The Combine

As Shoshana mentioned in her eulogy, the term “Combine” denotes “an association of people or groups united for the furtherance of political or commercial (and usually unethical) interests.” Amir introduced us to the term sometime in our sophomore year of high school based on his reading of the novel “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” by Ken Kesey, excerpts of which are included below. He rarely referred to “The Combine”, but rather, to “being Combined” (a derivation of his own creation). In other words, for Amir, the concept was most relevant as a measure of personal character, rather than any political or social cause. Amir was far more complex that any fictional character, but those who knew him will find shades of his personality reflected in these paragraphs describing the protagonist of the novel, McMurphy.

From “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”:

“McMurphy doesn’t know it, but he’s onto what I realized a long time back, that it’s not just the Big Nurse by herself, but it’s the whole Combine, the nation-wide Combine that is the really big force, and the nurse is just a high-ranking official for them.”

“The ward is a factory for the Combine. It’s for fixing up mistakes made in the neighborhoods and in the schools and in the churches, the hospital is. When a completed project goes back out into society, all fixed up good as new, better than new sometimes, it brings joy to the Big Nurse’s heart; something that came in all twisted different is now a functioning, adjusting component, a credit to the whole outfit and a marvel to behold…”

“[but] you never can tell when just that certain one might come in who’s free enough to foul things up right and left, really make a hell of a mess and constitute a threat to the whole smoothness of the outfit. And, like I explain, the Big Nurse gets real put out if anything keeps her outfit from running smooth.”

“the new guy is different…different from anybody been coming on this ward for the past ten years, different from anybody they ever met outside. He’s just as vulnerable, maybe, but the Combine didn’t get him…How’d he manage to slip the collar? Maybe… the Combine missed getting to him soon enough with the controls. Maybe he growed so wild all over the country, battling around from one place to another… traveling lightfooted and fast, keeping on the move so much that the Combine never had a chance to get anything installed. Maybe that’s it, he never gave the Combine a chance…because a moving target is hard to hit”

“There were times that week when I’d hear that full throttled laugh, watch him scratching his belly and stretching and yawning and leaning back to wink at whoever he was joking with, everything coming to him just as natural as drawing breath, and I’d quit worrying about the Big Nurse and the Combine behind her. I’d think he was strong enough being his own self that he would never back down the way she was hoping he would. I’d think, maybe he truly is something extraordinary. He’s what he is, that’s it. Maybe that makes him strong enough being what he is.”

Amir, you will be missed for many years to come.

– Moshe


You have changed me in so many ways,
You have changed my outlook on life.
You taught me to think, you taught me to love,
You instilled in me a confidence.
I now appreciate the world around me.
I ask G-d why, because I still believe.
I still believe, because I want you to be here.
I want you watching over me, over us, guiding us.
I want to know that your love moves us on.


Just a shout out to Amir…

I never got to talk to you, but you were in my Visualization class last quarter. I think we shared some cookies from the table, and I thought your insight and enthusiasm was very refreshing. I’m proud to have been a student alongside you.


“Today is my last day at Visible World…”

—–Original Message—–
From: Amir Lopatin
Sent: Friday, May 30, 2003 2:20 PM
To: VisibleWorld
Subject: Bye

Dear Friends and Colleagues,
For those that do not know, today is my last day at Visible World. I have been working here for 2 1/2 years, and it has been a great experience for me to be a part of a community of so many talented people. I have grown personally and professionally through my contact with all of you and I am grateful for all that you have taught me.
My plans for the next few months are just to take it easy and spend time with my family. In the fall, if all goes well, i will be starting a Ph.D program at Stanford in educational technology.
For now, I can be reached at at 646-418-8554, or at [email protected]
Best wishes and best of luck to all of you! -amir


There should be silence in your song.
The clergy has it all wrong.
Seven heavens in five spheres.
All prostrate to such dastardly fears.
Me, I’ve had enough of these books.
There’s another way to look…

can’t you hear:

the silent cry
of clouds in the sky
warns us not to try.
these museums are filled with lies.
Can’t you see:

You embrace her phony face;
even Holden is a disgrace,
trying to find love in this place.

why wait?

the story never ends
until the fabric screen rends
with sounds of What do? Where to? Why-when?
and sleep is all you can comprehend.

in this place:

Can’t you see
your concrete tomb?
Off the bus
there’s more room.

At last

You have found the door.
I thought you were lost,
when they made that wall.
Windows are not big enough for you and me
Out here on the perimeter, we are free?

(but are we?
Never free,
not in the periphery,
not you,
not me.
“Further,” said the bus.)

but must we?

then further we shall go,
past the periphery where the voices of buses wax low,
and instead just stars
(too hard to count),
no cars,
the heavenly cacophony of the space between light.

At last

We have gone beyond
Where all that is black expels all that is it.
It collides with calculators
and Pi rains down to a million trillion digits.
Fools open their mouths and swallow it up.

why wait?

For the others to finish dancing,
Fourth dimensional treadmills are for those that ask the
The answers have no need to understand
because (no more pencils, no more books, no more teachers’
dirty looks)
they are free.

can’t you see:

that this place is big enough for you and me,
as long as we embrace infinity.
the closer we come,
the more room there’ll be.

can’t you hear:

the music is very high,
too high for the sleeping ears of women and men,
it is the rhythmic piercing of the pig’s fly-infested head
by children with spears dancing round irregular septagons.

The music is too loud to dance to,
But yet the fools ignore and continue.
The light is bright and beautifully mad.
and so the its and others sleep in the shade.
but for you and me, together has departed;
this journey into pure existence has started.

–Amir Lopatin


Last night, Mommy said–
all bedecked in cotton–
“We have no more money
for underwear.”
“We have no more of those little
trains on those little bloomers for you.”
Me, always so proud of my underoos,
My supermans, my spidermans.
My mans.
No more underwear???
No more. . .
So I tore off that last pair of Hanes I had left.
It was only white, not even colored.
Then danced naked,
little pecker waving in the breeze.

Amir Lopatin