A Lesson from the Life of Nimoy

“Knowing he is no longer around makes things feel a little… less”
That was part of my initial reaction to the passing of Leonard Nimoy, a memory catalogued for posterity since such moments are, as mine was, shared on Facebook. It was a strange thought in a way. I didn’t know the man, beyond the public view of him. Spock, “Three Men and a Baby”, his autobiographies, even his photography (was not as familiar with his musical work, save having once heard “The Legend of Bilbo Baggins”. There have been people who I’ve seen on a near daily basis who have passed, and I didn’t have the same reaction. So, what gives?
I think a big part of it is found in stories people have shared in the past day. One, such as the one about when Nimoy was told that Nichelle Nichols was being paid less than other supporting actors, he used his weight as a lead to get her more money; others of casual interactions with people when he was open and friendly and interested and a genuinely kind fellow. And if you look at the quotes attributed to him, there is one conclusion – he was a genuinely nice guy.
And that seems like something that comes in shorter and shorter supply – genuinely nice people. They are out there, either famous or obscure. But it isn’t something we seem to care about anymore.
Now, there certainly was never that idealized time in America where everyone tipped their hat at passing strangers, all men walked on the street-side next to a woman to take the hit should there be a splash, where people would stop what they were doing to help someone else out just… because. Because it is the right thing to do. There were always bastards among us.
But now, it feels a bit different. In America, many like the idea of objectivism, that selfishness isn’t just alright, it is the better path (the fact that many public figures who speak kindly of objectivism also wear their religion on their sleeve, one of the greatest humor-by-irony cases one will witness). Capitalism isn’t just an economic system, it is treated as a religion, and those who might suggest something considered a hair less capitalistic are deemed heretics.
We live in the era of Kim Kardasian, someone who starts out with access to millions, gets slightly famous for being friends with a more famous person, really blows up on her own due to a sex tape, and parlays that into even more millions. “When someone asks me, ‘What do you do?’ under my breath I want to say, ‘Ask my f*cking bank account what I do.’” That sums up her attitude – I have money, it doesn’t matter how I get it. The money is the end, the means are secondary.
But it isn’t just her, because one thing she’s been able to do is parlay her fame into millions of fans, a cadre of people who look to her and her life as an example of how to live. Who buy into the story that the ends justify the means, as long as the end is cash. Though perhaps it comes off as a little unfair to specifically target KK on this; as I said, she isn’t the first one to do as she does, and for those following many Wall Street leaders during the collapse a few years ago, the notion of making-a-profit-justifies-everything isn’t exclusive to reality stars.
But it just seems like a stark contrast to the feeling of losing Nimoy. Because he was an example of a person who put out to other people with faith that it would come back to him. It is an attitude that seems to be becoming rarer and rarer. But it is one I want to hold on to, a standard I hope to wave until the end.

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