It’s been a few days since I found out about the death of the Math Pirate. I’ve never met him, I’m probably didn’t even spot him once during my eight-month stint at UChicago, and yet I feel a deep sense of loss. It’s the abrupt, unforeseen end to the endless possibilities that hurt. I could have unknowingly enrolled for his class and been part of the Sally Gang. I could have screwed up the courage to scream “Yo Sally!” in class, maybe even gone during the office hours and found out something more about the man. Deaths like these hurt everyone, especially those who never ever get to experience the magic. It’s like the Grand Canyon being erased off the face of the earth before you get to see it. Or sometimes even before you know it existed.
Another Chicago great I could not meet before his death is Ronald Coase. I had been taught the Coase theorem in my Law and Economics class but the simplicity and brilliance of it didn’t really register, probably because I was too busy wrapping my head around the Nash equilibrium. Needless to say, I might be the only one in my class who didn’t mention him in the SoP when applying to the program at UChicago. At least Coase has left behind enough work that I can read. I will get my hands on ‘Tools of the Trade” but I dare say I’m going to understand much.
The death that hit me the most was of that of Vepa Sarathi. It was in my final year of law school and by then I had taken all the courses he offered (Property, Evidence) though I had barely talked to him. He would have turned 96 in a few months and I thought he would live forever. I kept putting off going for his office hours, thinking there was more time. Until there wasn’t. I have three of his books and a little part of him still lives in the margins of my notebooks. I still regret not talking to him though. The day he died was the day I realised that life is too short to be spent waiting for tomorrow. I had got be less risk averse and this decision led me to go on a white water rafting trip with four complete strangers a few days down the line. Every time I think of putting things off, I think of Vepa, walking stick in hand, eyes crinkling with laughter, and missed opportunities.