Holly Haynes – Memorial Tribute

Many here this afternoon will attest to the genius and generosity of Seth as a teacher and scholar. I want to say a few things about him as my friend. I got to know Seth at the beginning of my second year here at NYU because we were both in the office all weekend, every weekend. He took everything I said seriously, and didn’t seem to mind about my bad Latin and Greek. Consequently I spoke freely with him and didn’t feel I had to hide anything. To Seth I always told the truth. As a result, I learned from him a self-knowledge I never had before, namely, the ability to have a good time in life. He advised me to write and think what I wanted, and to buy wickedly expensive shoes because they were beautiful and I loved them.

It is impossible to have a good time in your life if what you don’t know causes you anxiety. Unfortunately in our profession, hiding what you don’t know becomes a second nature, especially when you are as young and clueless as I was when I first met Seth. But from him I discovered that not to know is a great state, and I felt clever for the first time, because I’m here to tell you that I had done a lot of not knowing, and it seemed that this new attitude Seth showed me suddenly spun the dross of my life into gold. As my friend, he simply refused to believe that I ever felt intimidated, or depressed, or humiliated by my work, and saw in me — and made me see too — pleasure, joy, and freedom of expression. He was the first person I ever met for whom shoe-shopping and thinking about Parmenides held equal delight. Once, when I went to consult him about a problem with which I had wrestled for a long and arduous time, he proposed that the solution must lie with a completely different author, and that a completely different set of questions must first be asked. I flung myself to the side of my chair and whimpered. “Now, no whining!” Seth said, exactly as if he were addressing a fussy child, and it struck me as so funny that I laughed really hard and loudly. Seth laughed too. We both grew quite hysterical for a time. Seth thought I had a funny laugh, and he liked to provoke it; my main memory of sitting with him in his office is reading and laughing. So, I have a hail for Seth, but not a farewell. Because I loved him I love my life, and stopped being afraid. That laughter is the link between body and soul for me, and so I will never be without him.

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