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About John Last Updated: Sep 8th, 2009 - 08:07:52

John Ohliger--An Extraordinary Ordinary Human Being: A Personal Meditation

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by Web Cotton

There are some lines from a poem by W. B. Yeats:

Thinkst where Man's glory most begins and ends
And say my glory was to have had such friends.

It is this context that I say John Ohliger was a friend of mine for over forty years. But, the length of friendship is almost irrelevant when it comes to being a friend of John. He had that wonderful gift of "tuning in" on the other person, of being interested in where we were coming from, our interests, concerns.

This gift of friendship, of connecting with a fellow human being enabled him to collect so many friends along the way. And, it was such a diverse group of individuals, such varied backgrounds, interests, concerns; but, at their core, I feel he sensed they were on their own journey through this mysterious, sometimes frightening, but also miraculous world we inhabit. It is here that John connected with us, at the deepest level of our human beingness.

The miracle of connecting with another human being: How does it happen? Why does it happen? John's way of relating to me may provide some clues. When I was in his presence (physically or on the phone) I felt valued, appreciated. He was interested in my thoughts, my feelings, what I was trying to share. But, at the same time he was excited about sharing his thoughts, feelings with me. The result was a relationship that was mutually stimulating, enriching.

As I reflect back on our relationship there are so many memories, and out of these memories a distinctive image of John emerges. A few phrases, words seem to characterize this image, the way I perceived and experienced him. These include: the "inquiring mind", "the life-long learner", the "radical", the "scholar", the "humorist", the "music lover", the "gourmet"--but, most of all--the "friend". The deeper meaning of these words, phrases can only be understood and appreciated in the context of our personal experience with him. This is important; the uniqueness, the essence of John Ohliger lies beyond the "words"--the way he lived his life with others.

It is through these memories and the image they convey that we begin to see the spirit of an "extraordinary ordinary" human being. This phrase seems to fit John perfectly. On the one hand he was "down to earth," without pretense, that wonderful sense of humor, the little child enjoying each moment in his journey through life. But, behind this refreshing "ordinariness" there was a conscientious, caring human being deeply concerned about what was happening in education, society, and the world. He found his own way to challenge the status quo, the conventional way of thinking--founding Basic Choices; his numerous publications; "Newsletters" and other writings; his involvement with various organizations at the community, and national level; his impressive network of correspondents and friends.

John was one of those rare individuals who brought a unique and special light into the world. I know that my life was changed by my meeting and spending time with him. He enabled me to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a human being by the way he lived his life.

At the end of our phone conversation John would always say: "We'll keep in touch". I will keep in touch with your spirit...John. Thank you!!

© Copyright 2004 John

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