Sunday, March 1, 2015

What I learned from Leonard Nimoy.

Leonard Nimoy, one of the world's most identifiable actors, passed away on Friday, February 27, 2015 at age 83. I attended a lecture that Mr. Nimoy presented at my college during my undergrad years. This was during the early 1970s. What I remember most from that lecture was how determined Nimoy seemed to distance himself from his role as Spock. After the presentation and during the Q&A, he voiced frustration with the crowd, because most of the questions centered on the Spock character.

When one of the audience members pressed him about being Spock, he accused her of being a Klingon. We got a good laugh at that, except I don't believe he was trying to be funny. I believe he had meant it as a pejorative.

It was clear to me that the man wanted to be taken seriously as Leonard Nimoy and not as Mr. Spock. He also wanted to be recognized for his many other achievements as an actor, director, and writer. I understand this. Don't all of us want to be taken seriously for who we are?

It didn't surprise me to read in a Leonard Nimoy Obituary published by, "In the years immediately after "Star Trek" left television, Nimoy tried to shun the role..."

Nimoy's portrayal of Spock was so iconic that I will forever associate him with that character. Apparently, so does the rest of the world as revealed in these words from the obit, "Although Leonard Nimoy followed his 1966-69 "Star Trek" run with a notable career as both an actor and director, in the public's mind he would always be Spock."

In time, Nimoy accepted his association with Spock and grew to embrace it. Another quote from the obit:

"Of course the role changed my career— or rather, gave me one. It made me wealthy by most standards and opened up vast opportunities. It also affected me personally, socially, psychologically, emotionally. ... What started out as a welcome job to a hungry actor has become a constant and ongoing influence in my thinking and lifestyle."

Whenever someone passes, it provides us all an opportunity to reflect on that person's life and learn from it. Given the Nimoy/Spock duality that dogged this man to the end, we come to realize that everything we do and say impacts how people perceive us. Nimoy could not escape the perception people had of him as Spock. In my opinion, that association was a positive one. As he acknowledged in the above quote, it served him well.

Very few of us achieve the popularity of a man like Leonard Nimoy or his beloved character, Mr. Spock, yet all of us are perceived as a persona of our own making among the circle of humanity we touch.

How are you perceived?

A sobering thought with an implied warning. Beware of what you do and say. It may become forever associated with you.

Live Long and Prosper.

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