Friday, February 27, 2015

Intellect and Spock

Leonard Nimoy wasn’t Spock, though I gather from the title of the second autobiography that he got used to the idea of the association after a while. We had a record of him singing and reciting (oddly enough the things I recall don’t match the Wikipedia discography listings). I intensely disliked the Bilbo Baggins ballad, which at the time seemed almost shameful.

Spock was our icon of unemotional rationality, who followed the facts wherever they led and was perfectly willing to admit ignorance. Unemotional intelligence in the form of giant brains were all over science fiction—not the only theme by any means, but very common, and almost always it represented a higher form of existence. The highest life forms were to be bodiless pure minds. Sometimes they were villains and David had to beat Goliath, but even there you found the equation unemotional = powerful.

The theme isn’t limited to science fiction. When was the last time you heard the phrase "knowledge-based economy?" Notice the implicit assumption that only intellectual work should matter? How Greek! Of course we’re more benign than the Greeks, in that we assume the grubby work will be done by machines instead of slaves, but the useless idleness envisioned for hoi polloi isn’t a gift.

I think I get what Nimoy was driving at now. I know I’ve (eventually) learned better--intelligence is good, but not the only value.

Intelligence is a kind of wealth, and that needle’s eye is a bit of a squeeze. One day we return the talents and deliver an account. Other things matter more then--the widow's mite weighs more than a bag of silver.

Rest in peace Leonard Nimoy, and may the Lord receive you. You were not Spock, and neither (despite youthful aspiration) was I. I think I'll listen to that ballad tomorrow.

Update: Sunday, actually. The version on the LP didn't have the backup singers...

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