Spock and The Collective Consciousness
In science fiction, Collective Consciousness could be defined as “a state whereby multiple individuals may be linked together telepathically, and share one another’s experiences and memories.” The Wikipedia entry is more grounded in Earthly considerations; “…the set of shared beliefs, ideas and moral attitudes which operate as a unifying force within society.”
If either of these statements is relatable to you, you just might be one of the millions of people truly grieving from the loss of Leonard Nimoy.
I was ten years old in 1981; an impressionable country boy who sponged up pop culture via three tv channels, the rare movie, comic books, and Circus magazine. That was it. My moral compass was guided not by 50's era Americanism or bible school, but by Star Trek, Star Wars, and Moving Pictures by RUSH. Now, when you’re ten, your notions of why are we here? and how should I be? are on full alert, a tingling Spidey-Sense that picks up any and every passing influence. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for worse.
Get enough bourbon in me and it’s not uncommon for me to lapse into sentimentality. If I’m being honest, I don’t even need the bourbon — I only need my Spidey-Sense to tell me that I’m in like-minded company, and I’ll spout things like, “Man, I can’t imagine a world without Gene Simmons or Mr. Spock. Or Hawkeye Pearce. Or Johnny Fever. Or Stephen King.” The focus of the ensuing lecture depends on my mood (and possibly the volume of bourbon).
I know I’m not alone in this. Everybody in my pre-Internet generation has a lengthy and specific cast of characters, musicians and writers who provide the required navigation for surviving humanhood. And together we connect emotionally around the guiding principles we discovered through the characters and stories that we relate to most. The characters we love.
And we LOVE Spock. He taught us so much.
It’s much deeper than the Hipster Nerdism movement we see manifested on hit shows like Big Bang Theory and successful websites like ThinkGeek. It’s WAY deeper than that. Just as surely as June Cleaver, Marion Cunningham and Ma and Pa Ingalls sturdied their family and community foundations with God-fearing ideals, the rest of us are forging our realities with the lessons we learned in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.
Ask me if I had to look that up (of course I didn’t. Bet most of you reading imagined the scene in exquisite, heart-wrenching detail, too).
And long before the Star Trek movie franchise kicked off, we had a series-long view into the duality of human nature; the constant battle between Spock’s human and alien halves, his rational and emotional selves. His character, contrasted with Kirk’s unflappable cowboy swagger, taught all of us (at least those of us who were paying attention) that not everybody has their shit together all the time. Sometimes you have to question your motivations and your relationship to the world around you. Things get complex logically and emotionally. Sometimes you’ll piss people off (see: Spock’s relationship with McCoy). And you might occasionally turn evil and grow a goatee. And that’s okay. You can still come off as a badass when you need to, and once in a while you’ll still get the girl.
That’s right. Spock taught us that.
And nobody, nobody, nobody could have delivered on the promise and legacy of Spock’s character better than Leonard Nimoy. What a gift to us all. His portrayal was so vital and generous that we can’t imagine a world without him — and so most of us are accepting of Zachary Quinto’s new Spock, because to not accept him would go against the grain of everything Nimoy’s character came to represent. The fact that Nimoy and Quinto became fast friends didn’t hurt.
But it will always be Nimoy’s Spock that I’ll carry in my heart as I raise my kids, create my art, navigate my career, and — more or less — boldly go where I haven’t yet been. And I know I’m not the only one. He’s part of the Collective, now. The Cosmic Ballet will go on.