Eugene Y. C. Ho (1960-1997) died in a tragic accident at his home in Hong Kong. I sent my condolences to his family and friends:
Eugene Ho and I never met. We began corresponding via the Internet in late 1996, concerning Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and branched out from there to discussions of philosophy, quantum mechanics, music, liberty, and a host of other topics. Eugene's death cut off in mid-sentence hundreds of similar conversations with others around the world. Doubtless, had he lived, Eugene would have written books and shared his thoughts further, across space and time, with countless readers.
But now he is suddenly no longer with us, and we must work to do the best we can in his absence. I hesitated long before I began trying to write these words, out of a feeling that I could never do justice to Eugene --- to his obvious brilliance in language, in the arts, and in so many other intellectual pursuits. But then, thinking of him and his life, I found that I had to write what I could, now, before another moment passed.
Samuel Johnson, in a letter written in 1750 to a friend whose mother had recently died, said it better than I possibly can. Whether or not we accept Johnson's religious beliefs, we can all agree with his central thesis: 'The business of life summons us away from useless grief, and calls us to the exercise of those virtues of which we are lamenting our deprivation. The greatest benefit which one friend can confer upon another is to guard, and excite, and elevate his virtues.'
Eugene was a friend, a great and good friend, and he can still guard, and excite, and elevate our virtues, if we but dedicate ourselves to preserving his memory and acting in accordance with the lessons that he taught.