Dan Massey Memorial Service: Eulogy
Additional material from this February 28, 2013 Memorial Service: Introduction, Mayor’s Proclamation, Dan The Activist, Upcoming Book Excerpt, and Printed Program. Also see: Wikipedia, The Advocate, Huffington Post, and MetroWeekly.
I am Joan Wentworth, a friend with a long history with Dan and his family. Within the embrace of that friendship, loyalty, love, and service are themes in this story.
I have always had a deeply intuitive trust that Dan and Alison were innately loyal people. Dan was loyal to his family, friends both new and old, to values that he esteemed, and to the movements that held those values.
For all who knew him, walking with Dan in this life for any length of time was an experience measured according to his thoughtful and personal understanding of LOVE, whether he was propagating the idea that God is Love or that Love is God, Dan meant it, and lived it. There was a measure of urgency about him to put that love into service.
Was Dan ever NOT in service to something of value? I can’t quite remember, but did Dan and Alison EVER go on a vacation to do nothing more than to relax? Maybe once? Wasn’t their whole life, for both of them, dedicated to improving the world? Look at the people whom Dan attracted to his life. Just look around today at the diversity of this group. He saw ideas as movements and created collective units from them. His science community, his spiritual communities, his social activism are all peopled with ideals that motivate and serve; they’re all the same transcendent ideals, really, rooted in the premise that Human beings must be known to be loved, while divine beings must be loved to be known. My dear friend Dan has been an enigma in my life since I first saw him in 1974 at a Urantia Book Readers conference. I will never forget that first time. He and Alison were that distinguished, fascinating couple—tall, distinctive, and with a lot of hair, and at the time a little bit “scandalous.” I thought they were the perfect hippies, cool, groovy types who would have no trouble believing in supernatural messengers. I heard Dan was a scientist and mathematician, which sounded so elusive, and that Alison was an educator, which I could relate to. Right off, Alison showed a warm personal interest, which was so gratifying and compelling, it made up for what appeared to me to be Dan’s prompt and unabashed critical assessment. He was intimidating. Maybe intimidating is not the word, but if you can recall Dan’s stature and his curious gaze, you can appreciate my unease. Dan was taller than even I, and that for one I was not used to, but he was also “DAN” whom everyone seemed to know and respect. Awesome Dan with Awesome Alison and they were talking to me. When I told Dan I was a Latin teacher, he was quick to let me know that he had chosen MIT over other universities specifically because they did NOT teach Latin there. I think he was smiling when he said it, but either way, he took his leave rather quickly. So, I dutifully assumed my place as the dead-language teacher in his life. Nevertheless, he did talk to me. And here I am close to 40 years later, still the dead-language teacher, but one made so much more alive by my friendship with this awesome couple. Imprinted in my mind forever is also the last time I saw Dan. It was at the wonderful surprise 70th birthday party Alison arranged for him just over a month before he became ill. I sat next to Alison, opposite him. At one moment, I caught him looking intently across the table at her. I wish I could have heard whatever it was he was saying to himself. His gaze was contemplative, and perplexed. He seemed appreciative, but a bit stunned. How in the world had she managed to surprise HIM? How HAD she outwitted him? No one had before her— Alison gave Dan his first and most memorable surprise birthday party. The classicist in me compels me to point out that Penelope was the one and only person ever to outwit Odysseus. And she did it with the test of their marriage bed, immovable and built from an ancient olive tree ever rooted in the ground. It was their secret sign, the secret of the bed only those two knew. Dan and Alison surely have their exclusive secret sign. To my mind that makes them epic heroes. And then, of course, in an apparent deliberative display of one-upmanship, Dan managed to surprise her, too, by leaving just over one month later. How lucky were we 17 people present at that celebration of Dan’s 70 years of living. There were photos all along the table of Dan as a boy and a young man, etc. And there he sat, center table, surrounded by his children and their spouses, people whom he cherished in his life, by extended family, and the beautiful woman who has loved him for 40 years. He had to have been happy. I am touched to the core by the vision of that Last Supper. I spent many, many years following Dan and Alison around, from New Hampshire to Massachusetts to Virginia and finally to DC. Alison became my dearest of friends and most intimate adviser. Dan hung over our visits like a benevolent mind spirit! He was always somewhere in the house working on something–something fascinating, I guessed. He worked a lot, always. He would pass by on his way out to work, dressed neatly in a business suit, with his hair close-cropped, but he was wearing Birkenstocks on his feet, which I always thought was the right touch of eccentricity for a scientist. Before the children came, I did not actually see Dan much, but once the house gave birth, he was a constant presence. He was always talking to them, teaching them something, just playing with them. Our families became close. My daughter, Bree, babysat for both Ross and Tiye for years. I became godmother in case anything unforeseen should happen. I depended on their friendship and love in ways neither of them could possibly fully know. That is what love does—it grows imperceptibly, as you get to know each other. Human beings must be known to be loved. With these human beings, it was easy. Dan’s level of brilliance gave a surge to the depth of my own insights. I did not always understand what he was saying, in fact if I am honest, I rarely understood what he was saying, but I listened with the chaste enthusiasm of a schoolgirl who adores her teacher because he is so smart and so cute! Gradually over the years, I had opportunities for solo conversations with Dan. Always the professor, he gave freely of his knowledge, to put it mildly. I got the complete history of the occult foundations of Washington DC on one long ride from Union Station to Great Falls in Dan’s cool I’m-still sexy-black Lexus two-seater sportscar. I think my question was something like, “So, do you like DC?” I figured out that I needed only to ask one question, make one simple inquiry, and I would be the beneficiary of a long and fascinating narrative, full of tangents and supportive references. Sometimes he even remembered I was there. I wish I could remember every single word. He told me that he hoped Obama would win in 2008 because he was the ethical candidate and the survival of our world depended on moral revision, or something like that. Once the Supreme Court redefined “human,” in terms of corporations, Dan declared the end of the world, as we know it (not exactly his words, either.) The next I knew he had discovered the Transhumanist movement, or for all I knew he had invented it, and was setting out to transform it. When Dan and Alison came to NYC, they always included me somehow. I hold onto so many precious dinner conversations that jarred me out of complacency. How often would I finish correcting Latin tests and find myself an hour later engaged in an explanation of the joys of erotic robotics. Then I had to go home, ALONE, to digest, all of it, which after that, seemed unfair. Alison was always able to help me understand Dan’s ideas by transforming them into literary metaphor. My mind is full of images that somehow translate into ideas deeper than any I could explain in words. Alison is the queen of metaphor and the great interpreter of her husband/partner. She has that NJ street-wise pragmatism combined with a literary eloquence that could filter Dan’s “esoteric cogitations” (and hers) for me. So much in Dan’s recent years seems full of wonder. The dead-language teacher in me has to resist finding myth in his story. It would be so easy to mythologize him. There is his three-fold evolution from Scientist to Urantian to Transhumanist, from husband to father to Transgenderist. We find ourselves remembering his life here in a building dedicated to one of his most precious life’s goals—equality. From his ivory tower of information theory, to his highly tangible defense-systems innovations, all the way to his transcendent social activism, Dan used his mind for the Good. He clarified for me God the Supreme and led me to envision God the Ultimate. Dan made practical sense of where all this living and experiencing was really taking us. He seemed to know for sure. And he did. I really do believe that Dan knew he was immortal and that we were, too. He was so TRANS, always ‘trans-ing’ some obstacle or other. Now he has transitioned and transcended, and who knows what else he is doing there. Reading the numerous testimonials that started pouring in on line I gained a humbling insight into who Dan was and will remain to those who knew him. It seems he had so many incarnations that each of us probably has our own version of him. Dana says his manner was “respectful but firm, and though Dan and Alison both had strong opinions, they never demanded compliance.” (adapted) Dan was opinionated. Davis adds, “His tremendous intellect was matched by a compassionate heart and generous sense of humor.” Dan was funny. Lee offers: “Dan, never hesitant to express his truth-seeking beliefs—blew the roof off a UB event when he went ‘off-script’ and boldly challenged many of the pre-conceived “pure revelation” concepts that many held so conservatively.” (adapted) Dan was NOT conservative. There is no disputing he was intelligent, or that he was formidable. Either way, his mind was a gift for all of us. Living with Dan must have been something like living with an intellectually challenging Socrates, who was a real handful, they say. But that spirit of confrontation is exactly what propels spiritual evolution. Dan was not a lazy religionist, nor could he abide those who were. He tamed and trained his own genius in service to greater values and expected as much from others. Alison used to say that when she passed on, I would inherit Dan–second wife she called me! As if I could ever have presumed to manage Dan. Love him, yes, but delight him, no. Only Alison could do that, only Alison, and everyone knows that. Their bond is a melding of 2 hearts and 2 minds: his math, her literature; his facts, her meanings. The goal of each: something very valuable–a true love relationship, enviable and beautiful to see. Dan’s earth family is relatively small in number, but these four people are all larger than life each in his/her own way. Surely I seem naïve, awed perhaps, when I talk about the Masseys, but in my own defense, I am a literature teacher, I earn my money from hyperbole. Hyperbole is a poetic device suiting for description of this family. Tiye is everything from a ballet dancer, a blogger, an artist, a scholar, a linguist, a health expert, a good wife, a loving daughter, a tough-love kind of sister, a loyal friend, and a precious godchild (that’s the short list), and she has managed all that along with the wise selection of her wonderful husband, Carles, in just 27 years. She is a Massey. That is fact, not hyperbole. Nor can her love for her dad or for her mom be exaggerated. Ross is a larger than life character, too. He is already running the world, you know, in his own way and he is only just 30. What 17-year old goes to Cal Tech and in his first year starts tutoring upperclassmen? Who finishes Cal Tech with a year to spare? Who goes to Cal Tech in the first place and learns to drink beer? Ross has his dad’s irony, irreverence, and wry humor. His reserved and benign presence is the embodiment of both his mother and father. When I see Ross, I hear Dan and I sense Alison. Yet he is so vividly his own person. I can’t see either Alison or Dan on skis out running an avalanche on any mountain anywhere, particularly in Alaska. I am not convinced that was an intelligence test, but Ross passed it, thank God, and he has found the wisdom to choose a partner as spirited as he is. Caroline, Carles, you have the best of paradigms to model. Your partners have observed a partnership in their parents that is select. Dan and Alison raised their kids in an atmosphere of freedom, the freedom to do the right thing as each understood it—no jealous interference, no pre-made prejudices. Alison shared with me Dan’s marriage mantra: “Marriage is a state of perpetual divorcement to which both parties agree every morning to try one more time.” It’s like Aphrodite’s bath. Each time she bathed she restored her virginity. What a great idea! Who has ideas like that? And, finally — to my dearest, Alison. You have made me laugh over the years more than anyone I know. You and Dan made humor an art form. Please try to remember all the peculiar perspectives, all the terse witticisms, all the hilarious ironies you and Dan nurtured over the course of your years together. Keep laughing, and keep us laughing, please. It is the best way to preserve each other, to remember each other. As it is said, “humor is the antidote to the exaltation of ego,” which I guess means being funny is a preservative. Alison left me with a final and lasting image of Dan. She described his body, lying on the bed at 8:30 am Monday, January 28, 2013: “He looked like a pharaoh, like a Pharoah. ” Thank you Dan-Alison, Ross, and Tiye for your friendship, your loyalty, and your love. I love you.