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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