Christian Barneson Hart, PhD
November 19, 1961 – August 26, 2009
Welcome everyone. My name is Brenda. Chris has been one of my very dearest friends. We met 17 years ago when we were both clinical psychology interns at the WLA VA. We then worked together at UCLA before he joined the faculty here at Santa Monica College. More importantly, we became close friends, and have had many amazing adventures together over the years. Like many others here today, I consider him family. I am honored beyond words to be the master of ceremony today. He wrote and conducted the ceremony for my wedding to my husband ten years ago. It, therefore, to me, seems as it should be that I have this job today.
I’d like to start by thanking you all for coming. Today is not easy for any of us. But, it is important. It is important to acknowledge the range of emotions and thoughts we have all been feeling. It is important to share in a ritual of grief. It is important to celebrate the life of Dr. Christian B. Hart. His family is extremely grateful for your presence and for the many people who helped orchestrate this day.
Thankfully, Chris left us a map about how to start to make sense of his departure from us. As most of you know, Dr. Hart, Professor Hart, Christian, or Chris, however you know him, left on his website over 400 of his favorite quotes. Messages to us. I am not going to read them all to you. However, I’d like to present a number of them over the course of our time together today. My hope is that we will be able to take comfort in some of the words he chose for us.
Quote 73 from his list, by Kahlil Gibran, author of The Prophet:
“Ever has it been… that love knows not its own depth… until the hour of separation.”
Quote 37 by Benjamin Disraeli, a British Prime Minister and a literary figure from the 1800’s:
“Never apologize for showing feeling. When you do so, you apologize for the truth.”
Dedicated to truth, and being an excellent psychologist, I believe Chris would want us to be honest today. Honest about our disbelief that he is gone; honest about our anger that he abandoned us, depriving us of his wisdom, humor and love; anger that he could not have adequately understood our love for him; honest about our confusion about his choices; honest about our guilt, as if we could have/should have more aggressively attempted to alter his path; honest about our annoyance at his timing or other details; and honest about the deep pain and sadness we feel about losing him.
I believe he would also want our emotions and thoughts to be alive, that is shared and altered over time, so that the pain we are feeling can find it’s proper place, allowing us to find a measure of peace, and able to access the great joy he has brought us.
I believe he would also want us to be gentle with ourselves and with each other, understanding that we are all have different levels of understanding and ways of grieving.
We all knew different sides of this man who has brought us together here today. You were each incredibly important to him and you each hold important pieces of him. Maybe by sharing even the little we can get through today, like the patterns that emerge during the weaving of a rug, we can start to see the bigger picture, the more complete view of Christian Hart.
Quote 352: “All is One.”
Quote 251, by Albert Einstein:
“The illusion that we are separate from one another is an optical delusion of our consciousness.”
Chris loved his students; his colleagues; his friends; his family. I know this because he spoke so fondly of all of you. Even though I am meeting some of you for only the first or second time today, I feel close to many of you from the years of affection directed at you that I have heard from Chris.
I specifically want to mention his family. I heard Chris speak more about no one than his dad and Kathy; he clearly cherished them both. Related to his father, Chris said it best in his dissertation acknowledgments. I quote: “My father has provided the unwavering love so many sons crave from their fathers, but too often do not get; thanks Dad.” Likewise, I can tell you that Chris loved and was extremely proud of his brother Nick. One of Nick’s greatest accomplishments is Chase. Within moments that Chris learned of his conception, Chris adored his nephew, Chase. It brought Uncle Chris pleasure that they shared initials, CBH, as well as their birth month, November. Finally, Chris credits his mother Karen, who died in 1984, with having had a big influence on who he was as a person.
We all brought Chris great satisfaction. He loved life and he was highly amused by it. He was not eager to leave us; he did not wish us to suffer. He knew we would all be okay… eventually. Sadly, his body was limiting him in ways we presently can’t fully know, in ways that made him weary and lonely. I believe he was beyond ready to discard it. And, he had reason.
In 1986, with people from North and South America, Europe and Africa, Chris attended a five day conference in San Francisco, called Prerequisites to Personal Genius.
During this conference, he had the mystical experience, sometimes referred to as a peak experience, that “All is One.” It typically includes the brief experience of the sense of self dissolved into an awareness of a greater unity, of the sense of the interconnectedness of everything, of the sense of truths that are independent of factual knowledge. Having such an experience can permanently increase one’s sense of free will, self-determination, creativity, and empathy. During the few moments it lasted, in his words, he understood the nature of the universe. The experience was profound for him and profoundly affected his life in positive ways, partially responsibly for him becoming an excellent student and pursuing his PhD.
Recognizing that “All is One” mandates a sense of social and environmental responsibility. This part of Chris is apparent in the quotes he left us as well as in his daily behaviors. Recognizing that “All is One” is also profoundly comforting and peaceful, and induces a state of joy. It quickly renders death irrelevant, typically erasing one’s fear of death. It is not possible to have this experience and not be eager to return to it.
It is clear from the books he left behind, called “Turtles All the Way Down” that were the transcripts of this conference and by the many quotes he left behind for everyone, that he wanted to remind us that “All is One.” He was not fearful. He did not want us to be fearful. And, he wanted to remind us, as he does on a very regular basis, that all is not as it appears. From all his communication with us, I believe it is reasonable to conclude that at the time of his death, Chris was hopeful, peaceful, and joyful about his future.
Introduction of speakers
Quote 278, author unknown, seen at the bottom of his personal emails:
“We’ve secretly switched the dilithium crystals in the Enterprise warp core with new Folgers Crystals… let’s watch what happens.”
Chris was a huge Fantasy and Science Fiction fan. He loved, what I think of as, really lame jokes and puns. He was fascinated by all aspects of science, from the very smallest unit of measure to grand theories about the meaning of life. He was fascinated by genetics, linguistics, human behavior, computer science, and patterns of any kind. He loved trilogies, campy movies, and dance music. He communed with trees. He was smart, funny and adorable. Anyone who has ever known Chris is aware of the fact that, by far, his beverage of choice is Diet Coke… There is so much more. We obviously do not have enough time. And, of course he had his dark side. Did you know that he hated pickles? He didn’t simply dislike them; they disgusted him.
Quote #273 by Oscar Wilde:
“It’s absurd to divide people into good or bad. People are either charming or tedious.”
Quote #87 by Logan P. Smith:
“A slight touch of friendly malice and amusement towards those we love keeps our affections for them from turning flat.”
I think we can all agree that Chris was far more charming than tedious, including his passionate aversion of the dreaded pickle. And, I believe he would accept my friendly malice for mentioning them. Perhaps you’ll think of him next time you eat a pickle. You can think of this as a post-hypnotic suggestion.
At this time, I would like to observe two minutes of silence, a time for private meditation, reflection, and prayer.
Now, I would like to invite everyone who wishes to stand for a message to us from Chris. Chris left us a mix of his favorite “Chill” music, which you heard as you were coming in this morning. He also left us what he called his “Joy” music. What you will hear now is the very first song on his Joy mix. This song brought him Joy. I am certain it is his hope that it will bring us Joy, and that it is a message from him to us. Please feel free to open all of your senses to absorb the words and the music; feel free to sing; feel free to dance.
Chris, I have a personal message for you:
Thank you for bringing such light into my life. I know you would be happy that we received at least some of the messages you left for us and that the people you love have come together to support each other. I know many of us will try to carry forward any fruits we might receive from our grief. Like many here today, I will miss you for the rest of my days. I Love You.
Finally, the last quote for today; Chris’ last quote on his website, number 413, by Douglas Adams, a message I think he was sending to us all:
“So long, and thanks for all the fish.”
[Note: this quote is by Douglas Adams, an English writer, dramatist, and musician, best known as the author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. This was the message left by the dolphins when they departed Planet Earth just before it was demolished to make way for a hyper-spatial express route. The phrase has since been adopted by some science fiction fans as a humorous way to say “goodbye.”]