He may value logic over feelings, but when Spock speaks, we feel it in our hearts.
There’s no denying the lasting legacy of Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015). Though Spock’s farewell words are his most iconic, Nimoy offered the world far more than a neat hand gesture over the years he portrayed the beloved Star Trek character. So in honor of Nimoy’s birthday on March 26, here are some of the best lessons from Spock we can all use to live long and — well, you know.
1. When he’s the picture of graceful defeat but also manages to get in this sick burn.
Episode: “Amok Time”
When the woman he’s betrothed to resists the union, Spock relinquishes his right to marry her, allowing her to be with the man she truly wants. Before he leaves, he cautions her would-be partner, Stonn, “After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasing a thing, after all, as wanting.” Advice worth remembering — getting something we want and then being disappointed “is not logical,” as Spock would say, “but it is often true.”
2. When he realizes Kirk’s alive and briefly forgets about being a serious Vulcan.
Episode: “Amok Time”
When a distraught Spock, believing he’s killed Kirk in battle, finds the captain alive, he actually smiles. He later insists his pleasure at finding Kirk alive was logical, based on the fact that the Enterprise needs her captain. But the joy on his face when he first sees Kirk tells a different story and reminds us to sometimes put away stoicism in favor of genuine — dare I say — emotion.
3. When he sacrifices himself for his ship and his friends.
Film: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
One of the most iconic moments in all of Trek is, of course, the finale of Khan, when Spock saves the Enterprise at the cost of his own life. In addition to a bunch of tears, this scene offers Spock’s most quoted words of wisdom: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few,” proving forever that true greatness requires consideration of others.
4. When he’s so loyal to Kirk that even a stranger from another time notices.
Episode: “City on the Edge of Forever”
When Spock and Kirk get stranded in the past, they meet Edith Keeler, who can tell right away they’re out of place. When Spock asks her where she thinks they belong, she tells him, “You? At his side, as if you’ve always been there and always will.” She didn’t have to know the two men or their situation at all to see that Spock is always on Kirk’s team.
5. When he explains that all things end and that the universe requires faith.
Film: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
Valeris, nervous about the upcoming peace treaty with the Klingons, asks Spock “as a kindred intellect” if he recognizes that the Federation is at a “turning point.” Without missing a beat, Spock tells her that history is full of turning points. “You must have faith,” he says, “that the universe will unfold as it should.” Even he sees that logic doesn’t always cut it and sometimes optimism and hope are just as important as reason.
6. When he volunteers to donate blood for his father no matter the risk to himself.
Episode: “Journey to Babel”
Vulcans aren’t exactly known for being, umm, warm and cuddly. And Spock’s relationship with his father, Sarek, has always been a tumultuous one. But none of that stops Spock from offering to partake in a dangerous procedure to save Sarek’s life — and neither does he hesitate when he learns the risks. “I consider the safety factor low but acceptable,” he says, a comment as brave as it is subtle.
7. When he admits he might’ve made a mistake…
Episode: “The Galileo Seven”
When the crew find themselves in danger aboard a failing shuttle, Scotty throws Spock’s words back at him — that there are “always alternatives” to a bad situation — but now Spock is uncertain of that logic. “I may have been mistaken,” he says, which allows McCoy to joke, “At least I lived long enough to hear that.” Sometimes what’s logical in one moment isn’t in the next.
8. But then refuses to let go of his commitment to logic.
Episode: “The Galileo Seven”
When Spock jettisons the fuel on the stranded shuttle, hoping to get the Enterprise’s attention with the explosion, Kirk tries to make him see that the decision wasn’t made logically. (After all, if it hadn’t worked, he wouldn’t have had fuel to land.) Spock denies it, prompting Kirk to ask, “You’re not going to admit that for the first time in your life you committed a purely human, emotional act?” When Spock says no, Kirk calls him a stubborn man, to which Spock simply replies, “Yes, sir.” You see, it’s important to know when to own a mistake and when to double down on your convictions — and Spock taught us how to do both in the same episode.
9. When he jams with space hippies.
Episode: “The Way to Eden”
When the Enterprise intercepts a group of thieving space hippies who reject modern technology, surprisingly Spock senses something in the hippies he connects with. He tells Kirk, “They regard themselves as aliens in their own worlds, a condition with which I am somewhat familiar.” He manages to show compassion for the thieves when even Kirk can’t, and helps them even though he believes their logic to be flawed. There’s a lot to learn from Spock in this episode — not least being that even a Vulcan needs to play some music and let loose now and then.
10. When he recognizes it takes more than logic to live.
Episode: “The Return of the Archons”
You might assume a society ruled by the logic of a computer would be Spock’s ideal version of civilization, but you’d be surprised. When he and Kirk face off against Landru, a supercomputer controlling an entire planet, Spock sees there’s something missing in this civilization: “Creativity is necessary for the health of the body,” he says, and although in this case he’s talking about the capital-B Body of Landru’s followers, I bet he’d agree that, logically, the same sentiment can be applied to an individual body, too. We all need creativity to thrive.
11. When he reminds Picard, and us, that immense change starts small.
Episode: “Unification II”
Perhaps Spock’s best words to live by originate in The Next Generation, where Spock (now an ambassador) arrives to arrange peace between the Vulcans and Romulans. Picard is wary of the venture, but Spock says, “We can either choose to live with that enmity or seek an opportunity to change it. I choose the latter.” That sentence alone is already cheer-worthy, but it gets better. Picard says he doesn’t know if that will be enough to change the political landscape. Spock, gesturing to an orchid recently brought to their table, says, “One can begin to reshape the landscape with a single flower, Captain.” Put it on a motivational poster, kids. That’s powerful stuff!