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Tag Archive: Death

The Fish, Out of Matter: R.I.P.

Posted: Sunday, June 28, 2015 (9:49 pm), by John W Gillis


Yes bassist Chris Squire passed away last night at age 67. I don’t usually pay too much attention to what goes on in the entertainment world, as I don’t have much personal investment in it, and never really have. But there have been some exceptions to that. Chris Squire would be pretty close to the top of that exception list.

csSquire had noted on Facepalm® last month that he had fallen victim to a brutal disease, so today’s news was not entirely surprising, but it was disturbing nonetheless, and I’m feeling as if I lost a friend. That’s a silly sentiment, really, considering I never met the man, and may not have gotten on very well with him if we had met. I haven’t had any interest in the music he’s been involved in for the past decade and a half or so, and even the older Yes music can wear a little thin these days.

Yes, as a band, has become little more than a Yes tribute band after parting ways with Squire’s co-founder Jon Anderson several years ago, and, frankly, they’d exhausted their musical genius decades ago. But, at least at the time, it seemed to be a formidable genius, indeed.

My older brother introduced me to the Yes cult when he gave me the Close to the Edge album for my birthday. That would have been late July 1974, when I turned 14. Thinking that the side with two songs looked somewhat more inviting than the side consisting of a single, 18-minute song, I played the second side of the album first. I was absolutely transformed in my relation to music by the end of that first twenty minutes. After spending a few moments in silence, futilely trying to understand what had just happened to me, I flipped the album over and listened to the title track. My wonder and consternation were magnified. As the saying goes: I was blown away.

As he handed me the record, my brother told me that it would cure me of my interest in Grand Funk Railroad. I took that as one of those annoyingly paternalistic things older brothers say to their little brothers to keep the pecking order establishment clear, but by about the time my next birthday had come around, I’d sold all my Grand Funk, Aerosmith, Deep Purple, Alice Cooper, and other non-Yes albums to a kid up the street, for $10. I would eventually listen to other artists again, but the terms of my engagement with music had forever changed, and there would be no going back to Alice Cooper. For the first time in my life, I’d experienced music as a form of art, and not just as a come-on, or an entertainment.

Prior to my initiation into Close to the Edge, I’d spent many hours listening both to “hit” radio and to albums from popular rock bands, searching for a personally satisfying connection with the music: convinced that such meaning was available for the mining, and invariably disappointed as the music failed to deliver. A satisfying ditty here, a satisfying ditty there, perhaps, but even at that tender age, I knew experientially that the music I was listening to was shallow and contrived; that the excitements it created were ephemeral and, ultimately, phony. But Yes music was different.

It’s not uncommon to hear Yes music referred to as “spiritual”, as one way of distinguishing it from most other rock. I get what’s meant by that, which is to say that Yes music is not vulgar, and that it is open to and even traffics in a certain level of transcendence. But to grasp the importance of that, it is important to understand that all music is spiritual, for better or worse. If it weren’t, it would only be sound, because “spiritual” is really just a synonym for something having meaning, and music, by definition, is the appropriation of sound, as sound, into meaning, expressed in time.

But meaning in music can range from boring monotony to cheap titillation to transformative profundity. There’s nothing unspiritual about cheesy music, it just wallows in the shallow end, and it often leaves the intellect unengaged – if not disengaged. So, we could call such music spiritually incomplete or even impoverished, but it remains spiritual even when it is so in a trite or even denigrating way. Political slogans function in much the same way. We could draw an analogy and say that most pop music relates to music-as-art similarly to the way sloganeering relates to literature (i.e. writing-as-art). It would not be inapt to relate both depraved forms to propaganda. It is not for nothing that sensitive souls have from time to time been alarmed concerning the presence of the demonic in certain music. Nor should we fail to recognize that sacred music actually exists, even if one can hardly find a modern liturgist who is cognizant of that fact. Not all bad music is debauched.

The sensual nature of music implies that it always approaches us at the level of our passions, but it is a further engagement on the intellectual level that allows music (or language) to engage a person in a fully human way, in a way that is spiritually “complete”, and thus to form a deeply penetrating meaning. Yes was by no means the only or even the first rock band that pushed their music beyond the banalities of pop and into a realm of deeper musical meaning, but they took advantage of the opportunities presented by the times to produce work that stands as paradigmatic of the possibility of intellectually serious commercial rock music. Thematic development, intricately interwoven melodic and rhythmic phrasing, shifting modalities and tonal centers, complex meters and metrical diversity, all coupled with the esoterically ambiguous but aesthetically charged character of Anderson’s lyrics: the Yes experience was a compelling introduction for this young teen – and many others like me – to the pursuit of the spiritual goal of art, which metaphysics calls the third transcendental attribute: beauty.

I became a hard-core Yes fan. I absolutely loved their music. For a time at least, being a Yes fan seemed like an important part of who I was. Modern people attach themselves to musical acts – or sports teams, or TV shows, or any number of products and/or ideas – in ways that are pretty totemistic. We wear their logos, or colors, or names, or other symbols. We say that we idolize them, because, well, we do. We “identify” with them, because they somehow provide meaning to us; they mediate some greater, unreachable reality for us in ways that allow us to feel we have at least some small part in it. None of this is particularly healthy, but some attachments are worse than others. I drew the Yes logo on my jacket. I wrote their lyrics on my t-shirts. I put their album covers on my walls. After high school, I dropped most of the outward pieties, although the devotion lingered for years, until I found a better way to what I was really seeking.

I was very glad, at the time, to be a Yes fan, and I’m still glad that I was. In fact, I was blessed to be a Yes fan, because in showing me how the musical genre which modern consumer culture had basically imposed on me (rock) could be used as a vehicle to strive, with excellence, the path to true beauty – and to the awe and wonder which beauty inspires – Yes also showed me the path which leads to the first and second transcendental attributes: truth and goodness. That is to say, Yes ultimately showed me the path that leads to God.

It is true that I was not only already baptized, but lived in a family that honored virtue, and acknowledged Christ as Lord. It is also true that I would eventually have to unfix my eyes from all my “idols” in order to properly turn them to God. Nonetheless, Yes opened my eyes to His reality – whether anything like that was ever the band’s intent or not. This is no exaggeration. I was as convinced an atheist as a 14-year-old can be: disgusted with the world, utterly alienated, and frighteningly self-destructive. I was one sad-sack kid. I still grieve for that kid, constantly. It is a grief that deeply informs my relationships with my own children. I don’t know what would have happened to me if Yes hadn’t happened to me. Yes music was a ray of light in the dreadful darkness of my adolescent existence that started a revolution in my life, however slow-moving that revolution turned.

Though I’ve moved on in many ways, there are still three albums from Yes that I would grab for my proverbial desert island supply. One is Close to the Edge, another is the brilliant Relayer album from 1974. But the third would be the 1975 solo album from Chris Squire: Fish Out of Water. Less brash than the band albums, it sounds like what I once hoped Yes would come to foowsound like as they matured. It didn’t quite work out that way. The album nodded toward the Yes mode in places – the thematic resolution at the 12:00 mark of “Safe” is a minute and a half of probably my favorite rock bombast ever. And the outro that follows it, closing the album, is as gorgeous as electronic music gets. Squire’s distinctive bass playing combined the driving rhythmic foundation of electric bass with a melodic sensibility that really set him apart from other bassists. I always hoped he’d record a second solo album before he retired. He had forty years, but he never did it.

But I am thankful for what he gave the world in his work. I don’t know anything about his personal life, but I hope he died in peace with himself and his world. I pray that his family and friends may be comforted in their grief. And now that he has died and faced his Maker in judgment, I pray that Chris recognizes Him as his Lord and Savior, and that he might know the peace of his Lord telling him that “you will be/safe with Me”. Cue the outro…

Chuck Colson: 1931-2012

Posted: Sunday, April 22, 2012 (12:43 am), by John W Gillis


We lost a good man today. Read a few parting words from his co-workers on his recent project, The Manhattan Declaration, here – and sign the declaration if you haven’t yet, and if you care about marriage and human civilization (pardon the redundancy).

Dostoyevsky said “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” I would add that you can judge the degree of civilization in a man’s soul by observing how he treats prisoners. With all that Colson did for his God and for his neighbors over the last half of his 80+ years, in my view, his greatest legacy is Prison Fellowship.

 

“His master said to him, `Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master’.”(Matt 25.21, RSV)

Good Riddance, 2011

Posted: Saturday, December 31, 2011 (8:03 pm), by John W Gillis


This year sucked. It began with my little sister’s funeral, and ended with a malaise lingering on from my mother’s funeral.

For my sister, Mary, death came quickly, and then it came slowly. She was very busy living a vibrant life, when she was suddenly smitten with a terminal cancer. Then she spent a year and a half dying. She tried to keep up the appearances of optimism, but everyone around her knew how the dance was going to end; we just didn’t know quite when. When it came, death came slowly, bleeding her life away as her ministering aunt and other loved ones waited in vigil for the end, which came in the third watch of the night after Christmas Day. She was 49, and left no children to carry her line forward on the Earth.

For my mother, Edna, death came slowly, and then it came quickly. Dying at 79, she had lived a good and full life, touching the lives of many, and leaving a legacy of kindness that, pray God, will redound to her name for generations, even when she herself is forgotten. Having been born with a collapsed lung, her breathing organ was never quite right, and she’d been living with a progressive case of acute Pulmonary Fibrosis for some time, before she up and died on us. Of course, we knew it was coming sooner or later, and she had gotten “old” recently, but still it seemed to come almost out of the blue. True, she had given us a scare the day before, and the family spent Sunday afternoon in the emergency room, wondering if she’d perhaps had a stroke, but she seemed fine by afternoon, had checked out OK medically, and was sent home in the evening. On Monday morning, she died. Just like that. It was October 3rd, the original feast day of St Therese of Lisieux, the saint credited by the family with saving Mom’s life as a newborn, and whose name she was thus given in tribute.

Whatever else may have happened this year seems almost lost in the shadows of these two bookends of death & grief. I’ve looked upon the sorrowful , resigned faces of yet a couple more friends who have had their verdicts of terminal cancer pronounced to them. I’ve watched dozens of co-workers jettisoned from their source of material well-being, as the business world atrophies under corporate & government mismanagement and corruption. I’ve seen the U.S. government run up a debt of unprecedented magnitude – one poised to crush the commonweal of my children and their peers – for the sake of a filched political placidity, while the ruling party successfully smeared the opposition as extremist and non-cooperative for the sin of (futilely) demanding a roadmap to fiscal sanity as the price for complicity in the mortgaging of the futures of those we have a moral duty to protect & defend. Shameful.

As for myself, I can’t get out of my own way: I had targeted early December for completion of my prerequisite course work at Franciscan University, but have been scuffling badly since mid-October, and don’t even know how to get back on track at this point.

On the bright side, this was the year that Joyce leveraged her imposed unemployment into an opportunity to pursue her long-time desire to get into professional dog grooming. The Boston Bruins are suddenly the best hockey team in the world for the first time since I could sing alto, and last spring they gave us one of the greatest hockey games I’ve ever seen (Game 7 of the Conference Finals against Tampa Bay).

Furthermore, as of yet at least, no crowd of self-entitled, self-righteous, unemployed ne’er-do-wells have converged to “occupy” my backyard, demanding that I succor them by paying off their insane student loans for stupidly bloated college tuitions I could never afford for either myself or my own kids (we found other ways to achieve what we needed to achieve). That’s a plus. And I still have my own job; my kids are all healthy and safe; we’re coming up on a leap-year – which means a “real” anniversary for Joyce and I on Feb 29th; Congress reversed the moronic ban on incandescent light bulbs; and Rick Santorum actually appears to have an outside shot at winning the Iowa caucuses, putting the only candidate I actually like from the Republican field in a position to at least temporarily receive some media attention before the big-money candidates get around to burying him under a torrent of glitzy drivel (OK, I also really like and admire Michelle Bachmann, but I’m afraid she would be almost as out-of-her-league in that job as Obama is, speaking of torrents of glitzy drivel from big-money candidates…).

And, lastly, the garage ceiling light bulb is still burning faithfully, almost 40 years after being installed. Yes, the very same light bulb that greeted my mother and father the first time they illuminated their new garage with electricity in June of 1972 continues to shine its light every time I flip the switch. To me, it’s become a symbol of faithfulness and perseverance, and it reminds me unfailingly of my dad. Would that we all could be relied upon so faithfully, as that bulb, to shine forth the light entrusted to us for the sake of others’ seeing their way in the world! I dread the day that bulb blows; I pray it’s not in 2012.

Happy New Year, planet Earth. Choose carefully; choose well. Peace, from here.

Some Kind of Start

Posted: Monday, November 28, 2011 (7:53 pm), by John W Gillis


I’ve been in an intellectual vapor lock since my mom passed away, on October 3rd. I almost called it an intellectual constipation, but, regardless of how apropos it may be, I didn’t think that would reflect very well on my typical output.

Nonetheless, it’s been very difficult for me to get anything done. No surprise, I suppose, that I’d become depressed in my grief. But even when I’m feeling relatively well, I’m having a hard time pulling the trigger on anything. I’m barely keeping my head above water staying prepared for teaching an 8th-grade CCD class on morality, and my own course work schedule with FUS has fallen hopelessly behind plan for the semester, as I find myself unable to clearly recall what I’ve read even as I’m reading it. Even modest writing assignments – such as a short theological reflection on Veritatis Splendor – have become titanic chores for which I cannot even find a starting point.

But it’s a new year now, as of yesterday, on the Church’s calendar. And so it’s time to pick up the pieces and move on. 2011 was a year of profound loss for me, but it’s also left me with a much more penetrating sense of how short life is, how little time any of us really have to set and accomplish meaningful goals, and how frail and tenuous is our part in the legacy of civilization’s march. More than ever, I see that personal influence – especially upon children – will bear the most significant legacy for most of us, whether for good or for ill.

It’s Advent now, and an appropriate time to be aware that the time is short; that the end is coming – in one way or another – and that the wise will be prepared. That’s easier said than done – but saying it is at least some kind of start.

Who has time to listen?

Posted: Saturday, January 1, 2011 (11:43 pm), by John W Gillis


Rummaging through some old journals this week while taking a measure of introspection, I came across the following in an entry from March 29th, 1990. I’ve cleaned it up a bit for publication, but it remains essentially the thought of my 29 year-old self. Reading old journals is a fascinating exercise in self-awareness, but I’m throwing them out, anyway…

Who has time to listen? Running around in hectic disarray, death edges closer to each of us by the minute, yet who has time to stop to listen? What would we hear if we did?

Common wisdom has it that we lead such frantic lives on account of a constant, oppressive sense that time is so short. I can no longer believe that. It seems to me these harried ways of ours reflect feeble and vain attempts to dissuade the inevitable. We busy ourselves in order to defy the inevitable, like a man fleeing from the sunset: he knows the sun is setting in the west, so he flees to the east to escape it, only to be caught all the more by surprise.

A man who takes the time, now, to slow down and enjoy the moment, which is our life as we live it now, must realize that he he may not have the time to do so later; whereas a man who won’t take the time now appears to be foolishly assuming that he will certainly have the time later. We’re not this frantically busy because life is so short, it would seem; rather we act like this because we want to believe we’ll go on forever, because we are so afraid of death.

But isn’t it quite strange to be so afraid of death? Death is the universal constant. All living beings – even those never born – suffer death. This death, physical death, is therefore more synonymous with life than is birth. Death’s singular inevitability makes it a rather strange object for our deepest fears. When we fear death, we fear certainty; when we fear certainty, we fear truth; when we fear truth, surely we fear God.

The psalmist said that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and certainly nobody suggests that we should leap willy-nilly to our own destruction, or pretend that death does not involve the demise of the self on some important level.

All the same, fearing the inevitable, and acting as if it were not knocking on our doors every moment, seems a futile exercise in self-delusion – it is as if we fear life itself, or at least the process of life. Better, it seems, to embrace death – not as a tool of destruction to inflict on oneself or those whose existence one finds intolerable, but as an enemy who surely will win the battle, yet not the war.

The way to defeat terrorism is to refuse to be terrorized. The great modern activists of non-violence have demonstrated this clearly. If we allow it, death will terrorize us into failing to embrace life in the moment, although our busyness will never stay the executioners hand. But I suppose the steadiness necessary to look death in the eye without flinching or trying to hide from it requires a certain confidence that death will not have the last word, despite all appearances. So be it.

Mary, My Sister

Posted: Tuesday, December 28, 2010 (12:18 am), by John W Gillis


My sister Mary passed away about 48 hours ago, succumbing to the ravages of bodily dissolution after 18 months of battling illness. She had steadfastly insisted that her tribulations remain private and discreet during her sickness, but since there will be obituaries published within the next couple days, I hardly see the point now in maintaining a public silence.

Still, the details are nobody’s business, as strange as that sentiment may sound in the age of Facebook and Twitter. It seems that everything is supposed to be everyone else’s business these days, and in real-time, no less. I think Mary taught those who love her a few important things during the last months and days of her life, and the enduring importance of – and necessary place for – privacy is surely one of them.

Another one of them is the clear demarcation between despair and charitableness. Mary could perhaps have been accused of living in denial at times, but I suspect she always had a pretty realistic view of what lay ahead. Rather than denial, I suspect her insistence on living as large as possible through it all was a refusal to fall into despair, or to seek pity. She preferred that everyone enjoy themselves, and this was itself a choice to reject the self-centeredness of despair for a charitableness toward everyone within her orbit. It becomes ever clearer to me why the Eastern Fathers speak of despondency as sin.

Finally, I think we all learned a thing or two about determination, and about the futility of trying to predict where and when the spirit blows. Mary was someone who generally got her way; it is amazing to consider that she found a way to continue to do that, even when she was too weak to whisper.

My little sister, may God give your soul peaceful rest, and call you forth to the resurrection of the just, on the day of the great and final judgment.

Love,

John

O Oriens

Posted: Tuesday, December 21, 2010 (6:35 am), by John W Gillis


“O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.” (O Antiphon for Dec 21st)

Ironic, isn’t it?, that the antiphon for the Winter Solstice calls upon Christ as the Light of Dawn, or Rising Sun, or Dayspring from On High! Like all the antiphons of this octave, it recalls an Isaiahan Messianic prophecy: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shown.” (9:1 in NAB – 9:2 in most versions).

All the bells and whistles of this commercial season strike me as expressing something between a denial of the dreadful barrenness of the world in the darkness of winter, and a mockery of the hope that looks forward to new life springing out of that barrenness. The shadow of death has long fingers, and truly spares us not. Yet the frivolity we greet it with does not confront it with any kind of meaningful hope, but obscures it with a parade of jingle bells and other distracting inanities. And there are times in which that becomes more plainly evident than others; this is one of those times, I’m afraid.

“If the Dead are Garbage, then the Living are Walking Garbage.”

Posted: Wednesday, July 14, 2010 (9:41 pm), by John W Gillis


Every now and again, I find myself disputing with advocates of human cremation over the propriety of the process. Cremation has very rapidly become the preferred option, in certain sectors of society, for dealing with the corpses of the deceased. Whereas at one time its appeal may have been pretty much strictly economic to those not strongly influenced by oriental, non-Christian culture (or anti-Christian sentiment), it is these days often pitched as a morally compelling solution to a looming Malthusian crisis of usable land – the argument being that burial unnecessarily consumes land that could be put to more utilitarian use; the accompanying hysterical assertion being that we are running out of land upon which to live because of all the land that is left for the dead.

On the rare occasion I find myself discussing this, I try to make the case that the cremation process – which is by no means a simple incineration, but also involves a subsequent pulverizing of the skeletal remains, with the bones of the deceased being fed, as it were, into a human garbage disposal – is a disrespectful way to treat the body of a deceased loved one. To make the point that it should matter to us how the dead are treated, I’ve asked people if they would consider having their wife/husband/mother/father/etc. disposed of corporeally by being dropped into a vat of acid that would eliminate all traces of the deceased, who could then be simply drained away. I’ve intended it as an over-the-top, reductio ad absurdum argument that might give people pause to stop and think about the importance of respect for the corpse. How naive of me…

David Mills published a post at the First Thoughts blog last Friday entitled Rest in Solution, which linked to a Daily Mail article about Belgium’s plan to wash its dead down the drain, a plan which entails using a potassium hydroxide solution to eliminate the fleshly material of the corpse – leaving the bone matter to be subsequently crushed, as does burning. The big selling point? It’s more eco-friendly than cremation, which emits large amounts of carbon dioxide! Gotta watch that carbon footprint! Given the anti-burial movement’s long history of symbolic and actual rejection of Christian resurrection doctrine, I’m not quite sure what to make of the claim in the Daily Mail that the process, called resomation, comes from a Greek word for the rebirth of the human body (soma meaning body in Greek).

The body reduced to near nothingness seems to be of a piece with modernity’s contempt for the body. Moderns seem largely divided into two silently collaborating camps: those who hold a reductionist, positivistic view of human life comprising only bodily life, unsanctified by the spiritual soul – with all that implies for the dignity of the place of man in the cosmos; and, on the other hand, those who, reviving the ancient errors of Gnosticism, see the body as a kind of unfortunate storage place for a soul. But the body is an integral aspect of the human being: neither the totality of the person, nor an inessential “thing” that exists apart from the self – except in that dreadful state of personal violation we call death.

As a counterweight to the depressing, techno-sterile misanthropy of resomation, Mills provides a second link in his article, this one to a Weekly Standard article from last March by Matt Labash called: Love Among the Ruins. It tells the story of “Father Rick” Frechette’s tireless work to minister to the castaway dead in Haiti – among his other acts of mercy to the people of that broken land. I’ve taken the title of this post from the response he gives in the article to a question about why he expends so much time and energy to minister to those who are already dead, and won’t know the difference:

Frechette thinks about it a long while, then says, “If the dead are garbage, then the living are walking garbage.”

In another place, he speaks about why he carries on, offering his gifts of mercy in what seems to be such a losing battle:

“Sometimes with horrible things, you really feel there is nothing you can do. Nothing. You’re just useless. But over time, you start seeing that to do the right thing no matter what has tremendous power.”

Reading this article feels like taking a warm bath after reading that Daily Mail piece. Strange, considering what a tale of desolation and horror it is. God bless you, Father Rick. I think it’s time for a re-reading of the Book of Tobit.

A Quiet Note of Thanks

Posted: Sunday, November 8, 2009 (10:16 pm), by John W Gillis


One of those days when the realization slaps me that we just don’t get do-overs in life…

I heard during the prayers of the faithful this morning that Tony Melchiorri had died, and was buried last week. Tony was a Natick cop for many years, and a man I came to know, after a certain fashion, during my teenage years in town. He was always a good guy.

I think it’s fair to say that Tony spent a good deal of his life trying to protect the local kids from their own stupidity – with admittedly mixed results. But thanks for trying, Tony. Rest in peace.

RJN: R.I.P.

Posted: Thursday, January 8, 2009 (8:32 pm), by John W Gillis


RJN1 The Catholic Church in America lost another of her intellectual giants today. The Rev. Fr. Richard John Neuhaus died this morning, at age 72. Of course, I never met the man, and I’m not sure I would have known what to say to him had I met him, but I feel as if I have lost a friend. An old acquaintance from my adolescence was buried this morning, and perhaps that makes me think a bit about mortality, yet this priest and writer whom I never met dies, and I feel a piece of me torn away.

Surely, it is vain of me to cultivate these feelings – who am I to lay some sort of claim to this man’s memory? But I have been deeply influenced by Fr. Neuhaus since I began to read him. In a sense – even though he never so much as knew that I existed – I knew RJN better than I know many people I encounter each day. Such is the power of the word to make our humanity present to each other.

I don’t recall exactly when I first became aware of Fr. Neuhaus – it wasn’t very long ago, unfortunately. My earliest copy of First Things is the August/September issue from 2002. What an excitement it’s been every month, to delve into the great conversation taking place on those pages. I can’t say if I first read him in FT, or if I began reading FT after encountering him elsewhere. But I can say that I used to disagree with him a lot more than I do now. He has grown on me, and likely refined my thinking significantly. Other writers have changed my thinking more quickly, but few have sunk in as thoroughly, it seems.

His death represents the second loss of a major thinker in the American Catholic church within the past month, following the death of Avery Cardinal Dulles on December 12th. Converts, both of them, and very different in the ways they contributed to the intellectual life of the Church. It really seems we can’t afford such losses right about now, but it is the Lord’s work they’ve performed, after all. And contrary to published reports, God is not dead. I guess the rest of us somehow need to step it up a bit, though I trust the Lord will raise up others with genuine capacity to fill the void.

It seems only fitting that, even in his death, RJN would get the last word in, and so it is: here.

Rest in peace, you familiar stranger, you cantankerous wizard, you deft debunker of twaddle. Thank you for everything. Your wit, your intelligence, and your passion for truth will be sorely missed.