I first met Jeff through my wife Martine over 30 years ago. And from my first encounter with this wonderful individual I was immediately struck by his uncanny ability to really listen to others. When I spoke I felt I had 100% of Jeff's attention. Not an easy skill for most people.
I'm grateful Martine got the idea to come visit Jeff in the spring when she realized Jeff was in and out of the hospital far too often. I was able to spend four days of quality time in Jeff's company and I'll always remember those special moments in every detail: his measured, thoughtful reflections on life and society; taking me to see his art projects and public works along Telegraph Ave and Peralta Hacienda Historical House. And just as the previous speaker mentioned paint store runs on her previous visits, so Jeff and I also made a few runs to the paint store to return some color swatches and paint samples Jeff had used from four years ago. He wanted the store to repurpose the samples rather than just throw them away. And while we walked up and down Telegraph, Jeff would run into people (some he had met briefly in the past, but most were strangers) and he would immediately chat up a heart-full conversation and make instant new friendships on the fly.
Jeff and I are the same age, our birthdays exactly a month apart. So we both went through the same generational ideologies of the sixties' Hippy movement. I remember my first day of college reading Herman Hesse's Siddhartha and thinking, 'Oh my, this enlightenment thing sounds incredible, I think I want to make this my life's mission.' Of course at eighteen and being a rock and roller, my idea of 'enlightenment' was that you'd score with the babes.
It took me a few years and hopefully some gained 'life wisdom' for me to realize that Buddhism isn't about self-centered pursuits and self-promotion. It's about healing self first so you can devote your life to the service of others. It's about unpacking your own life's heavy baggage so you're left with a lighter, empty suit-case. This freed up space (the 'unburdening') can then be filled with an over-abundance of generosity that spills over in the service of others. And that basic principle as I understand Buddhism was Jeff's life in a nutshell. He lived his life primarily in the service of others. And so I'm grateful I had the chance to meet Jeff and get to know him over the past 30 years. He was an inspiration and a wise role model.