I do not have a single Spock moment—an image or narrative that stays with me. Unlike those who know how to write about TV and movies, I cannot recall a single episode, at least not by name. When I was younger, when I first encountered Spock in Nairobi, in reruns from the 80s, I encountered him as gesture: as the arched eyebrow, as the grip that caused others to faint, as the Vulcan mind meld.
Spock became muscle memory. From him, I learned how to arch my eyebrow. I stood in front of the mirror and practiced, and so incorporated it, that, these days, my eyebrow arches involuntarily. While Spock’s was deliberate, measured, directed, mine moves erratically, wildly, telling too much, revealing too much.
The Vulcan mind meld—that fantasy of intersubjectivity that is more than psychic—shaped my imagination of intimacy, as possibility and violation. It provided me with a critical language. In graduate school, when I encountered Habermas’s communicative action, I described it as an impossible Vulcan mind meld. (Perhaps some clever Habermasian has written about Habermas as a Vulcan?)
If my young self encountered Spock as a repository of gestures from which I could learn, an older self encountered Spock as alien: as the child of two worlds, as the stranger trying to figure out how to honor heritages that were often at odds. Fragmented memories of Spock undergoing biological imperatives—of Spock contending with passionate Vulcan impulses. Spock not as the absence of passion, but as the management of passion.
I don’t yet know how to remember Spock—how does one remember muscle memory? How does one find a way to honor the body that gave one gesture, possibility, character?
I have yet to mention Leonard Nimoy, who reached across time—from the 60s to the 80s—and across space—from the U.S. to Nairobi—to give me vocabularies and gestures I did not know I needed.