I keep an untidy office. Anyone who knows me knows that that's not an exaggeration.
Marianne and I came home this afternoon from a very pleasant lunch with Julie Phillips, the author of James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon, easily the best biography of a science fiction author ever written, and Samuel R. Delany who is, well, Samuel R. Delany. We talked about Julie's bio-in-progress of Ursula K. Le Guin and a variety of other matters that I for one found interesting. Then, back home, Marianne set about baking and I went to my office to take care of some business.
Casually, I picked up a newspaper clipping from the floor and glanced at it to decide whether it should be filed or discarded.
It was Gardner Dozois' obituary.
Ah, me. I knew Gardner for something like 44 years and Marianne knew him for only a month or two less. What a kind and generous man he was! How tirelessly he worked for the good of others! How terribly, terribly sad I feel to be reminded that he's gone.
But here's the thing.
I had a friend (nobody you know) who did not live his life a fraction so well. I will not go into the details. Suffice it to say, whenever I'm reminded of him and the damage he did to others, I reflexively think: "[Name], you idiot!"
When you die, the facts of your life are suddenly, radically simplified. It's as if an enormous hand reaches down out of the sky and with one finger draws a line under the column of figures contains all the pluses and minuses of your life. The zeros fall off. What remains is a simple number, maybe positive, maybe negative.
Which is how you will be remembered.
End of sermon. Please forgive me for making it. I was reminded of a friend today and it made me sad. At least it didn't make me angry.