Bob just pointed out, in the last comment thread, that Richard John Neuhaus died today.
This really hurts.
Weeks ago, some friends and I hit on a topic: Among people we don't really know, whose death would be the most meaningful, maybe even to the point of tears?
Someone said Bono, I remember that. I said Richard John Neuhaus.
I got the chance to talk to him a couple times. It was flagrant abuse of my radio talk show: My boss wanted me to interview actors, athletes, celebs. I booked Richard John Neuhaus.
It sounds goofy, I know, but I was nervous talking to him. Some people you want to talk to, but then realize, "I can't sum up how important this guy has been to me. And if I do, he'll just think I'm a freak." So I asked him some questions, said "Thanks for First Things," and that was it.
My mind may be mal-formed, but don't blame RJN. He had a hand in what good there is. You may even notice him on my category list: "Stolen from Richard John Neuhaus, Who's Alive, But is Too Nice to Sue, Probably" Truth is, I've internalized so much of his perspective, I don't know what's original to him anymore.
I want to write like him. I won't, though, because I can't. I'm not smart enough. But precious few are. And I'm not sure anyone can read as voluminously as Richard John Neuhaus read. His mind was like a river system, stretching to the far very reaches, gathering energy and soil, and ultimately funneling to a wide, worn, strong central stream of truth.
He was always reading, and writing, I was hoping the current would never stop.
No, I can't write like him. But someone told me once, "You write how you read," and there's something to that. What you read changes how you write. And there are some writers who, if you read them enough, well, you begin to hear them.
I think he heard Chesterton, but I'll keep hearing Neuhaus.