One of the most intriguing people I've ever known has just died. I don't know how to describe him, except to say that in China or Japan he would have been one of those slightly crazy, odd-looking but charismatic, mystical but earthy poets, like Li Po or Basho.

In our world John Locke was a man who fought in World War II, was married to a woman who left him for Joseph Campbell (he said), studied Zen, taught gongfu, traveled Japan with a Shinto priest, traveled all over Europe and Asia, spoke I don't know how many languages, communicated even if he didn't speak the language, and never intimidated anybody unless he wanted to, despite being 6' 5" tall.

Somewhere along the way he picked up a PhD or two, too. He taught comparative literature, and if his head was in the mystic clouds his feet were firmly on the ground. He had a great (sometimes sly) sense of humor, and delighted in making fun of his own 'things'--he dragged me back into class once to repeat my horrible 'koan' joke.

I've said a few times that I hope I'm that mad cool when I'm his age, and I still do. I can't conceive that this man would be shot in anger and hatred, but at the same time, he lived an incredible life. He taught his students about more than Chinese and Japanese literature or whatever each course was called; he taught us about consideration, about kindness, about joy, and letting go of fear and anger.

And he taught us about death. We studied Japanese death poetry and mystic 'fu' poetry in his class, and I have a chill when I remember the light in his eyes.

I am sure that he took the next step with his own laughing grace. I'm deeply shocked and saddened, though, and I have had to cry.

Dr Locke, forgive us for mourning you.

JohnLocke died August 28, 2000, in a murder-suicide on the campus of the University of Arkansas, on the first day of classes.

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