Cary Lu

James Dobbins[hidden]

Cary Lu Remembered

My encounter with Cary Lu was not professional but coincidental-or maybe I should say serendipitous. Our paths crossed because he happened to live next door to my in-laws. Each year when we would make the long trek from Ohio to Seattle, I would visit Cary at least once, sometimes twice or three times. Our fields were far apart. He was a nationally recognized writer on computers for real people. I was a college teacher of Chinese and Japanese religions. But invariably I would have a few questions to ask him about the Mac, especially after I began running the Japanese Language Kit. And Cary was, of course, Cary, interested in all manner of things.

What I liked about Cary was his curiosity, his honesty, his intellect, and his unfetteredness. I think he loved knowledge more than anything else, ever comprehending its paradigms and then breaking through them. Over the years, he expressed opinions to me on a vast range of subjects, but never an unreasoned opinion. He was a captive of clear thought and broad vision. His love of knowledge, however, was always tethered to humanity. Unhumanized knowledge was, for him, problematic knowledge. Hence, he spent his life not just knowing things, but also communicating them to others. It was his way of being engaged with people in the world and of bringing out their own humanity. You could see it best when he would take his children on his lap and play computer with them in front of his monitor. In doing so, he was always poised to learn from their discoveries as much as to reveal his own. In speaking, Cary always expressed himself with the same clear, unassuming, on-target prose in which he wrote.

We last visited Cary in July, not long after one of his countless medical "procedures." He was in bed at the time, but his mind was as nimble as ever. What impressed me most then was Cary's great curiosity about his own physical condition. As with everything, he had a driving passion to know as much as he could about it, to be able to talk intelligently with doctors and others about it. Who among us could observe our own disabling metamorphosis with such inquisitiveness? We talked as usual about many things: kids' television, schools, bloated software, the Internet, the eclipse of Copeland. But he also talked about this own mortality with, paradoxically, both detachment and heart-felt emotion. I left thinking that Cary, of all the people I know, truly comprehended the insight and humor about death found in the Chuang Tzu, a book I regularly teach in my classes.

Cary Lu, wherever you are, may your spirit of inquiry endure unabated, may your love of clear language prevail, may technology ever be yoked to humaneness, and may the wonder shown by children be the driving force behind the human intellect.