Manly Man #8
Spock Star Trek Amazing Grace
"The needs of the few."
"Or the one. I never took the Kobiyashi Maru test until now. What do you think of my solution?"
"I have been and always shall be your friend. Live long...and prosper."
When Spock died, I did not cry. I was aware, from a logical standpoint, that it was genuinely as sad as fictional deaths come and that the execution was perfect enough that it deserved its fixture in popular culture. The continuing friendship of Kirk and Spock was friendship of the ages. It was the stuff of legends. Many times, they had even mourned their own presumed deaths before they proved to be alive by the end of the episode. Yet, as he entered the radiation chamber, it was clear that this time the death was for real. He would not come back at the end of the episode. The next movie? Maybe. But taken on its own, The Wrath of Khan dealt with the death of someone who was seemingly beyond death very sincerely. Spock was one of those people whose death was tragic because it was impossible to imagine life without him, as the writing for later movies proved.
All the while, I contained my emotions and didn't feel sad myself. Then Kirk gives his eulogy. Scotty played "Amazing Grace". I had to sing that song at the funeral of a loved one once, someone who I still miss. I almost - almost - cried. My sister, lying on the floor and scooted up right next to the television set, was less stoic.
Wrath of Khan is his defining moment, but it's best to stress that this is truly saying something, considering that there are many amazing stories featuring him which are also great and worthy of mention. It's hard to know where to start, and I was tempted to cite a less known example of Spock's amazing human soul shining through. Almost every episode with Spock in it is worth a million words in commentary, and in recognition of this vast body of work which has bravely explored the implications of a character who still has yet to be fully mapped out, and whose relevance continues to this day, Mr. Spock merits a spot on this list.
Who is Spock? From day one, Star Trek has journeyed to the stars to answer that question. After all this time, after having travelled to the edge of the galaxy and goatee-clad alternative dimensions, the answer wasn't found in the places they visited. It was found only upon coming home after that long journey. Spock is many things, but at his core, he is human.
He defines the science fiction genre, which at its core asks what it means to be human, what it means to have a soul. Spock mebodied humanity in ways that many humans have failed to do, percisely because of his distance from it. He has been able to look at himself objectively and attain a full self-knowledge. He rarely had to ask who he was, because he knew his decisions, and he was who he had decided to be.
Spock has done us the profound favor of asking us questions we secretly want to be asked. Sometimes, when we're like the Qohelet of Ecclesiastes and disturbed by how some of our intuitive answers to life don't add up, he's objective enough to pursue those questions. For example, why is it that we act the way we do? Why do we bother with emotion? It unfairly biases our ethics, but then, does not ethics presuppose that there is a desirable and pleasing outcome, and is it not our very emotions that are necessary in order to determine an ultimate "good" from an ultimate "evil"? Yet, Spock is rarely emotional, so how can there be any preferred good in such a case as his? In the end, who knows if our actions have any meaning? Logic dictates that we have nothing better to do than to do what is right, and to pursue the right wisely.
The brilliance of the character is that he is still half human. Underneath it all, he's just like you and me. He chooses not to feel emotions so as not to cloud his judgment, but he does this precisely because he cares. When Wrath of Khan came about, it proved where his heart ultimately lay, even though it hardly needed proving. His heart was with his friends, who he would give his life to protect without any hesitation. There's that verse that begins with the words "Greater love hath no man..."
Which makes Spock an exceptional man. Because at the end of the day, our decisions show us where our hearts truly lie. He has his own style, but that's not what defines him. What defines him was that he acts on what is right, and at his core he is a moral being. Spock is many things, but above all he is a true friend, one whose friendship is the stuff of legends. And being selfless like that makes for a true man.
Live long and prosper.