New Years Thoughts

I was among the cohort of thirty-some students that arrived at Stanford in the Fall of 2003. So much of that time seems very far away with occasional and random memories. What I did gather, was that there was a passion (maybe even a tortured fascination!)that brought our random bunch together — making our world better, treating kids better, figuring out the mechanics of learning, and, hopefully in the process, figuring ourselves out too. Six years later (agh), as I approach my degree completion and try to figure out where I will land next, I turn to my peers, colleagues and friends for advice and inspiration. And I remember that there are empty pockets of our original cohort. Some have left voluntarily. Some have not.
Admittedly, I was not a close friend of Amir, and my memories of him are brief images of smiles, intense listening, and an warmly open social energy that I aspire to have. His loss, for family, friends and colleagues, is truly unfathomable and as time passes, it seems more unfair. The Amir Lopatin Fellowship, however, gives me the chance to remember and renew my promises and passions — the ones that I know that Amir and I shared. Maybe we were just friendly acquaintances for our brief time together, but his commitment to learning and life continues to find me in times and ways that I am thankful for.

hello from your sis

Hello Amiri – I miss you so much. You missed my wedding! I got married on Jan. 6, 2008 to David W. I know you were worried about me never getting married – and you would have really liked David – he is super smart and earnest like you. It was your birthday this week – boy do I miss you – I cant believe you would have been 32 You would probably be finishing your phd and launching some amazing software to revolutionize education. Amir I wake up everyday hoping its not true. You visit in my dreams and you are still the same earnest kid with messed up hair and hands up to his face when he laughs. I get so excited during those dreams that I can spend time with you. I miss you everyday. I am very resistant to moving on in my life without you in it. I LOVE YOU SO MUCH. Your sis Shoshi


Thinking about Amir today on his birthday. At least, that’s what the Friendster reminder tells me. I could never remember when his birthday was. My parents encouraged me to take my old Ramaz yearbooks home with me from their apartment today, and I was looking through them at the photos of Amir and reading some of his poetry in the back. I remembered this one time in the afterschool poetry club which maybe was called Parallax or maybe that was just the magazine… anyway me John and Amir were listening to a girl (Suzie Gallin (sp?) or maybe someone entirely else) read a poem about skinny-dipping. When she was done Amir leaned over and loudly whispered how excited it made him. I remember Dr. Honig pretended to be shocked.

I visited him at Brown one year and we saw Bob Dylan play and went to some party… and I remember Amir talking through the intercom to some girl he liked and I heard a sweetness in his voice I’d never heard before. That sweetness is what I remember most about Amir.

Hi Amir

It is hard to believe that three years (more) have gone by. If you were here, you would be proud of how your friends remember you, in actions as well as words. NYCpul is continuing. People are giving to charities in your name, and charities named after you. Isn’t it amazing that sometimes you can continue to make the world a better place by leaving it, just as you could when you were here? We still miss the things you would have contributed, and the insights that you would have brought. And the empty space you left can only, and at best, resolve into an Amir shaped scar to remind us of what might have been… but those reminders are still prompting people to change the world. In small ways. In their ways. but little by little, and in the right directions (I hope).

That is something of which I think you might have been proud.


I miss you Amir

Over three years have passed since your death. I have largely healed from the pain as much as anyone can say that. I’ve even used my experience to console bereaved parents. I feel you are a guiding angel who watches over me and I feel your spirit and thank you for your kindness toward me. I miss you.

Amir, Imir, Ahmear, Amira

This is my second year teaching art in southwest Philly. My students often ask about my daughter, Mira (not the older ones though… the 7th graders think I’m a chump). They want to know about her name, and how its similar to theirs (Amir and Amirah are very popular African American names these days. I must have over 20 students named Amir, Ameer, Ahmear, Imir, Amira, Amirah, etc.) Then I think about Amir… although I don’t have good stories for them… the ones I remember are like how on September 11th he rode his bike from the Upper West Side to the World Trade Center after he heard that it had been hit (if I remember correctly he wanted to take photos), only to arrive just as it was collapsing (he told me that was one of the stupidest things he ever did). And I can’t tell them about our high school antics, which generally aren’t suitable. Mostly though I just tell them that Amir was someone very important to me. It’s nice being able to hear his name so many times throughout my day, especially since they are such happy and vibrant children. Loss is a curious thing; some very small things bring on sadness, but more often they bring joy.

Thinking of you on your Amir’s Ride 06

I was deeply touched and moved by Jonathan’s speech on the Amir’s ride 2006. I think it’s a mitzvah to do Amir’s ride the day before the 5th anniversary of 9/11. The Amir Lopatin Fund and the Amir’s ride are all about turning tragedy into goodness and using trauma as a way to heal the world. My thoughts are with you on this day of Amir’s Ride 2006. He will always hold a special place in my heart.

Amir’s Ride ’06 Speech

When Amir and I were in Ramaz, there were two extremes. There was conformity, mainstream, and popularity on one extreme, and on the other there was nonconformity, excessive individuality, and mindless rebelliousness. I belonged to the latter. I always thought that was the noncombine, but Amir told me that it was just as combined. Combined to a “tree outside the path”. I was a conformist to nonconformity. I was merely the opposite extreme from the mainstream.

Amir, on the other hand, was truly noncombined- he straddled the line between mainstream culture, popularity, acceptability, and conformity on one end, and individuality and independent thinking on the other end. He straddled this line by exhibiting the best qualities of both. He occupied the Maimonidean Shvil Hazahav, the golden mean. He took enough from mainstream to be able to function normally and healthfully in the world and in various societies, and enough from individuality to be an individual only when there really was room for being yourself.

Here is where these two extremes manifest themselves in geography and time. On the conformist end, we have today in New York City, the subway, bureaucracy, OZ, Wall St. On the extreme rebellious end we have San Francisco in 1967. Haight Ashbury, a hippie land, a sit-down and do-nothing culture. Amir straddles the two by taking a bit of wisdom from each- on one hand he is in San Francisco, riding a bike, shunning gasoline and waste, and on the other hand, he does computers, which has become a mainstream phenomenon.

Recently I was on the computer at my parent’s house with my nephews, Simon and Ayden. Simon, 6, said “Jon, can you google Jack Sparrow, or google Pirates of the Caribbean? Yeah, download that pic!” And Ayden, 3, said “Can we go back to that website?” This illustrates how computers have entered mainstream consciousness. Computers are no longer the domain of nerds and wierdos. Computers are now the domain of normal, everyday people. The domain of good Jewish boys, for instance.

Amir said in his essay which got him accepted to the Learning Sciences and Technology Design program at Stanford Graduate School, “It is my belief that there is potential in modern computer technology to make elementary and high-school education far more engaging.” Amir could straddle- he could keep one leg in the world of conformity and mainstream culture and one leg in the realm of individuality, in order to occupy the true noncombine, the true blessed world. And his goal was to bring children and to bring people into that world, that blissful fusion world of both- where you are in touch with mainstream enough to live in the world, and are also in touch with individuality enough to live in it the right way, and to be truly able to be yourself. Amir would notice my nephews and how they are already in touch with the mainstream vernacular of computers, using verbs like “google” and “download” and nouns like “pic” and “website”. And Amir’s aim was to channel that, and to impress upon kids the power of the realm of computers to allow for tremendous individual growth.

If I were trying to win the prize coming from Amir’s Fund, if I were to try and write a scientific paper, I would write about how computers has become part of the mainstream vernacular. The web and instant message culture is widespread. I would recognize that computers and the web are as popular now as Tom Cruise. And I would write how the key is to show the children that this popular, mainstream tool they have called computers, can be utilized to enhance your life in powerful ways, and should be utilized to craft individualism.

Young kids, who come into the world in the mainstream, and who are inundated in the mainstream with computers and technology vernacular, should be taught to learn individual ways of crafting this knowledge in order to build an individual experience. A paper like that would be one which I think hits on what Amir was trying to do. He realized that he could straddle mainstream and individuality, and he wanted to teach children how to do it.

Amir wanted to teach children how to be noncombined.

Amir wished to see kids become not 1967 Haight Ashbury potheads, nor Wall Street suits- he envisioned kids growing up to go to work, sure, because work is a normal part of life, but to get there on a bicycle, because a bicycle represents the hybrid- not mainstream like a car and subway, and not excessively individualistic and useless as walking.

So when we bike, at Amir’s Ride, we should realize that we are emulating Amir, and bringing him today back to life. Because a bicycle represents Amir’s passion to straddle mainstream and individuality, and his passion to show kids how this is done.

Tomorrow is a sad day: half decade anniversary of 9/11. Tomorrow is a sad day because Amir is as absent as the heroes of Ground Zero. Let’s make today a happy day, a day for happy memories, a day of emulating Amir, a day of giving. Today is Amir’s day.


Today I walked past your favorite ultimate frisbee spot in Central Park. Images of you continue to burn brightly in my mind.