Posted by: sflammia | January 9, 2010

Tyler Johnson, 1979-2009

This blog is dedicated to the memory of Tyler Johnson, beloved friend, brother, son, nephew and cousin.  We will miss him dearly. Tyler’s Obituary

If you have any thoughts, stories, pictures or well-wishes you would like to share, please share them with us!  To do so, please create an account with WordPress, click on “Comments” below, scroll to the bottom and leave a comment (or reply to others’ comments).

UPDATE: Patrice has started her own blog, http://patricewjohnson.blogspot.com/, where she has several thoughtful posts about Tyler, with more to come. Please add her to your RSS feed today and show your support!

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Responses

  1. Thank you, Steve! It will be very special to learn about Tyler from photos and comments of friends around the country and world. ~Kelsey

  2. Dear Steve,

    Thank you for setting this up. I thought this article that Tyler’s grandmother (my mother) wrote about him when he was a little boy says a lot about him, curious and loving from the start.

    “Four-year-old Tyler’s parents planned to go on a trip; Ed and I volunteered to take him on a “campout out” for his own vacation. On our eighty-acre farm there is a private lake and campsite, equipped to set up a tent, and a little dock leading off into the water.
    He examined a spider web. “Why do spiders make webs?” he asked.
    “To catch bugs,” I replied.
    “Why?”
    “To eat.”
    A blackened toad jumped out of an old bed of coals, and he asked, “Do toads like fire?”
    “They must like the warmth,” I replied.
    “Why?”
    I had to admit that I did not know why, and it was silent for a long moment.
    The next morning this curious child continued to ask questions. “Why do you put a worm on a hook? Why do fish like worms? Why do they like the taste?” It is no wonder that Tyler attends Caltech and taught himself Chinese in High School.

  3. Tyler was, bar none, the brightest member of DHS ’98, as well as reliably enjoyable company. That’s probably because he was endlessly motivated, so there was always a Physics Club trip, skating session or epic video production on the front burner, rather than the usual teenage free-time dithering. He was such a great guy. I know saying that doesn’t cushion the blow of this heartbreaking loss, so I hope friends and family find some value in knowing, as they surely do, what a ubiquitous opinion of Tyler that is.

  4. Tyler was simply a prince. He was royalty in exile, here on earth for a short while to share with us commoners what humans are fully capable of being. He regarded his life as art. He lived in the now. Fully aware. A person of such talent and ability was maladapted for the mediocrity that is modern life. In more interesting times, he would have been an emperor. A philosopher king. Or, a great traveler like Marco Polo. I did not know anyone that thought Tyler was normal. They knew he was special. He stuck out like a sore thumb to some, to others he was a diamond in the rough. Tyler was somewhat oblivious to the impact he had on the world, but i know for a fact he transformed the lives of many people in amazingly positive ways. I will continue to miss him desperately.

  5. Just a few days ago, I was trying to find Tyler on Facebook. I was hoping to reconnect with him after too much time had passed. I hadn’t kept up with Tyler, but he had a huge impact on my life. I was one of two girls in our AP Physics class senior year and Tyler made me feel like one of the smartest people in the class. He gave me the courage to be the engineer I am today. He helped me believe in myself. He’s the reason that people at our highschool could look at the Physic club and see it as a desirable after-school activity. He definitely lived his life to the fullest. I remember literally almost running into Tyler at 11pm at night in Pittsburgh on the CMU campus. He had come into town to visit and didn’t have anywhere to sleep that night, because he couldn’t get into a lab to check his email. How I found him that night, I have no idea, but Tyler had no concerns that things would work out. Though I haven’t really known him well since highschool, I will NEVER forget Tyler. He will be greatly greatly missed!

  6. Fortunate does not begin to describe all of those who knew him. Fortunate implies luck, and luck is cheap way of describing the order of the universe.
    For the last six years, since last seeing Tyler, I have thought of him often. And in the background of every thought has been the assumption that someday- years down the line- someday he would resurface. Someday there would be news. Someday, walking down the street, I would run into him. And predictably, he would be living the dream. This is only to say that I had the utmost faith that he would continue to live live to its fullest, putting most of us to shame in the process.
    Tyler was a gift. And a number of years ago, that gift was passed along- from many of us on to others. We were not asked our permission; I am certain that most of us would not have granted it had we been given the choice. We are, after all, selfish and often want good things all to ourselves. Fortunately for the world, and less fortunately for ourselves, we have little say when it comes to the trajectory of those we hold dear.
    Tyler, more than most, had a mind of his own. It’s tough to pin someone like that down.
    Johnsons, my heart is with you. Please know that he continues to be an inspiration to those of us who knew him. Tyler made us all wish we were all a bit less compormising, a bit more committed, a bit more alive. Soup is right- there’s painfully little to offer in the face of such loss. So here’s the painfully little that we can offer- he is a gift that none of us ever deserved. For my part, I will miss him a lot and think of him fondly.

  7. I wasn’t close with Tyler. I don’t pretend to have known him all that well. Even in high school, I would’ve only categorized us as “very good acquaintances.” But as I look back on the more memorable, spectacular, extraordinary experiences of my life—the things I brag to others about having done—it’s alarming how many Tyler was a part of.

    By all accounts, Tyler lived the life that most (myself included) don’t have the stones to live. For those of us on the periphery of his friendship, Tyler was a legend. His death, however tragic and untimely, only adds to that legend. That’s little respite at a time like this, but to those who were truly close to Tyler, please know that he will be remembered.

  8. Dear Marc, i see that back home you were the same friendly, carring, inteligente guy that dont forget that we have a real game to play in this world.
    i loved how you played, how you were dreading this life we all share.
    Next to you, like the other were saying, i would feel confident, i would fell that i’m able to realise my dreams of being a actor of the world i would like.
    We created something, that was wiser then us and that will be continue.
    it is a shame that live stops so quikly. you were one of the most brilliant men that the US had but you were as well the men that they’re were surching.
    One thing witch is good to know is that you didn’t let them catch you but they’re did catch a lot of you dreams.

    One day you told me that you will never be able to become the scientist you would of wanted, i should of told you, wait and be patient there is no age for discovering revolutionary knowledge.

    But you were living you life at full speed all the time and pushing every thing you would do. i guess is normal when you have been given the full power. But there is always one limit, the limit of our physique.
    Or maybe not, maybe you will find a way to creat bridges between the numbers of world that maybe exist. maybe quantum phisic have many secretes.
    In all, i would like to tell you that it was a real pleaser to share the road with you and to discover and feel that creation is a real passion.
    I love you boy and like always:

    Peace love and liberty !!!!!!

    this words will be deeper graved in my heart.

  9. Born free, no fear,
    died free, no fear too,
    what a lesson!
    I wont ever meet a guy like you man. Every things you wanted to know, you learnt it, even if it was bigger than you, even if you get in danger your life . I always been impress by this energy of life you had.
    I m thinking than we ‘ve got a hugh privilege to spent, with you, a bit of time on this earth.
    Of course i wanted you still alive to realise so many projects we would have imaginate, but you ‘re gone and we wont forget to continue what we start together.
    And fortunatly you create a familly here with whom we’ll do our best in the way we decide to go.
    You miss me my friend.
    Thanks a lot.

  10. What a privilege to have met Tyler, even only for a countable number of times! The intensity and longevity of the light you brought to this world is unmeasurable. you are a pure light, god sent to show us how bright a soul can be! May you rest in a world of pure light and sound! I am sure you are just returning to your magnificent kingdom. Your sweet smile will be missed forever! Sending love to your family, and to the ones you loved and inspired! Thank you, Tyler!!

  11. Of the long six years you were gone we always wished you only the best. We had visions of your happiness and life –and so it did come true !! which we are so thankful for.You were blessed with another family and special friends.
    What a special person to have left such an imprint on all acquaintances.
    You were family, and so many family times will be held close to our hearts and memories- back at the lake, Drummond Island, birthday parties, sledding, fishing, camping out – the list could go on and on.
    As mentioned last night , your spirit was never broken. We will all miss you oh, so much. Aunt Amy

  12. Marc/Tyler,

    I read what your friends, your family, and people you met in your life wrote about you, and it made me sure of something: You are still alive.You are the kind of man who planted seeds in the brains of people who crossed your way. You are not here physically anymore, but all the seeds you put everywhere are still growing and will continue to grow into the wonderful garden you hoped to live in. Despite the conditions we met you in, there in Corsica, you managed to focus people on a project and unite them around a dream. This dream was to change the world.You thought it was possible. You knew it was possible, and you shared this certitude around you.

    I remember the day we built a raft with the rubbish we found on the beach. It was a game for me, not for you. You were really hoping to cross the sea and find back your freedom.

    I remember the day you called me to go to Africa within three days. I thought you were mad.

    I remember the day we climbed Monte Cinto. How crazy it was.

    I remember the day I met you in this refuge, where you offered plenty of food to us in no-man’s-land.

    We often talked about the mountain and how dangerous it can be. You liked it so much that you said it would be a good way to die.

    I know you were happy until the end, and it helps me to know that, so I would like all people around you to know it, too.

    You were not crazy. You just did not accept that some things were impossible. It gave you the power to follow through to the end of everything you wanted.

    I will never forget you and all that I learned during the time I had the chance to be beside you. This world did not fit for you, so you tried to change it.

    Optimism and freedom are words I will try never to forget because of you.

    Bye bye,

    Au revoir,

    David Bilbault

  13. Thank you so much for setting up this webpage and blog. It is so wonderful to see the beautiful pictures of Tyler and to read the stories about how he inspired some and left others in awe. I was fortunate enough to have known Tyler during grade school and high school. I remember Tyler as a person constantly in motion, constantly creating, inventing, and working on several projects simultaneously, all the while propelled by an intrinsic sense of motivation. Everything within him seemed to reject the concept of inertia. From the anecdotes I have read in this blog it is clear that Tyler became the leader and visionary he was always destined to be. I will always remember Tyler’s kindness toward people and animals, his positive attitude, and his friendly nature. I will miss him.

  14. It was a real privalege to know Tyler as a boy. And its been an equal privalege to understand now, who he became as an adult. Tyler seemed to express a knowing of things not knowable. To his parents, sister, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandmother and friends, may the energy of the universe and Tylers spirit surround us all. Tyler burned brightly and lived passionately. Victory to his spirit and peace to all. Love, Susan, Jim and CD davis

  15. I met Tyler, Mark, on a road, thanks to dogs who had decided to eat my leg. Now I like them !!

    I can’t say that I knew him. I didn’t know anything about his life.
    I just know that he loved the mountains ; he loved the mist that sometimes drifted around the summits. He loved to be above the clouds. He loved to look at the sky, and the full moon’s unreal light. He wanted to be free.

    He reminded me how things are simple, what is important and what is not, and lots of thoughts that I almost had forgotten. Without talking a lot, just being here, smiling, and having so peaceful blue eyes.
    There always was a wonder around that made him smile and become really happy : a beautiful landscape, frost illuminated by moonlight, sunset, chocolate, … But he was the wonder ! The beauty that he saw everywhere came from his own heart.

    Once we talked about death.
    He told me : it’s so great, for an alpinist, to die in the mountains. He said we shouldn’t be afraid of death.
    I answered : is death just conceivable for a human mind?
    And now he evaporated in the mountains, and I know that I will still look at the heights hoping to see him, somewhere.

    He was a great friend, already. Just for 3 months… I not-proportionnally miss him.

    As long as I will be able to believe in something, I will remember Mark, Tyler, this guy who was so bright.

  16. It’s been so long that I’ve seen Tyler but his smile has stayed with me always.
    I truly believe he died free. And Now every time I become absorbed in the majesty of the mountains I will see him smiling at me through the mist.
    He found the simple beauty in life as being connected to the land and people. He truly lived his life to the fullest and I admire that more then anything.

  17. Tyler was my son Steve’s best friend at Downingtown High School. I remember him coming over to our house so many times to skateboard on the ramp the boys built out back. One year, Steve wanted me to throw a Super Bowl party for his buddies, and Tyler showed up with 10 bags of Taco Bell burritos for the gang! Can’t ever forget the epic video of The French Resistance! And his visit to see us in NYC – Steve and Tyler challenging one of the chess players that hang out Washington Square. Tyler was a brilliant young man, taken from us way too soon!

  18. As your neighbors, we didn’t know Tyler, but are saddened by your loss. From what we read he seemed like a son that had accomplished so much, and lived life to the fullest. For that I am sure you are so proud. Having lost our 16year old niece in a tragic car accident last Christmas we can only imagine your pain.

    Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

    Brook and Sandy Risner

  19. I knew Tyler as a boy, wow what a wild one however I gave him a ride many years back from Michigan to Chicago which was really my only adult encounter, that I truly recall. “if you could call us adults at the time ha,ha”
    His presence and our conversations still linger in my mind from time to time, I cant say that about many people you meet after ten years. I think Tyler was special, as most people who encountered him have found, and I am sure that although his time with us was brief, he touched many lives. Im sure there are big plans for him yet to come. My heart goes out to his sister, mom dad and extended family for their loss. You will be in our continued thoughts and Prayers

  20. The last memory I have of Tyler is when him, Kelsey, and great grandma Johnson came to visit us at our old house in Holmen. I remember we went in the backyard and played kickball and other random games. That was back in 2000 and I was only 9, but I still remember it pretty well and I’m glad that I have a good last memory of him.

  21. I remember coming to visit at Grandma Johnson’s house in the summer of 1979, and there was Uncle Jim and Aunt Patrice’s little boy Tyler. I was about 9 and 1/2. But I remember this moment so clearly in my brain….Tyler was the first and only Grandson born on this side of the family. Tyler was always so full of energy, and never seemed to slow down even for a moment….Lived in different areas of the United States for many years, so didn’t get to see alot of Tyler over the years, but I do remember the summer I was 15, I stayed with Uncle Jim and Aunt Patrice along with Tyler and little sister Kelsey at there home in Chelsea, Michigan for about 2 weeks, and I got to know little bit more about Tyler, by this time he would have been about 6 years old, and never stopped moving or talking, hardly even took the time to eat….couldnt even get him to sit down long enough to do it!
    Attended a party at Grandma Johnson’s house in 1998 for his graduation from high school….I was so busy with my little children, dont think I got much time to talk with him then.
    In 2001, Tyler and Kelsey and Grandma Johnson all went on a trip around the United States, and they stopped at our house in Holmen, Wisconsin. We had such a nice visit. We went and tried to see President George W. Bush’s motorcade, we did glimpse it, and also saw Air Force One at the Lacrosse Airport. Everyone had lunch together at Grizzly’s Restaurant. And also took Tyler, Kelsey and Grandma Johnson a trip of to Grandad’s Bluff In Lacrosse, you can see many miles from way up there….Good memories, need to dig out the photos! You will never be forgotten Tyler and will forever live in the hearts of all those you have touched in your life!!! Love you Cousin!!!

  22. Since we met, I think of Tyler everyday. The sun reminds me of his inner light.
    It sometimes makes me sad, it often makes me smile, and it always gives me strength.
    I have got a real treasure : Tyler in my memory. He has made me rich forever!

  23. I feel so lucky to have had a piece of Tyler in my life. He was the kind of guy who was always going somewhere and trying to change the world. He was so passionate about what he believed in that it made you feel alive to be a part of whatever it was he was getting into. Some of the memories I have include staying after school to make T-shirts for the physics club, and putting up signs all around school that were just ridiculously funny to us, in attempts to get people to join. I’ll never forget the GO METRIC bumper sticker on the back of my old station wagon. He knew this back way to Marsh Creek where we would take our old SLR cameras, take pictures, and talk about Ayn Rand. We would watch movies like Predator and Trainspotting at my parent’s house. He gave me the book, A Brief History of Time, as a gift, and I gave him Black Holes and Baby Universes as a gift in return (although I’m sure he had already read it). I guess it wasn’t your typical high school courtship, but Tyler was anything but typical. I always admired how nothing was an obstacle for him, and how he knew no boundaries. He lived more in his 30 years than many of us will live in our entire lives. My heart goes out to his parents and Kelsey. I am privileged to have known him. He was truly an amazing person.

  24. i am struggling with this. and i am so pissed off.

  25. Tyler, I know how much you’d enjoyed putting your limited Chinese to use at every opportunity you got, so I’m going to write the following piece in Chinese for you. I don’t know if I’m ready to dedicate it to your memory just yet as in the far corners of my mind I still keep this small glimpse of hope that somehow you’re still with us and what I’d read in the news was only a cover-up, and that one day our paths will cross again in some place distant and far-away — China, Africa, or whereever the whirlwinds of life would take us. One way or another, I know you’ll still be watching. So here it is for you, my friend.

    拒绝“重整”的人生

    有多久了,五年?六年?上一次在新闻里读到你名字的时候大概你已经在逃亡的路上了吧?这些年来我一直在猜你在哪,过得好不好,是否还像以前一样爱拍电影?每当心神不宁的时候我就安慰自己:你是个天生就很有办法的人,这一点比我们这些书呆子朋友们都强,不管碰到什么困难你总会找到办法去解决的。前几天因为一个偶然的原因想再到网上去查查你的消息(虽然并没指望能查到任何新东西),才知道早在一年前你就已经离开了我们,永远地留在了异国的雪山之巅。

    认识你很偶然,当然也许偶然之中也有必然:那么小的一间学校,一个好为人师的中国人和一个对中国文化充满向往和热爱的美国人,碰头恐怕只是迟早的事情。你对中国文化的热爱是显而易见的:跑到北京去学中文,爱看王家卫的电影(我记得你说过《东邪西毒》是你的最爱 — 这一点让我很惭愧,因为那部电影我从来没看懂过),后来还把自己的长发挽起来扎了个中国古代武士的发髻,戴着你那东方式的,微带腼腆的笑容在校园里招摇过市。更难得的是你能够从中国人的视角看问题,你会抱怨好莱坞电影里亚裔演员太少,会对白人男性在中国玩弄女性的感情表示鄙夷,甚至还会为自己的ABC朋友因为长了一张亚裔面孔而在中国找不到外教的职位打抱不平(尽管他其实是在和你竞争同一个职位 — “可他的英文比我还好” — 你是这样告诉我的),以至于跟你聊天的很多时候我会忘记你是一个美国人。我经常逗你说:你上辈子一定是个中国人。

    电影是另一个我们最常聊起的话题,因为做一个像王家卫那样的导演是你毕生的梦想。你老是想说服我做你小电影里的男主角,甚至不惜以色相诱:“George你知道吗?我认识一个UCLA的MM,我会安排她做女主角和你配戏,而且我保证至少会有一场吻戏喔” — 你显然知道对于一个加州理工的猥琐书呆男来说,这是一个怎样的诱惑。当然最让你引以为傲的还是你心目中的那个终极大制作。开场很落阿西莫夫的俗套:二零N零年,超级电脑统治世界,人类沦为人工智能电脑系统操控的奴隶。绝大多数人都已经被电脑洗脑,彻底失去了个人的自由意志。这个洗脑过程你给起了个很有创意的名字叫“重整化” — 一个从量子场论里借来的名词(我到现在还记得你提到这个名字时那股子得意劲,只是不知道费曼老爷子地下有知会有什么反应?)。少数还没有被重整的人类不得不东躲西藏,亡命天涯。这时候我们的英雄出现了,他领导着地下反抗组织进行了一场轰轰烈烈的抵抗运动,这其中当然也少不了会与女主角共谱一曲惊天地泣鬼神的爱情故事。结尾是电影的另一个亮点,像你这样一个特立独行的编剧当然不会容忍一个好莱坞式的皆大欢喜的结局。于是乎男女主角双双被擒,惨遭重整。全剧最后以重整后的这对曾经山盟海誓的恋人在大街上面对面擦肩而过,彼此相忘于江湖而收场(据你说这是从《1984》得到的灵感)。

    假如说每个人都是一个圆,我们俩的交集也就止于此了。如果没有2003年八月的那档子事,我对你的了解应该也跳不出这个交集,我很可能永远也看不到你生命里的另一面。我从不认同那天晚上你做的事。我如果事先知道,我一定会设法阻止你。当然我也知道你是一定不会听的,正像你的一个朋友所说的那样:Tyler做事从来不半途而废。我也同样不认同他们把你当作(环保)恐怖分子来对待,需要动用FBI和联邦法庭来处理这件事情。激进分子你的确是,但恐怖分子!?你绝对不是!你心里有太多的同情,善良,和对社会的责任感。你在逃亡的期间想到的还是怎样为环保,为第三世界的人民做些事情,在这一点上我绝对不如你。

    有一件事我一直耿耿于怀:你我认识了这么久,为什么我们没能相互了解得更多一些更深一些呢?相对你来说我是一个更温和更实际的理想主义者,但在了解我的中国朋友圈子里,我也绝对算得上是一个怪胎。真正理解我的朋友屈指可数,更多的是善意的劝诫和忠告。像我们这样的人本来就是少数,有时亲如父母者也未必能理解和认同我们的一些想法和做法,失去你这样一位原本可以做知心朋友的人是我一辈子的遗憾。想想看,我们原本可以在一起做多少事情:我们可以用太阳能做环保(我最近工作稍微换了一下方向 — 部分原因也正是为了环保 — 太阳能聚光现在也是我研究的方向之一),我们可以一起去非洲做义工,我们还可以拍电影宣传慈善。。。我不知道自己为什么没有主动让你看到我的理想主义那一面,也许潜意识里我觉得你不会理解,不想让自己显得太奇怪太特立独行?而你是怎样想的我想我是永远也不会知道了。你留给我们的只有你的善良,你的乐观,你的不循规蹈矩,还有你那为了理想一往无前的信心和勇气。

    写到这里我多多少少有些释怀了,对于你这样的一个人来说,健康长寿本就不是你所追求的。你所追求的是来过,爱过,精彩地活过。有过这些,你就可以走得了无遗憾了无牵挂。可是对于我们这些还活着的人来说呢?我们还要怎样地走下去?陀思妥耶夫斯基说过:我只担心配不上自己所受的苦难。我想把这句话稍微改一下:我要拿什么献给你,我的朋友,才能配得上你留给我们的这份珍贵的回忆?

    PS: My heart goes out to the Johnsons — I lost my dad earlier this year so I know how it feels to lose a loved one. There are things in life you never get over with, but it does get easier with time. Tyler was a good friend from Caltech and it’s a privilege to have shared so many fond memories with such a special person. Also if you happen to have the contact information for Solaris, please let me know. I’m currently working in the field of solar energy and would like to help in any way I could. My email: george.ouyang@gmail.com. God bless, George

  26. Souvent sur la montagne, à l’ombre du vieux chêne,
    Au coucher du soleil, tristement je m’assieds ;
    Je promène au hasard mes regards sur la plaine,
    Dont le tableau changeant se déroule à mes pieds.

    Ici, gronde le fleuve aux vagues écumantes,
    Il serpente, et s’enfonce en un lointain obscur ;
    Là, le lac immobile étend ses eaux dormantes
    Où l’étoile du soir se lève dans l’azur.

    Thinking of Tyler, and of his family and friends

  27. Translation:

    A life not to be “renormalized”

    How long has it been? 5 years, or may be it was 6? You must have had already fled the country by the time I saw your name in the papers. For all these years I’ve always wondered where you had been, how life had been treating you, and whether or not you were still pursuing your dream in movie-making. I took solace in knowing that you’re a very able man – more so than most of us nerdy Caltech types – and you seemed to have a knack for finding a solution to any problem that might come you way. It wasn’t until the other day when I looked you up on the web did I realize that you had already left us for almost a year, resting in eternal peace on the snowy mountain top in France.

    We met by chance, but maybe destiny also played a part in it: When you put a Chinese fellow like me, who was fond of teaching others mandarin Chinese, and an American guy like you, who had a passion and love for everything Chinese, on a small campus like Caltech, our paths were bound to cross at some point. Your love for the Chinese culture was all too obvious: You would travel to Beijing to study Mandarin, you worshipped the Hong Kong film director Wong Kar Wai (I was put to shame when you told me one of your favorite movies was Wong’s “ashes of time” ‘coz even for a Chinese like me that movie was incomprehensible), and you would saunter around campus with your hair pulled up and tied into a Chinese topknot. As an American you had the rare gift of being able to look at things from the Asian/Chinese perspective: You complained about the scarcity of Asians in Hollywood (movies), you shared with me your distain for those white boys who slept around with Asian women just for a little variety, and you even got upset when one of your American-born-Chinese friends got rejected for an ESL teaching position at a college in China simply because he looked Asian – the fact that you were also applying for and eventually got the job didn’t seem to matter, as you believed “his English is even better than mine!”. “You must have been a Chinese in a previous life”, or so I teased you.

    Movie-making was another topic that we talked about often, as one of your life time dreams was to be a film director like Wong Kar Wai. You had always wanted me in your movies and I still remember how that one time you tried to coax me into acting for you: “George, I know this girl from UCLA. She’ll be your girlfriend in the movie and I promise there is going be a kissing scene…” – you knew damn well how big of a temptation that must have been for a Caltech nerd like me! Of course, the one movie you most wanted to make was the “big one” (I don’t know if you ever came up with a name for it. If you did, I wasn’t aware of it): The opening scenes were quite Asimovian – year 20xx, the world has been taken over by super-computers and humans are forced into slavery. Most humans have been brain-washed into submission in a process you called “renormalization” – a term you borrowed from quantum physics (I could sense the pride in your voice when you first told me of this name – I just couldn’t help but wonder how Mr. Feynman would have taken it). The few humans who have not been “renormalized” are forced to either live in the shadow or be constantly on the run for their lives – that is, until our hero shows up. He gathers everyone around him and forms an underground resistance movement, all the while falling deeply in love with the heroine of the story. The ending turns out be another bright spot in this film – alas, an unorthodox screen writer like you certainly would not tolerate a Hollywood happy ending. So after an epic battle both the hero and heroine are captured and fed into the “renormalization” machine. The movie ends with a scene in which the two former lovers brush passed each other on the street, completely oblivious of the past that they have so intimately shared… (you told me this particular scene was inspired by the move “1984”).

    My memories of you stop here and I probably would never get to see the other side of you if it weren’t the fateful events in August 2003. I never agreed with what you did that night. Had I known your plan beforehand, I would have tried to talk you out of it. But I know you wouldn’t have listened. Just like one of your friends commented above, you’re not a person who would stop half-way. Having said that, I also believe it’s wrong to label you as a “terrorist”. A radical? Yes, you are; but a “terrorist”!? No way! You’ve got way too much love and goodness in your heart to be a terrorist – find me another terrorist who would bother to save the environment and help others in need while still on the run from the authority!

    One thing still bothers me till this day: for all these years that we’d known each other, how come you never shared this part of your life with me? How come our conversations never went beyond physics, movies, and the Chinese language and culture? Admittedly I’m a more moderate and realistic idealist compared to you, but among my family and close friends who know me well I’m also a maverick. Few people truly understand me. More often than not I’m advised not to be too radical and extremist. People like us are the minority in the society and losing a friend like you is one of the greatest pities in my life. Think about all the things we could have done together: we could have explored new ways to make use of solar energy (btw, I recently shifted my research direction a bit and solar energy concentration is now also part of my research interest), we could have gone to Africa to do volunteer work, and we could have made movies together to promote charities…I don’t know why I didn’t let you see my idealistic side in the first place – maybe I was afraid that you would not be able to understand and didn’t want you to think I was strange. As for you I’ll probably never find out what you were thinking and how you came to your decision. You left us only kindness, optimism, a nonconforming spirit, and above all, a faith and courage to follow our dreams regardless of the cost.

    I’m slowly coming to a closure as I type along: for someone like you, living a long and healthy life was never something you were after. You came, you loved, and you lived your life to the fullest – that’s all that mattered to you and you bowed out of life without any regrets. But what about the rest of us? How should we continue our lives from this point on? Fyodor Dostoyevsky once said: “my only fear in life is not being worthy of my suffering” and I would like to quote it with a slight modification: what should we dedicate to you, my friend, to make ourselves worthy of the legacy and memories you’ve left us?

    • I have very little anger in me about Tyler’s death, though I am sick at heart about it. There simply is no happy ending to his tragic loss.

      I have meant to reply and thank all the people who posted such thoughtful and loving comments. Please know your comments are deeply appreciated and valued.

      George. Thank you for your recent posting in Chinese and for translating. You were clearly a good friend and soulmate. You captured Tyler’s spirit.

      In reading all these heart-felt postings, many wonderful aspects of his life become clear, but one point stands out. Tyler touched a lot of lives, and in a good way. Through his openness and passion, he brought out the best in people and motivated them to reach beyond normalcy.

      Thank you for your caring words.

  28. over a year later, and tyler you are still so missed. its aches me to think of you gone. and kelsey, i am angry about this too

    • Mountains are still beautiful and I will always remember when nature was frozen and shining thanks to the light of a full moon night.
      Tyler’s eyes were shining too (because what we were contemplating was so beautiful and almost unreal) and it seems that until now I never saw someone happier than him at this precise moment.

      • What a lovely way way to remember him.

  29. I knew Tyler while I was at Caltech. He used to live across the hall from me in Marks House, only months before he disappeared. I was thinking about him just now, and was saddened to learn that today is the two and a half year anniversary of his passing. It’s hard to believe. I am sad and sick to my stomach. He twinkled with life, and was a real force. Ameera

    • What a lovely thing to write, To say he twinkled with life and was a real force captures a great deal of his heart. I’m sorry for your pain.

  30. Dear Patrice,

    I’d like to remember Tyler by telling his story at the next Moth StorySlam in Los Angeles. The Moth StorySlams are story-telling competitions that are held around L.A., each time with a different theme. The theme for July 4 is “freedom,” which very aptly describes how Tyler lived. I hope I can do his story justice. He was an inspiration to so many of his fellow Techers. Ameera

  31. Lots of thoughts

    • Thank your for your thoughts. Tyler is ever on my family’s and my mind, and even more intensely from Christmas to New Year’s. May 2013 bring you much comfort and happiness.

  32. I am Coco from Zhengzhou, I know Tyler’s story through his Chinese friend. I have read all the replies, and I visited his NPO website too, I read all the English articles and all the photos, he is amazing. I am so lucky to know him, I think all his friends and all the people that he helped will remember him.

    • Dear Coco,
      Thank you for contacting, and for your kind words and support. I am continually surprised and gratified to learn of all the people’s lives that he touched. I hope you’ll stay in touch and follow my blog about editing Tyler’s journals at patricewjohnson.blogspot.com. Again, thank you for writing.

  33. “C’est difficile de faire confiance à nos rêves, est encore pire à nos mémoires.”
    = It’s hard to trust our dreams, and worse, our memories.
    Tyler said it (in french!)

    Memories are still here.

    • What a beautiful thought. Sorry for your loss.Memories are still here too.

  34. It’s been close to 6 years since he passed away. He was a great teacher. I want to thank Tyler for showing me the way to appreciate math and physics. I was extremely lucky to have him in 2002 ~ 2003 in my junior year in high school to have him as my physics/calculus tutor… Tyler was always an active person. Unlike many who just thinks and dreams, he also act upon what he thinks and strive toward his dreams and ideals. I will always miss talking to him about physics…

    Thank you Tyler…

  35. Dear Brad, Your comments brought tears to my eyes. I’ll bet Tyler was a great tutor, and his family appreciates your thoughts. If Tyler were here, he’d be proud of you.


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