To your own Vulcan self: Be true

“What would Spock think about the ‘husky’ designation?” That’s what I was pondering. I was wondering how the master of logic would justify and make sense of the clearly derogatory way I was feeling about myself.

“Fascinating,” I imagined him saying, and he would raise that patented eyebrow.

Then I looked in the mirror, furrowed my brow, took note of the barely present peach fuzz growing under my nose, and with all the power of a Vulcan mind meld, I imagined that my right eyebrow was being pulled by a thread towards the stars. That one eyebrow was to boldly go where no eyebrow of mine had ever gone before.

And I did it. I raised that eyebrow.

“Fascinating,” I muttered. And then I did it again, and again. It was like a teeny Bar Mitzvah moment. “Today, I am a Vulcan.”

Spock meant that much to me. Spock could be friends with a tough guy like Kirk. Spock was unfazed by McCoy’s insults. Spock tolerated with admirable self-control the romantic advances of nurse Chapel. Spock would, I was certain, be emotionally impervious to the husky section of Macy’s.

“Fascinating,” I said, and again I raised my right eyebrow.

I share the world’s sadness for Leonard Nimoy’s passing. I am grateful that he stuck around so long after he began his “five-year mission.” I feel like a kid every time I hear his voice in the Imax theater at Boston’s Museum of Science. Every time I hear his voice, I am wearing husky jeans but feeling OK about it.

These days I’m still raising one eyebrow on an almost daily basis. I even had a patient’s parent give me Vulcan ears for Christmas a few years ago.

“They’re not because you’re emotionally cold,” she explained.

No, I thought, Spock wasn’t cold.

“They’re because you’re not freaked out by our child. They’re because you’re interested.”

There could be no higher compliment.

Spock’s final frontier wasn’t just a place you could go at Warp 7. Mr. Nimoy’s portrayal of Spock showed us all that Star Trek’s prime directive, the principle that you should never irrevocably interfere with an established culture, applied as much to ourselves as to the planets that the Enterprise visited. He might as well have been quoting Polonius.

To your own Vulcan self, be true.

When Star Trek first aired, being biracial was just barely something anyone talked about. Spock was the ultimate half-breed. Half human, half Vulcan, Spock was forced by his own people to reject assimilation and instead to choose whether he would be human or Vulcan. He couldn’t be both. Tell me Spock’s struggles didn’t resonate with every kid in the ’70s who played football and Dungeons and Dragons. Tell me Spock’s struggles don’t resonate today as we continue to define ourselves.

Like all good fictional characters, Spock’s challenges pose profound and fundamental questions for humanity.What is normal? Do we have to choose how to behave or can we just be who we are? And who are we in the first place?

Spock was all about identity and balance.

Spock would not have road rage.

Spock would keep his cool when his flight was delayed.

Another 10 inches of snow?

He’d raise that eyebrow and ponder the climate.

“Fascinating,” he’d say, and then he’d grab a shovel and clear himself a path.

Steven Schlozman is a psychiatrist.  This article originally appeared in WBUR’s CommonHealth.

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