Mr. Spock’s Strange Path—And Mine


When I woke up to Leonard Nimoy, Spock, Vulcan, Wrath of Khan, and #StarTrek trending on Twitter, I knew what had happened. Now there is a sentence that would have made no sense in those years when Spock was so important to me. Leonard Nimoy was, of course, so much more than the man who brought Spock to life, but it was that character who mattered most to me.


You hear a lot of people my age and older say that. When Dax talked about Spock looking so much more attractive, she spoke for many of us nerdy young women:


Dax: I had no idea.
Sisko: What?
Dax: He’s so much more handsome in person. Those eyes!
Sisko: Kirk had quite the reputation as a ladies’ man.
Dax: Not him. Spock.


We loved Spock because we identified with him—we understood him, sort of—and also for the same reason so many of us would develop crushes on our professors: we wanted to be him.


Spock was part of two, conflicting worlds—human and Vulcan, emotional and logical—but belonged to neither. He was, also, an alien among aliens. These aspects of Spock’s character mattered to me, as they mattered to many of us. I grew up attending an all-day gifted program that kept me apart from the kids in my neighborhood (except at recess and on the bus), and I never quite belonged with either set of kids. I acted weird, even by our geeky standards, and most of my classmates belonged to a much higher socioeconomic class. But I don’t want to rehearse my history of misfithood in great detail here.


Strangeness and intelligence helped me identify with Spock, but they were not the reasons I wanted to be him. Spock, again and again, chose an unusual path. He honed his sense of logic and justice, and he trusted that sense enough to follow its dictates even when it led to choices those around him saw as flawed—overly logical, or else illogical. He joined Starfleet instead of attending the Vulcan Science Academy. He saved the Enterprise at the cost of his own life:



He stood with his accused shipmates at the end of Star Trek IV. In later years he worked, mostly in secret, for Romulan-Vulcan reunification.


At least in part because of Spock, I grew up believing in the value of following an unusual path. I may not have all of space to play that out on, but I do have this globe. I had grades that could have gotten me into just about any university, and I chose to do my undergraduate work at The Evergreen State College because I saw it as a place where learning for learning’s sake was valued. I went to another hippie school for my MFA and did my PhD in another country. I have taught and explored, and written and read, without anything resembling a normal career trajectory. As for normal relationships? My boyfriend is three cats. (Maybe I’m closer to Data, in that respect.)


It would be illogical to pretend that I can predict where I will be in five or ten years, and it would be equally illogical to listen to those who would tell me that I am doing my life wrong. I have lived up to my love for Spock and will continue to do so, even though the actor who gave him body and breath is gone.






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