Alan Dean z’l

To me, Alan was peculiar, unique, an enigma or, maybe, more of a catalyst than anyone I have ever met. Recognising that how we perceive a person says more about us than them, nevertheless, I have to pursue my thinking and feeling in these somewhat strange directions without having any idea where they will lead.

I would like, please, to have a photo of Alan to keep by me and to remember him. That face, those eyes with their twinkle, their eagerness and intelligence. But – why has he died? His work was not complete, and never will be. He embodied ‘appreciative enquiry’. Every now and then he would phone to ask ‘how was I doing’ and, more often than not would end by telling me to look after myself. And I took his words very seriously and so have, in appearance, withdrawn (at least for the time being) from PivotProjects.

So much always appeared to be going on within him at every moment. His brain whirred and worked at incredible speed so that he would listen carefully and ask the simplest of questions, which always ensured that a whole new raft or slew of material would be forthcoming.

It seemed that his appetite and capacity were endless. His ability to formulate and draw upon his experience to illustrate was formidable. Like Puck, he was a will o’ the wisp, popping up here, there and everywhere and wherever he appeared, he would stimulate growth, understanding, engagement. 

We had one long drive together, a few years ago and it was the foundation for all I am writing here because it was then, in some depth, that we got to know one another. I have no idea, no memory of what was revealed and it is entirely unimportant. As Wittgenstein said, in the Tractatus, ‘Not how the world is, is the mystical but that it is.’ That was and will remain, for me, the essence, of Alan. He was a manifestation of Wittgenstein, which is high praise indeed.

It is worth reading this short and entirely comprehensible article about Wittgenstein https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/was-wittgenstein-a-mystic/ because it also describes my Alan. 

‘My’ Alan? He did not belong to me; maybe he belonged to no-one, or to the world, the spirit of the world. Recently, I quoted another phrase from the same book by Wittgenstein, ‘The world of the happy man is a different one from the world of the unhappy man.’ Alan always appeared the same, immutable, unchanging.

But – that surely was me and my limitations, unable to see below the surface. It makes Alan seem inhuman, less than human when he was the very expression of the human, human in its best, very highest form. Inexpressible, inexhaustible, the tsimtzum of being – that was Alan, the mystic withdrawal that allowed and encouraged everyone around, everyone he met, to be in his or her own, particular, peculiar form. 

To say ‘he will be missed’ is the supreme understatement.

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