship with his shipmates, his struggle between his vulcan commitment to logic and reason and his passionate humanity was the story of humanity progressing into an age of science. Spock was the meeting of heart and mind that made Star Trek stand out and last.
After all, if we explore the wonders of nature, whether on Earth of among the stars, well, we need science to understand what we encounter and survive said encounters. We need our minds. But we also need our hearts. What profit is there for us as a species if we only see the world through the cold objective lens of science at the expense of the awe and wonder. Yes, we need to be able to analyze the gases that make up Jupiter or the asteroids that make up Saturn’s rings, but we also need to be awed by their beauty, their wonder. We can’t carry our minds into space while leaving our hearts on Earth. We need both.
To me, that’s what Spock represented, and Leonard Nimoy brought him to life for nearly half a century. He defined the conflicts in Spock’s personality, making the Vulcan one of science fiction’s most beloved characters.
It’s no longer news that the world lost Leonard Nimoy today. Tributes from his friends, fans and colleagues have been criss-crossing the internet all day. As for me, I think I’m going to remember a man who brought to life, in Spock a character that captured that perfect balance of head and heart that allowed Star Trek to have the inspirational impact that it did.
Space is not the final frontier. The future is, but to boldly venture into that future, to explore that frontier, it will take that uniquely human marriage of head and heart that Nimoy brought to life in Spock.
As we mourn Leonard Nimoy, we can thank him for bringing to life a character that shows us those qualities that we need to employ in our future if we want humanity to live long and prosper.