In “Over There, Part II”, the second season finale of the cult-classic J.J. Abrams series “Fringe,” our heroes, led by Walter Bishop (John Noble), are trapped in an alternate world, far from home, low on power and short on time. His old colleague, closest friend and occasional adversary William Bell (Leonard Nimoy), his own atoms wildly transformed through years of bizarre scientific experiments, offers to provide the nuclear power they need to get them home — at the cost of his own life. Walter tries hard not to understand, but “Belly” explains it in no uncertain terms. “You taught me there are as many atoms in the human body as there are stars in the sky,” he explains. “That’s how many atom bombs I am.”
In a way, the statement was literal, and Belly was able to get Walter and his team back to their universe. But in another, more real-world way, it wasn’t a fictional character speaking, but Leonard Nimoy himself. As an actor, soldier, musician, activist, author, director and photographer, he’d become more than a cult figure or an icon; he’d become a legitimate force for good in the world and, what’s more, an inspiration. Of course, his work as Spock in “Stark Trek” — a role he played on and off from 1966 to 2013 in various TV shows and feature films — was legendary. But there was so much more to the man than that.
How many men and women were inspired to become scientists? The number is astronomically high, with no real way to figure out the exact amount, but think of it this way: The next time an astronaut or chief figure at NASA mentions how they and their colleagues love “Stark Trek,” add a probable few dozen to that list.
In the late ’60s, Nimoy struggled with alcoholism, eventually conquering the disease and speaking of it publicly — and critically. His strength and openness no doubt inspired others to take their lives back. Again, how many lives were saved? We’ll never know.
In 1968, a young biracial fan wrote Nimoy a fan letter, concerned she’d never have any friends because she felt like she didn’t fit in anywhere and thought, due to his portrayal of the half-human Spock, that he’d understand. His intelligent, loving reply was a tear-jerker, wherein he spoke of making oneself so important to the world around them that they become indispensable, even in the face of bigotry. What may that have done for that one child? For the world around that child? For the lives that child touched as the child grew to adulthood? The societal butterfly effect goes on forever. This was nowhere near the first fan letter of the sort Nimoy received, nor would it be the last.
His 2007 photography book “The Full Body Project” pushed for body acceptance long before the current trend towards the same. Nimoy photographed what some would call “plus-size” women in their natural state (that is, sans clothes). The result was an empowering — and masterful — black-and-white collection. If this project improved the lives of any of his models, and consequently of anyone in their lives, or the lives of any of the people who purchased his book, well, then he’d succeeded again.
These are just a few shining examples of Nimoy’s essential contributions to the world as a whole.
So look around you. Take full stock of all of the people in this world who have been touched or empowered by the work of Leonard Nimoy. Look at the amazing things he’s done for the world. Look at the lives he changed and the fires he lit.
That is how many atom bombs he was.
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