It’s strange to learn that someone whom you didn’t know very well has affected you in subtle, slight ways. I met Robin Kornman about half a decade ago; the other members of the Milwaukee Shambhala sangha had good things to say about him and seemed pleased to learn he would be returning soon after a hiatus — I think at Naropa University — during which he was working on a translation of a Tibetan text, possibly the saga of Gesar.
I never had much opportunity to interact or talk with him, but what little I’d seen bode well. He was an energetic man with a puckish sense of humor and a genuine intelligence. He was gregarious, outspoken and possessed of a keen sense of sarcasm and general wit. The night of our first meeting several of us went to a little restaurant after meditation; he and I got into a very low-key argument about Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. He was convinced the books preceded the radio series; I was just as convinced he had it backward.
I liked him immediately.
He gave at least one talk at MSC, but the discussion — to my recollection — was of esoterica that I didn’t follow well.
Last night I learned that, in the last week or so, he’d had an adverse reaction to an unspecified medicine which was making breathing difficult for him. Soon thereafter he apparently collapsed. It seems he’d suffered a pulmonary embolism. He sank into a coma, was briefly on artificial life support, and then the plug was pulled. He died on July 31.
One of the hardest things about leaving Milwaukee was having to leave the sangha. It’s not a Buddhist church; it’s more along the lines of what Vonnegut might have called a karass. I still miss it, and I know today that some of the people I hold dear are hurting; and their hurt resonates a little with me too, even though I haven’t seen any of them in years.
And that’s probably the lesson I learned from Robin. Connections can be much deeper than we realize; and even though it might hurt, it’s part of our nature. And sometimes they’re too subtle to be felt until they have been severed.
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