It is a striking coincidence that right after posting “Macrocosm, Microcosm” in which I speak at some length (as usual) about dying, news arrives from Down Under of the death of a very dear, unique friend, John Haswell. He died, “after a long battle with cancer”, yesterday, Independence Day. The word defines the man.
His name appears on a couple of occasions in this Blog, the very existence of which owes more to him than anyone else. I shall try to be brief, but his passing, and especially the life of a classmate who became an eminent scientist, a militant atheist and my gifted co-author, deserves to be recorded here.
John was a timid, self-effacing, brilliant man who was, during the eight years we spent together at Marist Brothers Kogarah from 1945-1952, always at the top of the class. Fast forward fifty years : the first-ever reunion of the “Yahoos”, the 1952 Leaving Certificate class, celebrating its Jubilee at the Rocks in Sydney in 2002. I had not seen John and many other former classmates for half a century. The reunion renewed acquaintances, “mateship” and a measure of mutual appreciation of the sexagenarians we were. With John it was the beginning of a bond that held strong for the last twelve years, until yesterday.
John and I rapidly discovered our separate and very different histories, as well as the itinerary we had in common, which ended in atheism. Before long we decided to co-author a book, which we were to entitle “From Illusions to Illumination. The Itineraries of a Scientist and a Priest from Catholicism to Atheism”. Faithful readers of this Blog will recognize a certain similarity with the title of the book I later published solo. The lady who had edited one of Richard Dawkins’ books told us that our joint-venture was not publishable. “Le style c’est l’homme”, and the cohabitation of ours within the same covers did not work. Hence the book of which this Blog is the extension.
John would not have wanted me to write a eulogy here. He asked his wife Rita not to organize even a funeral. (I have expressed my own Last Will and Testament in the book, page 95.) John Haswell was the incarnation of our title “From Illusions to Illumination”. I have lost not only a friend but an interlocutor as precious as Dr (Professor Emeritus) Ron Vernon and our esteemed engineer-legal eagle, Thom. My deep regret is that the three of them never met : all erudite gentle-men of science with remarkable talents and a tolerance totally undeserved by your bereaved blogger.