Remembering John Lewis

 Posted by on 5 January 2012 at 1:00 pm  Activism, John Lewis
Jan 052012

I remember many things about John Lewis.

I remember his excellent lectures on ancient Greece at the OCON summer conferences. I remember a wonderful impromptu jazz piano performance he gave one evening at the Seaport Hotel in Boston. I remember when he was our house guest in Colorado raking horse manure, while telling fascinating tales about the battle tactics of the mounted Mongol archers.

But what I remember most about John was how he helped me regain my will to fight for my values back in 2009. At that time, the battle over ObamaCare health legislation was in full swing and I had become deeply discouraged. It seemed that despite all my blogging and letter writing, I wasn’t getting anywhere. My efforts seemed futile and pointless, like someone trying to fight a raging forest fire armed only with a tiny squirt gun. I was on the verge of quitting health care activism altogether.

But then one of John’s articles on ObamaCare got picked up by Rush Limbaugh.

Rush quoted extensively from John’s piece on his radio show, sending John’s words to millions of Americans. John’s example showed me that a single man, armed with the right ideas — and willing to articulate them with clarity and conviction — can indeed make a difference.

Fans of Ayn Rand’s book The Fountainhead may remember the scene when a young man is struggling to find his purpose in life after graduating from college. He finally finds his inspiration after seeing the recently completed Monadnock resort built by architect Howard Roark. For that young man, seeing another man’s achievement gave him “the courage to face a lifetime”.

John did the same for me. Seeing John’s ideas reach millions of eager Americans helped rekindle my enthusiasm to continue my own personal activism. His success gave me a spiritually vital “shot in the arm” at a time I needed it the most. John helped me understand that one is most alive when one is working to make one’s values real. In other words, John helped me understand what Ayn Rand meant when she said, “Anyone who fights for the future, lives in it today.”

Thank you, John, for helping me find my courage for my lifetime.

John Lewis, Hero and Friend

 Posted by on 5 January 2012 at 11:00 am  John Lewis
Jan 052012

I’m very sad to report the death of my friend and hero — Objectivist historian John Lewis. As many of you know, he died on Tuesday, January 3rd, after a long battle against cancer.

The official announcement from the Ayn Rand Institute is posted to Facebook. I was also moved to read the eulogies by Alex Epstein, Craig Biddle, and Ari Armstrong.

I’d like to tell a silly story about John, then say a bit about what he meant to me.

John stayed with us a few times when he was in town to speak, always to our delight. Alas, not everyone Chez Hsieh was quite so pleased with him. Our cat Elliot likes to be petted a whole lot, but he doesn’t trust strangers much. He’s been known to hiss at strangers even while he’s in the middle of enjoying a thoroughly nice petting.

So, back to John. He was petting Elliot, perfectly nicely of course, but I could see that Elliot was getting increasingly nervous. I warned John, “The cat is going to bite you. The cat is going to bite you.” And sure enough, Elliot bit him. We found the whole thing rather funny.

It gets even better, however… because about six months later, John returned. Elliot took one look at him from across the room, hissed as loudly as he could, and ran away.

John was, in short, a thoroughly memorable person — even to the cat! Elliot, however, was alone in his dislike of John. (That’s part of why I find the story so funny.) We’ll have to excuse poor Elliot, however: he’s just a cat, and slightly neurotic too.

For me, John was memorable in nothing but positive ways. His enthusiasm for his life and his values was infectious. To spend time with him — just talking about politics, history, Objectivism, education, … anything — felt like coming over a hill to see some grand vista. I thirsted to learn more about everything that we discussed, and I wanted to run home to start work on 30 new projects. I admired his depth of knowledge, his sound judgment, and his cheerful enthusiasm.

The world is, without a doubt, a worse place without John Lewis in it. I’m grateful that I was able to know him, as people like John are few and far-between.

If you’d like to benefit from John’s work, I’d recommend reading his many articles for The Objective Standard, as well as watching the videos posted by Ari Armstrong. His OCON courses were excellent too, but they’re sold out at the Ayn Rand Bookstore. John also wrote three books:

I’ve only read the last one, but I enjoyed it immensely. John always made the lessons of ancient history come alive in his writings and lectures, and that made learning from him a delightful and rewarding experience. I can’t recommend it enough.

John Lewis, you are missed.

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