It was 1969. I was seven years old and watching the television show Star Trek for the first time. I felt as if my world had changed; the creature named Spock who was always so calm and intelligent enthralled me. I didn’t realize it at the time, but as I matured, the relationship between Captain Kirk (full human) and Spock (half human, half Vulcan) influenced the way I defined myself. Now I consciously endeavor to be more “Spock-like.”
Spock exemplified the beautiful balance between feeling and thinking. He demonstrated astounding self-mastery, and in Bowen terms, he would be considered extremely well differentiated. Once I began studying Bowen Family Systems Theory, I discovered that this science fiction masterpiece was an exceptional representation of the theory itself.
The dynamic between Kirk and Spock was always one in which Kirk acted more emotionally and instinctually while Spock behaved logically and rationally. Yet Spock’s cool self-mastery didn’t mean that he lacked emotional bandwidth. As Sarek, Spock’s father, said in the movie Star Trek (2009): “Emotions run deep within our race, in many ways more deeply than in humans. Logic offers a serenity humans seldom experience: the control of feelings, so that they do not control you.” To me, this sounds likes top-down thinking, a distinctive feature of a better, more differentiated human being.
The arts, regardless of medium, are humanity’s method for understanding itself. Whether sculpture or literature, music or movies, art attempts to explain, understand or represent the human condition. Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek’s creator, had the uncanny ability to create a storyline that parallels our struggle to master our nature and to differentiate.
On February 27, 2015, Leonard Nimoy, known to most people as Spock, died. I admit, I cried, hard. Spock was the character that made it okay for me to be smart and nerdy while redeeming the inaccurate accusation of being cold and heartless. He also made it okay to feel deeply for the people he loved while standing by your principles and being flexible when necessary. He made being an outsider cool.
I thank Leonard Nimoy for making my life more enjoyable, for teaching me so much about being human, and for lending me a valuable metaphor for the theory that I use to improve the lives of the families I serve. Leonard Nimoy, live long and prosper.