IT’S THE WAY HE BLOWS my mind. It’s the way he mixes conviction with doubt. It’s his searingly funny prose. It’s his search for Ultimate Relativity. It’s that he taught me some important Latin phrases, like “Cui bono?” and “Non illegitimati carborundum” (look ’em up). It’s how he manages to make everything he writes sound like a personal communication to the reader. It’s the little phrase-gems he drops off-handedly like “reality-tunnel,” “domesticated primates,” or “guerrilla ontology.” It’s his nimble skipping from neuroscience to neuropoetry to neuroanalysis to neuropolitics. (It’s also that “neuro-” is his favorite prefix.) It’s that he introduced me to the spookier side of subatomic physics. It’s his relentless search for understanding. It’s his contagious sense of humor. It’s his public last words (well, blog article).* It’s his kind and generous response to my request for an interview, even though his eyes were bothering him. It’s his bravery born of poker-faced innocence. It’s his scientific insistence on asking the next difficult question. It’s his dislike of the word “is.” It’s that he makes light-but-dense writing look so easy. And it’s that he deeply inspired not only my writing, but also my living.
* Posted on 2007.01.06, five days before his death: “I love you all and I deeply implore you to keep the lasagna flying. Please pardon my levity, I don’t see how to take death seriously. It seems absurd.”