The Passing of the Most Human: Tribute to Leonard Nimoy
“A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP”
The death of Leonard Nimoy did not go unnoticed, as any even passing perusal of social media would have noted Friday and through the weekend. The above quote, his last tweet, could not be surpassed in encapsulating his life, were thousands more words added on. Like any memory, what Nimoy achieved says as much about those he touched as the man who lived.
Star Trek, both in television and in film, has in its many forms, sparked the imagination and wonder of countless people. That flame lit so many fires of the human spirit with the pursuit of an unabashed narrative of scientific discovery and the hopeful future of a humanity dedicated to peaceful exploration. Any violence, certainly at times heavy-handed, seemed always to remind us that the search for truth and the awe of discovery is always tempered by the acknowledged destruction of preconceived notions, not least of which concern ourselves as individuals and a species.
Nimoy, playing the beloved character of ‘Spock,’ half-human and half-vulcan, portrayed the humanity we all struggle with. The difficulty of his vulcan, logical side, attempting to get past his human, emotional side. was increased by the sheer magnitude of the difference. The purity of his logical training made the emotional like unto a willful child screaming in the midst of a presentation on quantum mechanics. Ironically, nowhere was this struggle more evident than in those who called him friend and shipmate. The perpetual and at times silly desire of Spock’s human compatriots to get him to express his feelings juxtaposed brilliantly with their ever-present need to seek him for analysis and information to make better decisions and understand perplexing situations.
In this, the quality of Nimoy as a person blazed beautifully. His aloofness in analysis displayed the brilliance we can all pursue, even as the ferocity of his emotional states reminded us of the passions that are always within. Nimoy, through Spock, and in his own life, attempted always to display the best of our shared humanity.
Growing up in the Hebrew faith, Nimoy has told the story that as a child he was at synagogue with his parents and there came a time when the priests or Kohanim, were to bless the congregation. The blessing is commonly heard as “May the Lord bless you and keep you; may the Lord cause his countenance to fall upon you..”, but the congregation is not to look when this is being done. The precocious Leonard at one time decided to peek and witnessed the symbol the priesthood made with their hands, two hands touching at outer finger tips, with fingers split apart at the middle. The iconic Vulcan greeting, created by Nimoy himself, is half this symbol.
The Kohanim symbol is similar to the Hebrew letter ‘shin,’ which is the first letter in the name Shaddai, the name given for the Almighty or God. This is why the congregation was to look away, for the name of God is sacred and not to be despoiled by man. By making such a symbol a public greeting, I cannot help but ponder the significance. Here is a sacred, to be kept hidden, symbol being used as an acknowledgment of the connection shared in public communion. When returned, the two split-fingered sign creates the whole of the original symbol, in essence each greeting being a public awareness of the shared god between them.
That unity, our shared humanity and struggle with our nature, finds solace and purpose in the community of interconnected beings greeting one another, regardless of the length of time such a connection may exist. Whatever the term “god” may mean for some, the communal reality of a shared existence, pregnant with struggle and meaning, gives birth to the only form of transcendence we may ever know.
Leonard Nimoy has passed, but his memory lives on. The garden of his life continues to grow with every struggle of logic and emotion leading to a greater embrace of our humanity and in every greeting where we acknowledge the shared divinity of our lives. To live long and prosper need not end at death, it certainly hasn’t for Spock.
© David Teachout