3.1294 farewell from Toronto (105)

Willard McCarty (MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca)
Thu, 12 Apr 90 23:15:18 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 1294. Thursday, 12 Apr 1990.

Date: 12 April 1990
From: Willard McCarty <MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca>
Subject: farewell

Dear Colleagues,

Snow fell as I walked to my office this morning, cold wind hurried me
back home. The air-conditioner, which is always in another season, kept
me chilled meanwhile. Crocuses stopped me at the front garden to insist
that Spring is coming, and the birds have started a similar argument,
but I can't see it. I try to warm the verbal sap for this valediction
but get only sluggish ooze. Now, after marvelous zucchini pizza, made
and served con amore, and cups of hot tea, I'll just have to do what I
can. I depend on your generosity of spirit.

Humanist is leaving my house a step or two ahead of my firstborn
daughter, wonderful creature that she is, who turned 16 last Sunday.
The comparison is unjust, as all of you and my wife as well should be
quick to point out, but the difficulty of letting go may be showing me
something about things to come. Like my firstborn, Humanist was itself
largely a matter of serendipity, conceived in a moment of unlooked for
inspiration -- thank you, George Brett and Michael Sperberg-McQueen --
with no idea what would come of the engendering impulse and certainly no
proven qualifications for the task.

What is unjust, among other things, is the pretense to action, for which
see the Bhagavad Gita. Actually, mothering Humanist is closer to the
truth than fathering (the father came and went too quickly to be seen),
but there have been many mothers along the way, whom I name here with

To Michael, again, for several commiserating conversations suitably
lubricated, and for lifesaving software I myself could have written had
I taken a few weeks to learn the ropes, and then more time to get
tripped up by them; to Lou Burnard for writing the summaries of
activity, for never withholding his sharp wit when it was needed, and
for many other things here unrevealed; to Steve DeRose for so much fine
work on the biographies, which to his credit and our benefit will
continue; to David Sitman for his ListServ skills offered from so far
away, also to continue; to Steve Younker for ListServ skills cheerfully
applied from up close; to Susan Hockey and Nancy Ide for their official
and personal encouragements of several kinds, and their good advice on
several occasions; to Paul Fortier, Randy Jones, and Joel Goldfield for
the recognition; to Bob Kraft, Norman Hinton, Dana Paramskas, Bob
Hollander, Norman Zacour, Roy Flannagan, Mike Heim, Gunhild Viden, James
O'Donnell, and many others (forgive forgetfulness), who used their
pneumatic artistry on deflated spirits when none other than one of their
kind could have helped; to Ian Lancashire for the opportunity, one among
many offered during the last dozen years; to Allen Renear and Elaine
Brennan for turning up at just the right time with exactly what was
needed, and to Elli Mylonas and David Durand, who have promised to help
them; finally, to all the members of Humanist, without whom nothing
could have happened.

Older members will understand my request for a moment of silence in
memory of Sebastian Rahtz, may his mischievous spirit never be quieted.

As for me, I accept with gratitude beyond words the various expressions
of appreciation that have come in. Better than finest champagne or
single malt, though if you can figure out how to send bottles by e-mail,
please don't restrain yourselves. I certainly won't. No rewards are
necessary, however, since the work itself has been one long reward, and
really a form of philosophical leisure. (How important this is!) My
greatest reward has been to see at first hand that a genuine intellectual
community is possible, despite all the odds. Sure, some of the chatter
has been foolish, some dense, some genuinely stupid, but there's plenty
that's not. Anyone who thinks that Humanist's height can be taken, much
less its worth be known, by calculating a signal-to-noise ratio, is
missing something very fundamental. In my book, for what it's worth,
what we glimpse through Humanist is of immense importance, or could be
if we worked on it. Can we afford not to?

Humanist has required very little -- a small amount of home-grown
effort, a bit of help, and some institutional generosity -- and
with that we have managed to put together, if I may say so,
something worth waking up to.

Did life's penurious length
Italicize its sweetness,
The men that daily live
Would stand so deep in joy
That it would clog the cogs
Of that revolving reason
Whose esoteric belt
Protects our sanity.

Emily Dickinson

Farewell from Toronto.

Yours, Willard McCarty
12 April 1990