Impressions of Jos

Impressions of Jos

spoken by his father at the graveside a year after

We all remember different parts of Jos. From the the Jos web site I read to you memories of some people who are not here today. I begin from one of his college applications.

Jos: ... As for my Personal Philosophy, he's still young and eager to see the world. Like most Essay Topics his age, he is in an exploring stage. He values experience over possessions, and good humor over all. There hasn't been a day when I've been depressed and gloomy when my Personal Philosophy hasn't jumped up onto my lap and with one lick made me feel much better.

Professor David Menefee-Libey "I was thinking about the way Jos had of humanizing really huge and overwhelming issues like the religious/political issues we talked about in the portion he taught of my US Congress class: abortion, euthanasia, freedom of worship, etc. Without diminishing the gravity of the issues at hand, he often found aspects of them which were absurd to the point of silliness. A good joke would often diffuse tension, and we could go on with our often very serious discussion. His seriousness and goofiness were woven together."

Evan Bilstrom: Every time I saw him, he would ask, "How does this glorious day find you, Evan?", or words to that affect. The ease with which he reached out to people is something I greatly admire in him; a quality I wished I too could possess. And I think, perhaps, that this is the best way for me to keep a part of Jos alive, to reach out myself by his example.

Ann Oelschlager: In a world where the insularity of thought was sometimes numbing, he constantly made me question my own taken-for-granted viewpoints. And to be a man who could turn such a critical eye on the world, but also have such an affection for people and such a sense of humor! ... he was truly one of a kind.

Gordon Stott: Jos was not just "plugged in" or connected to everthing and everyone around him -- he seemed to become the connection that exists between people, ideas, and things.
I want to assure you that Jos is inside all of us who knew and understood him. He is still doing what he always does, trying to show us that life can, when lived right, become a series of life-affirming choices. Nothing less.

Dax Oliver: What will stick in my mind most about Jos are the times at Pomona when I would run into him while finding myself in a long mood of thinking that life was dark and depressing. Suddenly I'd have to remind myself,

"Damn, Dax, get on the ball! There's so much to do in this world!"
He had that effect on a lot of people.
A m a n d a V e r n e s : I think one of the things I found so amazing about Jos is that he worked at so many levels simultaneously. You never had simply a conversation with him. Talking to Jos was like four things at once: You felt flattered, intrigued, amazed, and amused all at once. He completely charmed me and I knew that I had a friend for life.

Josh Allen:

But he was a giant moving into the room,
taking it all in with a verve and good-naturedness that I've never seen, before or since.
I mean, these were cubicle walls,
and these were tangles of black cords,
and these were menial tasks,
but he consumed it all with that grin.
He saw the inner workings;
he saw us;
he saw the dynamics both hard and soft,
like within a matter of minutes.

Some people, most people, people who are that smart and that quick, get disillusioned real fast. Get cynical....

But he pulled possibilities out of that understanding.
One after another,
and that alone is unbelievable.
But to act upon those possibilities?
To explore them,
to invest oneself in them,
to gather people together within them?

Unheard of.
And he did it every single goddamn day.

I can't help but want to tear things apart, bring them down, set them on fire, whatever.
But he taught me about the value of putting things back together,
building them up,
assembling them into something bigger and better.
It was the process, the idea.

The pure joy of the idea.

And he had to be so funny, too.

Baby, you were one of the good ones.
That's not how it's supposed to work.
I can't help but think bad thoughts, think about all the millions of people that it should've been instead of you. ...

There was just too much of you, I guess.

Karen Kotoske: I thank God that I knew Jos. He illuminated my dental room whenever he walked in and when he walked out he left a great deal of joy in the room that I carried with me the rest of the day. We have thousands of patients and I know thousands of people in my work with Amistad in the Third World, but I never did meet anyone like your Jos. He was a true Singing Heart.

The impression he left with me was that there was no one who wasn't worth getting to know, and nothing in the world that wasn't worth learning about. He should have had 150 years to fulfill the innumerable things he could have contributed to the world.

Popalop (his name for me):

Jos loved ideas. All kinds of ideas: literary, social, political, media, technological, business ideas. He would dig up these ideas and turn them over in his mind and come up with his own twists. Then he brought these ideas to us, bubbling with enthusiasm, drawing out our opinions. He became a wonderful story teller, arguer, explainer and teacher. Then came the internet. Not only could he assemble his ideas into stories, but he could turn ideas into realities. And he did. That was the intellectual side of his genius.

He had another genius in how he related to people. It somehow linked his personality and his intellect. Nearly everyone would like to be able to relate to people the wonderful way Jos did. But we are not able to.

Given more time, I believe he would have become a leader. Not only because he was a visionary. He would have become a leader because so many extraordinary people would have wanted him to be their leader. He would have become a leader of extraordinary people. And they would have accomplished great things.

On Yossel's knitting site, he writes about his knitting site,
"This isn't really a knitting site. Sure, you'll find some patterns here, and I might even talk about yarn somewhere. But coming to my site for knitting patterns is like taking a class in literary criticism from Mike Tyson. The truth is, this site is really about absurdity, bombast, and baseless enthusiasm; the patterns are an insignificant part of it."

Humor aside, what I think his toessel site is about is loving people and loving life. He was robbed. We were all robbed.

My final thoughts are again from Karen Katoske who writes,

"I was thinking about Jos today, remembering how he saw the world, though the lightest, most lovely, lens of humor. But paradoxically his way was more often than not the deepest way; for Jos's way guides us all from taking ourselves too seriously, away from self centeredness, from despair even. I remember him for that and thank him for that."

Return to the Life of Jos Claerbout