Another sad post . . .
I was shocked to read about the passing of a great friend to this blog, Michael Dorfman, who died on December 25th.
I’m still hoping it’s untrue, some kind of joke . . . but it seems not.
I don’t know the circumstances of his death, but whatever they were, he was far too young, only 49.
Michael was a huge presence on Reddit’s /r/Buddhism. Just read the comments on the announcement about his death and you will see what an impact he had on that community. Michael left comments on The Endless Further as well and shared my posts on Reddit, for which I was immensely grateful as he helped expand the audience for the blog. More importantly, for me, when he commented here or shared a post, I felt it was his way of saying that he thought whatever I happened to write had some value. This was not the only blog he befriended, of course. I had great respect for his knowledge and point of view, even if I didn’t always agree with him (or he with me).
Michael was from Illinois, but lived in Norway. He had earned an M.A. in Buddhist Studies from the University of Sunderland in the UK, worked in computer programming for several companies, and most recently ran a online bookstore, Bokdykk. (Here is a link to a Norweigan article about the demise of Bokdykk.) He had a great interest in Nagarjuna, in fact his Master’s thesis was on hermeneutics and early Indian Madhyamaka. That was just one of several bonds we shared.
We emailed occasionally. From time to time, he would forward some Bob Dylan link he thought I might be interested in seeing. The last private communication I received from him was in November. He remembered that I had written a post about a White Tara thangka I found, and sent along a link to a Dalai Lama teaching that included a White Tara empowerment. “I thought of you while I was watching,” he wrote. I was touched by that, even more so now.
If any members of his family, friends, or co-workers happen to read this, please accept my deepest condolences. I wish I had known him better. It’s only because of the Internet that we knew each other at all, and that’s a marvelous thing. He had a generous spirit, and I imagine to that to encounter him face-to-face would be to meet up with a kind, gentle, and intelligent man, who wasn’t the least bit impressed with himself.
Earlier this year, I wrote a post about John Ashbery, and Michael left a comment that Ashbery was one his favorite living poets and included a link to one of his favorite Ashbery short poems, “Late Echo”:
Alone with our madness and favorite flower
We see that there really is nothing left to write about.
Or rather, it is necessary to write about the same old things
In the same way, repeating the same things over and over
For love to continue and be gradually different.
Beehives and ants have to be re-examined eternally
And the color of the day put in
Hundreds of times and varied from summer to winter
For it to get slowed down to the pace of an authentic
Saraband and huddle there, alive and resting.
Only then can the chronic inattention
Of our lives drape itself around us, conciliatory
And with one eye on those long tan plush shadows
That speak so deeply into our unprepared knowledge
Of ourselves, the talking engines of our day.
John Ashbery, “Late Echo” from As We Know. Copyright © 1979 by John Ashbery