…because some thoughts are worth remembering
My dorm mate in high school once called me Spock when I told her I couldn’t join her for one thing or another, because I had to study. I wasn’t offended by it, nor was I pleased. If anything I was intrigued. The truth is, as geeky as I seemed to other people—my love of physics, attending every class with a thick English-Japanese dictionary that was falling apart—I hadn’t seen an episode of Star Trek, the original series or otherwise. Now thinking back on it, it may have been my dark hair with bangs, or that my eyes were skinny like Spock’s. In any case, I understood at the time that it was meant to be a tongue and cheek expression which probably spoke more about her than about me: half resentment that I wasn’t joining her, and half confusion masked in humor, that a fellow teenager would choose to take school so seriously.
I was quite serious. I come from a culture where hard work is praised from a young age, and academic excellence a goal of every parent for their kids. My parents allowed me to leave Japan to study abroad right before my 12th birthday. Even then, I knew how much of a financial burden it must have been to pay for both private school tuition and for room and board. It was hard, adjusting to a new culture, mastering English, and then eventually feeling like I didn’t quite belong in Japan or Canada. The observations I had didn’t seem to be shared by other students who experienced the same curriculum and activities. None of that mattered. I wasn’t going to be just an OK student: I could have done that without leaving the comforts of home. I was going to make the most of it, while I learned to listen to my inner voice and understand the changes I was experiencing within myself.
The name caught on. Among the other nicknames I had, Spock would make it into the mix. They would get into it, developing a certain cadence to the word by really opening up the “o” before they landed on the “ck”: “You can’t come? OK, Sp-o-ckkk”, they would say. “Yeah, yeah,” I would happily wave them on and go back to my books.
My then boyfriend (now, husband) introduced me to Star Trek in college. I now know the role Spock played to be the sound of reason to Captain Kirk’s passion. Spock spread the message of peace and understanding. When he did have to fight, there was no lavish display of physical prowess, but a simple pinch to render the enemy powerless. He famously sacrificed his life because “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one”. He practiced the power of logic and remained curious about humanity and emotion, even if these concepts troubled him. He struggled to find his identity between the two cultures of his parents. Most of all, he was a loyal friend.
With all the tribute to Leonard Nimoy, who developed Spock as a full-fledged complex character, I now realize both the actor and the character served as a role model not just to me but to so many of us, spanning generations, ethnicity, and gender. Long Live and Prosper, Mr. Nimoy. May our reaction to anything we don’t understand, be “fascinating” rather than fear.