nathan westbrook

nathan westbrook 1974-2019

"death of a disco dancer" (the smiths)

nate introduced me to the smiths (one of his favorite bands) just after we first met in 2004. this was a time when i really needed something like the smiths (it was my first year of grad school and i was going through a divorce). over the next few years, we both left mormonism and studied philosophy of science together (he was a psychology phd student at irvine and a philosophy phd student at riverside) and we have stayed in touch since then. i'm still trying to wrap my head around everything that has happened (nate died by suicide). here are just a few memories popping around my head from the last few times we hung out.

for a while nate and his partner tiffany turned their house in costa mesa into a communal living space he liked to call "the sangha". people from all walks of life would have a safe space to stay if they needed. i always enjoyed hanging out there and one night in january of this year, nate invited me over. people from all different races, religions, classes, politics, orientations, genders, etc were there talking about whatever. i remember some people talking about their childhoods. (re gender: nate and i would discuss this topic often. after i started going by jb instead of john, he would sometimes call me his "sister-brother" which i loved.) before long we smoked some weed, flipped on some music, and had an impromptu dance party. i left with a handmade crocheted vest that nate had given to me.

in march, meka and i invited nate and tiffany over for dinner. we were also celebrating our pisces birthdays (nate was born march 16, i was march 17). he had recently given june (our four year old) a jar of colored beads to make some art with and he had a few beads in his beard during this visit -- june loved it! as we were eating, we talked about philosophy and religion and music like we usually did when we got together. (re music: he was probably the only person in the world to listen to all of my kuci radio shows. he even came with me into the studio a couple times while we were on the air. we shared playlists often and he was listening to kendrick lamar more than anything lately.) nate was really interesting to talk with and very open to all sorts of perspectives. he always seemed to have a fresh take on a subject (see here for example). we reminisced about the time I broke my arm while we were skating together in 2005. nate drove me to the hospital and it was his idea to run through a proof sketch of gödel's second incompleteness theorem together (we were taking a class on this at the time) to help me to stop freaking out about the pain and the fact that my arm looked really weird and messed up.

in may, a student in my buddhism course asked his drama professor to set up a "drum journey" for our class one evening at a local barn. i invited nate and tiffany to join us and they both came. (re buddhism: since leaving mormonism and losing many of the connections to our families and friends, nate and i both diverted our intense religious passion and identity to buddhism. nate did a two year mormon mission in montreal (french speaking) and i was in ukraine (russian speaking). buddhism was our favorite subject to talk about. the zen saying we discovered together in 2016 and often quoted back to each other was: "practice thirty more years." it was a page from his calendar that has been on our refrigerator the past few years.) anyway, we were ceremoniously invited inside this barn, put blankets/yoga mats in a circle, and laid on our backs with the lights out. we let the drum rhythms guide our journey and everyone shared their experience of it afterward. later on, i talked with nate and tiffany for a bit and they drove me home. when we hugged to say goodbye, nate said "i love you man" and i said it back and that was the last i saw him.

nate was an important person in my life and he influenced me very much. i will miss him and think about him a lot.

practice 30 more years

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