Thursday, January 10, 2013

In Memoriam: Brian Boland

It was my great good fortune to be befriended by Brian Boland in my early days working for Shambhala Publications. My strongest impression of him from those days--and this is something that never changed in the almost twenty-five years I knew him--was his infectious excitement over the people and things he found to be wise, beautiful, or real.  I can't count the number of times he told me, “You have to see this,” anxiously calling me over to his office or his apartment to introduce me to a particular bit of art or film or music that had made an impression on him. The objects of Brian’s affection ranged from the works of Céline to Cyndi Lauper, Yves Montand to Jim Thompson, Henri Cartier-Bresson to Little Jimmy Scott--but they also could include something as simply satisfying as an elegantly designed title page in an old book. And he was mostly right. If he was passionate about something, it usually made sense to pay attention.

Brian’s personality was an unusual combination of sophistication and guilelessness.  Neither of those qualities is necessarily attractive by itself, but combined in him they complemented and corrected each other, resulting in a kind of exquisite taste that was in no way elitist, but that strove to share itself, to transmit itself to others.  It’s a rare and wonderful combination, and I can’t think of anyone I’ve known who exemplifies it better than Brian.

That rare combination of qualities manifested in--or was possibly in part a result of—Brian’s love for the buddhadharma and for the teachers who transmitted it to him.  His gratitute for the teachings and for his practice was always obvious, but it seemed only  to increase in the last few years, to the point  where, it seemed to me,  he was made beautiful by the gratitude. You can’t fake that. And this gratitude of his became a kind of gift to all of us who came in contact with him these last few weeks of his life especially.

I think it’s true that in the month or so after someone dies, you’re confronted with the fact that the death isn’t just “theirs.”  The boundaries between us are revealed to be ambiguous: You see that part of you goes with them and part of them stays on with you.  And you understand that that’s not some romantic notion, but that it’s pretty plainly just the way things are. With that in mind, I can say that I'm truly grateful  for whatever of Brian stays on with me. I’m thankful to have been his friend.  May his memory live among those of us who loved him, and among those who hear about him.

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