The Unknown Country

Nimoy Simpson, beaming out

I’m over 2 months late in doing so, but I want to eulogize Leonard Nimoy. Yet I don’t feel like I have an expansive enough familiarity with his totality beyond Spock, of course, and those handful of other roles in which I’ve seen him. It feels selfish that as important as Spock may have been to culture we should remember him primarily for that. His life in entertainment is merely the tip of the iceberg of an extraordinarily rich existence. So while I’m sad that existence has come to an end, I am more in awe that it existed at all.

Leonard Nimoy was a mensch. I don’t think there’s a wide familiarity with the meaning of that word outside of Jewish culture, save perhaps as simply “a good guy.” Of course Leonard Nimoy was a good guy. But a mensch is a good guy who recognizes a situation in which he believes he may be of help and does it with little to no hesitation. He has empathy which could be maddening for a weaker person. He got Nichelle Nichols equal pay on Star Trek. He used his public persona to offer wisdom where he saw it was needed. He celebrated dignified women who didn’t conform to reinforced ideas of what is beautiful. He never stopped growing as a person and never thought of himself as too good for his circumstances. He was William Shatner’s AA sponsor, fer crissakes.

I have a lot of fear about mortality. That’s not a particularly unusual fear. Not just my own demise: I’m honestly terrified of the day my dad will die. (For the record, he’s nearly 75 and in excellent shape as such, but really, it wouldn’t be unheard of for something to come out of nowhere and lay him low. At the same time, he’s outlived both his father and grandfather by 17 years and his mother lived into her nineties.) But it’s from a constant sensation that there is never enough time. And there isn’t: However much we get, we could always ask for more. But there is: Because however much we get, it was all always ours.

There are no truly “wasted” lives, even when a life was abbreviated. It was what it was while it was. And lives consumed by baser emotions are to be pitied, but even those have value, a practical application of the philosophy of Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. Celebrity and history certainly can confirm certain quantifiable attributes brought to the table, though the details tend to distort & fade if they ever were accurate; notoriety is only so much immortality. Life is for living while you’re doing so; any impact a life might have is inevitable, impermeable and ultimately irrelevant on either side of its temporal boundaries.

A warbly tape recording of Billy Corgan on one of The Smashing Pumpkins’ albums emotes, “I’m afraid to die but I’m more afraid to live.” They are yin & yang: Death may mean oblivion, but it’s meaning in Life that throws that desolation into such sharp relief. I may have gone into creative stagnification in my 20s and 30s because I was too afraid to make my life mean something to then eventually lose it all. The dual truths are that I can never lose my life, as it was and is forever mine, but also that it’s never been anything but a lease, not to own.

So Leonard has gone where all men have gone before. A mensch does not worry about whether or not he gets another chance to do what he could have; he can so he does. Anyone who’d like to preach about an ├╝bermensch needs to acknowledge the redundancy in the prefix. That’s Vulcan logic for you suckaz.

And lest we not say it for a more recent loss: R.I.P., Grace Lee Whitney.