Reflection by Kirti
 
 

I met Ben during my first official day in the UCSD economics program and we instantly became friends. Through the years that followed, we spent several pleasant hours studying together and going for the vegetarian hare krishna lunches on campus - those eat-all-you-can for $4 boxes, where Ben would eat a lot!


As our friendship developed over the years and we learnt more about each other, one thing about Ben’s lifestyle always struck me - his passion for all of his interests, big and small. From track-running workouts to hosting group discussions on topics as diverse as religion and the environment, pursuing academic research on conflict and development, and traveling through the world extensively, Ben led a life of passion and constant learning.


Ben’s famous travels are familiar to all of us. He once told me that his main expense in his life is air-tickets...which explains his choice in groceries that we often made fun of. I had the privilege of traveling with Ben in Egypt, and to be one of the reasons for his visit to India.















But of course, in typical Ben style, while most of us visited monuments, pyramids, temples, cities, Ben was traveling off the beaten path - through small towns and roads, talking to all sorts of people who came his way, always trying to learn from their life, their culture, religion, and experiences. Ben’s endurance during these travels was unreal, impressive! That, combined with the type of destinations he chose to visit, we often joked that he could be a secret agent (along with Liora).


When Ben started organizing these group discussions that we in San Diego know him for, often the ideas he suggested did not immediately appeal to me at first. I attended some of them for the sake of our friendship (and, well, because it involved a potluck dinner). But attending a few of these made me realize that these discussions were not only open and interesting, but also that Ben truly wanted to increase his learning, and that of others. These discussions also served as such a simple and a powerful tool in building a sense of community of those who cared about these issues. I am grateful for having shared a beautiful friendship with Ben, and for the many special individuals who came in my life through him - Liora, Lacey...


Ben’s passing has made me reflect on how much he has inspired me over the last five years. Along with the grief and the sense of loss, I realized how truly special Ben has always been, and while I always knew this, why do I have a full sense of this only now? This forced a realization upon me of how many special people we’re surrounded with in our lives. I had an awakening that I *must* recognize and acknowledge the qualities and the strengths among all around me. In this recognition, and this strong internal quest that Ben has inspired in me to become a better person, to focus on the strengths and qualities of others and of our own selves, I believe this is the way that Ben is always going to be a part of us, and of this world. Through our spirits, our actions, through the way he has deeply impacted them, he continues to live in this world - amongst us, through us.

 

Given at Ben’s Memorial Service on August 14, 2012: