I had the honor yesterday of attending a celebration event in memory of Ron Miller held at the center he co-founded: Common Ground. Ron was a dear friend/teacher/boss/mentor to me and I'd been unable to make his funeral or other memorial events since his death. So I was looking forward to the walk into the past.
Ron was many things to many people and I'm in no way special. He touched many lives over the course of his time as a Jesuit, professor at Lake Forest College, lecturer, author. The man was one-of-a-kind and hearing the stories from his friends and colleagues reinforced it. He knew Latin and Greek, (like a good German) loved a story over a good beer or wine, he loved a big meal, to laugh, he could explain obscure philosophers and theologians and talk with Buddhist monks. He was hopeless with a computer. His office was always a mess. But he'd invite you to his house for dinner or convince you to take a class at 8am (his favorite time to teach) and students actually showed up to hear him talk existentialism or the history of Jerusalem.
One of my other former professors, Rabbi Herb Bronstein, made it as a panelist yesterday and it was delightful to both visit with him and hear him speak. There were refreshments (just like Ron would have wanted) and reflections on spirituality and Ron's ability to teach. Lots of "how I met Ron" stories. Lots of memories of unfailing kindness, generosity, understanding, promoting peace. I came home exhausted! I'd forgotten how much intellectual work Ron made you do.
The one thing I felt was only briefly touched upon was Ron's humor. That always stands out to me. It bordered on corny, but always had a dagger of sharp, pointy truth to it. He'd tell the same stories over and over again and you could feel free to tell him you'd heard it. If there was one person in the room who hadn't, you'd be hearing it one more time. He'd probably fill up your wine glass and tell you that the Romans had a proverb about repeating tales--which he would quote in Latin.
My friend Anne (who writes a wonderful blog about museum archiving at http://archiveadventure.blogspot.com/ ) took a Christian Testament course from Ron with me back in the day and we compiled a list of some of our favorite "Ronisms" back then. I offer a few of those for you now in the spirit of yesterday's tribute.
“If you bury things in Sweden they won’t last long.” (Like Dead Sea Scrolls)
“You don’t get a lot of sympathy when you kill children.”
“Did the Buddha open a taco stand? No, he taught."
“Shakespeare didn’t write ‘lies,’ he wrote plays.”
Magi: “We’ve come to find…Elvis Presley.”
John the Baptist as he kicks in the womb: “Whoa, Jesus is here!”
“The best preparation for reading the Bible is hearing a joke.”
Jesus as Lamb: “is he white and made of wool?"
“The Americans killed Lincoln.”
Regarding the broadness (or not) of Biblical teaching: “It’s like telling the whole campus ‘you’d better read Brown for finals.’”
Regarding the Virgin Birth: "Was it gynecologically significant?"
Regarding the fact that nuns say there are harps in Heaven: “I’m gonna check out hell.”
“Fundamentalist Christians try to impose everything on everybody.”
“It’s more fun to buy a pair of shoes than a school.”
“You can all be Paul, but I’m the only Jesus.”
“James would come along and say ‘buffalo chips!’”
“One big psychadelic trip.”--regarding Revelation.
If you'd like to read more about Prof. Ron Miller, you can visit my post titled Gedenkschrift, or you can visit Ron Miller's World which is now run by his son.