Our beloved Huston Smith, who has enriched the lives of countless souls, left us for the Greater Life December 2016 after many years in bed, before the Threshold. On April 1, a memorial service was held at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, celebrating his life of giving to us all. Many will remember Huston from his PBS series with Bill Moyers, or from his books, starting with the Religions of Man. But there were also many friends who learned not just from his inspiring writings, but from his presence as a luminous being. This volume brings together, on the occasion of his memorial service, reflections and tributes of all kinds; some are from family and close friends, others are from students and associates; many are from such well known authors as Wendell Berry and Pico Iyer. But what all of these contributions do is to present a further and even deeper teaching which Huston left in all of our hearts – the teaching of the way to be and the way to die. Reading these recollections about so great a personage as Huston gives one guidance on how to actually live a more noble and beauteous life. When one reads about these qualities of being which everyone loved so much in Huston, one recognizes greater possibilities for one’s own being.
The Chair of the Parliament of the World’s Religions Board of Trustees heard Huston speak at a congress in Canada in 2006. Robert Sellers writes: “With a gentle demeanor and voice projection dimmed by age, he still had no trouble holding the audience spellbound. At the conclusion of the session, I rushed to the platform to meet him, and rather than tower above this seated and frail world religions giant, I knelt beside his chair, took his hand, and said, ‘Dr. Smith, you are one of my heroes.’ Without pausing, he smiled and replied, ‘And if I knew you I’m sure that you would be one of my heroes too!’”
The titles of some sixty tributes range from “Here Was a Giant,” “So at Ease With His Own Being,” “A Characteristic Twinkle,” “A Rare Combination,” “A Perfect Gentleman…A Great Learner,” “That Rare Being,” “This Bodhisattva in My Life,” “Patience and Grace,” “Lit From Within,” “Beaming Smile,” “Something of a Saint,” and “Inscription for a Gravestone.”
A Word from the Publisher
It is an honor for Fons Vitae to pay tribute to one of the most beloved members of our Scholarly Advisory Board. And it has been comforting these past years to be in contact with a great number of Huston’s close friends through the thoughtful communications sent out to many of us by Philip Novak. Updates on Huston’s health have been sent out continuously since 2013-14. A family of friends was put in place.
And then, when the sad news came this past December, we all read various obituaries which were presented in many leading newspapers. There was a list of Huston’s publications and places he had taught – a glorified Curriculum Vitae. But the presence of the Huston whom we loved and knew was not there.
What began as a request that his friends, near and far, send in their thoughts, to be collected and made available on line, has become a small and precious volume. We can hear his voice in all of these remembrances; his teachings and beauteous example continue in a variety of loving stories and anecdotes. What is indeed most moving in many of these accounts is that we are able to read in words an accurate description of something we might have only noticed about Huston, but had never been consciously able to articulate.
What is hoped by this collection is that multiple facets of the gem of Huston’s life and counsel may be further shared. This small effort also intends to bring those of us who remain behind – for few brief moments – into a circle, going forth arm in arm. Phil Cousineau mentions Huston’s recollection of words spoken by Reuben Snake, the Winnebago American-Indian Dalai Lama:
Life is a long road, and the best we can do is walk arm in arm down the road with our Friends.