Like many other people, I was very saddened last night to learn of the death of Norm Geras.
I was about to write something like 'I didn't know him personally', but then it occurred to me that in some way I did. What I mean is that I only ever communicated with Norm electronically--via our blogs and sometimes through email and Facebook--since we 'met' some time after I started this blog in 2006. (I forget now how it happened: it might have been at about this moment, in August of that year.)
This is worth mentioning, I think, because Norm frequently argued for the value of the internet as a new way of bringing people together. (And his commitment to this medium is remarkable: despite his illness, only a little more than a week ago he posted a list of book recommendations.)
He was himself, certainly, (in the face of much counter-evidence) one of the best arguments for the internet being a good and worthwhile thing. With all the fluctuations in my internet habits over the past 7 years, stopping by normblog was among the most consistent parts of my daily online routine.
And, equally consistently, it was one of the most rewarding. Norm's was a voice of reason and sensibility in a world that is all to often the opposite of these things. It was a pleasure to read his reasoning on many issues, even if I found myself not always convinced. (There are, it occurs to me, all too few people with whom it is a pleasure to disagree.)
But I usually did find myself in agreement with Norm, at least eventually.
I know that, for me, his death creates a particular absence that will be difficult to fill. And that is also a strange thought to have about someone I've never met 'personally'.
Condolences, of course, go above all to his family and closest friends.
But the internet is surely left a poorer place without him.
[UPDATE] Tributes to Norm are being collected and reposted at 'normfest'.