Monday, September 22, 2014
This weekend I was saddened to learn, belatedly, that Burgess Laughlin passed away at
the end of August. I knew Mr. Laughlin only through some of his
writings and the comments he left here from time to time. Nevertheless, it was clear to me
that he was a thoughtful, independent, and benevolent man. He took ideas
seriously, all the way from being sure to understand them properly, through to applying
them to his own life. This latter included helping others -- including me on more
than one occasion -- see the truth for ourselves. One of the best examples of this that I know of can be found in his blog posting on "The Third Greatest Sacrifice?", which reads, in part:
I asked him why he was unhappy. "Because," he said, "what I most want in life is to do something creative, like writing novels."Although I did not know Mr. Laughlin personally, I found it reassuring just to know that he was out there, fighting the good fight -- or, as he put it so well, "making progress". And, although he is gone, he has left the world a better place for all his friends, in the form of the better understanding he imparted to us and the inspiration his success provides.
I asked, "Why don't you make that your central purpose in life, and throw yourself into the work full-time?"
He gestured to the walls of his living room, lined with paintings and the best of sound systems, a way of living that a beginning novelist could not afford. He said, "Learning to write novels could take decades of full-time effort. I would have to give up all this."
I was too stunned to respond. Now, with better understanding of the issue, I would reply: "So what?"