R.I.P., Michael Dorfman

Another sad post . . .

I was shocked to read about the passing of a great friend to this blog, Michael Dorfman, who died on December 25th.

I’m still hoping it’s untrue, some kind of joke . . . but it seems not. I don’t know the circumstances of his death, but whatever they were, he was far too young, only 49.

Michael Dorfman
Michael Dorfman

Michael was a huge presence on Reddit’s /r/Buddhism. Just read the comments on the announcement about his death and you will see what an impact he had on that community. Michael left comments on The Endless Further as well and shared my posts on Reddit, for which I was immensely grateful as he helped expand the audience for the blog. More importantly, for me, when he commented here or shared a post, I felt it was his way of saying that he thought whatever I happened to write had some value. This was not the only blog he befriended, of course. I had great respect for his knowledge and point of view, even if I didn’t always agree with him (or he with me).

Michael was from Illinois, but lived in Norway. He had earned an M.A. in Buddhist Studies from the University of Sunderland in the UK, worked in computer programming for several companies, and most recently ran a online bookstore, Bokdykk. (Here is a link to a Norweigan article about the demise of Bokdykk.)  He had a great interest in Nagarjuna, in fact his Master’s thesis was on hermeneutics and early Indian Madhyamaka. That was just one of several bonds we shared.

We emailed occasionally. From time to time, he would forward some Bob Dylan link he thought I might be interested in seeing. The last private communication I received from him was in November. He remembered that I had written a post about a White Tara thangka I found, and sent along a link to a Dalai Lama teaching that included a White Tara empowerment. “I thought of you while I was watching,” he wrote. I was touched by that, even more so now.

If any members of his family, friends, or co-workers happen to read this, please accept my deepest condolences. I wish I had known him better. It’s only because of the Internet that we knew each other at all, and that’s a marvelous thing. He had a generous spirit, and I imagine to that to encounter him face-to-face would be to meet up with a kind, gentle, and intelligent man, who wasn’t the least bit impressed with himself.

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about John Ashbery, and Michael left a comment that Ashbery was one his favorite living poets and included a link to one of his favorite Ashbery short poems, “Late Echo”:

Alone with our madness and favorite flower
We see that there really is nothing left to write about.
Or rather, it is necessary to write about the same old things
In the same way, repeating the same things over and over
For love to continue and be gradually different.

Beehives and ants have to be re-examined eternally
And the color of the day put in
Hundreds of times and varied from summer to winter
For it to get slowed down to the pace of an authentic
Saraband and huddle there, alive and resting.

Only then can the chronic inattention
Of our lives drape itself around us, conciliatory
And with one eye on those long tan plush shadows
That speak so deeply into our unprepared knowledge
Of ourselves, the talking engines of our day.

John Ashbery, “Late Echo” from As We Know. Copyright © 1979 by John Ashbery


20 thoughts on “R.I.P., Michael Dorfman

  1. I’m terribly sorry to have to acknowledge that this is true. Michael was my good friend here in Florø, Norway, and I will miss him terribly. The service is planned for January 3.
    Alan Rossi

      1. This is Michael’s mother. Touched by your comments.
        He had quite an extensive Buddhist library in Norway and I wonder whether you have any ideas where these might be wanted?
        The funeral is on January 7th.

        1. My thoughts will be with you on the 7th. As far as Michael’s books are concerned, I think it should not be too difficult to find a Buddhist center or temple in Norway who would be eager to receive some additions to their library, however I have no idea if there are any near the town where Michael lived.

        2. Actually, I grew up a few houses away from Michael. His mother, Judy Dorfman was a fabulous person that we lost several years ago. Michael had a wonderful family in glencoe, including his two sisters Beth and Leslie. He was so lucky to grow up in such a loving atmosphere.

  2. Michael and I were friends in 1985 as I was breaking up with the father of my three girls. Michael was 19 and I was 30. He taught Elizabeth how to read and gave them their first computer as well as some great music. We had a very brief chat on Facebook a few years ago. He left this song in a message to me. God rest his soul. He told me about his two sisters and Mom. Perhaps he knew long ago. I am so sorry for his family and children.

  3. I’ve just discovered the Reddit thread that announced Michael’s death. Michael and I corresponded regularly over the last few years. I felt he was a kindred spirit in his rigorous approach to Buddhism and the study of the tradition, though we never really talked about our personal lives. His contributions often made me refine my thinking or rethink issues altogether. We often disagreed but he was always gracious about it and was generous with his praise. I was beginning to wonder why he’d dropped off the radar, but sometimes it was a while between emails. Now there’ll be no more wise words or encouragement from him. I’ll miss him.

  4. Michael was a friend from the mid 80’s who I reconnected with 10 years ago, via phone and computer. I so enjoyed his thoughts and sense of humor. I am so sad for those he left behind, particularly his daughters.

  5. I went to college with Michael where we worked on the student newspaper. Years later he was very supportive of my blogging and writing career through Facebook. I had hoped to visit him one day in Norway. He will be missed.

  6. I’m another one who knew him only on the internet. Lovely presence. We exchanged a few messages trying to figure out if we actually knew one another, which we did not, despite a few close misses. My condolences to his family.

  7. My family and Michael’s were friends. He grew up in Glencoe with his mother, Judy and Dad, Irv. His sisters were Beth and Leslie. I believe Michael was adopted. We had a group of four or five families that were together regularly. Michael was so incredibly smart it used to make us all nuts. When we were 8, he was reading Tolkien and playing his music brilliantly. I was sad very recently to learn of his passing. His mom passed a few years ago. Michael was a gentle soul and I hope those who remember him remember that.

  8. I am Michael’s daugther. Im 11 years old. I were 8 years old when daddy died. My three sisters are 19,16 and 10 years old. I miss dad. And I think of him every day. He is and will be missed. R.I.P dad.?

    1. Hello Anna. Thank you for leaving this comment. I am truly sorry for your loss. My dad passed away about a year and a half ago. I’ve also lost my mother and brother. Over time the pain becomes smaller, but never goes away completely. It’s good that you think of your dad every day. I hope you will not focus on how he died, but rather how he lived. My best wishes to you.

  9. HI Anna,

    I’m so sorry. It is very hard to lose your Dad so young. I often think of Michael. He used to comment on my blog and we emailed. I don’t like many people, but I really liked Michael. I would like to have met him in person. He was so smart and kind. I hope he does rest in peace. Death is a great mystery. Not just for 11 year olds, but for all of us. I’m 51 years old and I don’t understand it.

    My Dad died when I was 24. And I still miss him too. It gets easier, but I wish he was still here.

    I hope you are well.

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