A death on Facebook

The irony is he barely used it.

But the Facebook phenomenon exploded out of the teen scene around the time we started our MBAs in ’07, and it became one of those things that tied the cohort together. Many of us lived on campus, most in the same building, and it was a warm and friendly time, seeing a message box or Status pop up from someone just a minute down the corridor.

The greatest thing of all was that the diverse groups on the course never congealed into ethnic enclaves; MBA courses are a great leveller. Sharing kitchens, sharing frustrations, and laughing a lot. Writing a Wall comment that’d be understood by fewer than twenty; adding a Status you knew the whole class would identify with.

It was a special time.

And now, one of the people I shared that special time with is dead.

As the sun rolls around the world and a new day dawns across timezones, the diaspora of the 07-08 Warwick MBA cohort is waking up to a sad message. One of those truly great people – a genuinely together guy, someone capable of stepping outside his own needs and desires to help others or forge a common purpose – has died before his time.

So one by one, we visit the Facebook page of a dead colleague. And leave him a final message he’ll never see, but the rest of us will.

Such messages are for him and his family… but they’re also for us. Letting each other know we gave a damn, and that it makes a difference that we do.

That we still give a damn.

And this message is no different. Because we’re spread around the world now, but some of us read my blog, and they’ll know who I’m talking about.

The darkness is out there. Sooner or later, it takes us all, through chance or time. And in the darkness, there is nothing. The only thing that matters is to make a difference while you’re here. The world has no meaning or purpose save that which we impose upon it… so make sure you impose that meaning, and find a purpose you’re happy with. We’re all on a downhill slope, but while you’re on it you can grab a few outcrops of rock, pull yourself up a little, swing round laughing for a while. Forget the inexorable for a moment and live in the now.

Goodbye, neighbour. You were a terrific guy. But as well as your death, I’m thinking about life.

So I suppose I’m writing this for those left behind, myself included.

We’ve all got the same thing, regardless of its span: a lifetime. But none of us knows how long it’ll be. We may see the dawn of a new century, or technologies only dreamed of, or proof of life on other worlds. The death of friends is a gift: it tells us to make life sweeter. Do with it what we can, while we can.

Sooner or later, for all of us, everything goes dark.

So let’s live.

I’ve got a bad feeling about this

I’m in touch with a few of the latest Warwick MBA full-time cohort, and one thing has become clear: they’re all named after Star Wars characters.

I mean… Sumudu M? Jib Warittha? Gokturk D’mir? Sumudu M’s undoubtedly an X-Wing fighter jockey, defending the rebel alliance from the Empire. Jib Warittha, obviously an ambassador of a friendly alien race, possibly a diplomat. Gokturk D’mir – well, of course that’s an officer on an Imperial Star Destroyer. All of them would be perfectly at home in the Mos Eisley Cantina.

I wish them luck as their second week ends. I mean, my cohort last year was pretty special, but this lot fight space battles! But do they know how to build their own lightsabres yet? They’d better learn. The Force is strong with this cohort.

Wearing my Kenobi hat for a moment, here’s a tip for any of them reading:

“The Operations Lecturer in Term 1 will state your initial presentations ‘do not need to be polished and professional’. Don’t believe him.”

Goodbye

I left the Warwick campus today. Much as I arrived: in the pouring rain.

And now I’m back in London, in my new home. A cheerful top floor of a pleasantly scruffy house down south. Lying on an unfamiliar bed, in the dim light of an dusky lamp, stone cold sober, thinking. And trying not to think too much about the one inescapable fact: I’m not going back there.

The richest experiences are rich precisely because they end quickly. A skydive, a jungle trek, even a month backpacking. You troll through the time taking action to take things forward. But the MBA had a community. When you’re working and studying in each others’ pockets and half the cohort lives a two minute walk away, you feel wanted, part of everything, alive, even in the most despairing moments late at night before an exam you know you’re not ready for. It wasn’t a year out; it was a life. And now it’s gone and I’m already missing it.

Lots to do, lots on the calendar. But the dreamy green campus is behind me now, and I’m sad. In just two week there’ll be another crop of bright-eyed MBA students using our Syndicate rooms, eating our doughnuts, sleeping in our beds. (And, if this year’s anything to go by, each other’s beds too.)

It was a great year. Thank you, Warwick University. Signing off…. now.

I feel sick

Weird. Now the three-month dissertation project is complete – as usual, it all came down to the last 48 hours – I’ve suddenly lost my usual vitality. In fact, since waking at 7 I’ve felt like crap.

I’m guessing the focus on a rather difficult research question kept me so occupied my body just somehow kept up, although I’ve done little exercise since March except jumping out of the odd plane. Now the last spreadsheet and paragraph is done, and the whole thing’s PDF’d up and with the binding shop, it just let go. I feel like a normal person: listless, incurious, and physically weak. I hope this doesn’t last long.