Moral Compasses Needed

Richard Keller, a.k.a. “RK”, wrote an op-ed last summer that was published in The Salt Lake Tribune.

What the Deadhead generation has to teach the Trumpists is a short mediation on positivity.

I love how RK sums it up:

The Deadheads I know grew up. They grew into responsible adults. They were better for incorporating the Dead’s music of peace and love into their lives. They and like-minded younger generations, I hope, counter Trumpism and lead us all into a more civilized future.

Environmental Ethics Are Forged on the Trail

A mountain of thanks to Jonathan Foote for this video.

Look for awhile at the China Cat Sunflower
proud-walking jingle in the midnight sun

Deaconstruction 2017: A Lovely Weekend in the Wasatch

Fifteen adult Freakin’ Deacons and one nine-year-old boy attended the first Deaconstruction at Sundance Resort last weekend.

I’m happy to report the event was spectacular in every way.

Thank you to all who attended and made this gathering what it was—a celebration of DK’s life and a reaffirmation of the importance of our friendships. And thanks to all who wanted to attend in person and attended in spirit instead.

We plan to do it again in two years in a new location. Feel free to start lobbying for a location in the comments.

On “Plutonic Upthrusts” et al

DK mailed a letter to Bill Woolston in the 1990s. I love how life-affirming he is in this letter. “Your life has substantial meaning,” DK writes to Bill.

DK Lives On In Our Hearts And Minds (And In Our Art)

Last week in Utah, we gathered to celebrate DK’s life, starting in Rockville, then at a series of events in Salt Lake City.

One of the neat aspects that emerged from the gatherings was poetry, music and art made by DK’s close friends and relatives. The following sketch was made by Zach Ensign, DK’s nephew. It depicts Dave in the desert with 3D glasses on (for enhanced desert viewing). Note the sunglasses too.

DAVE_sketch by Zack Ensign

DK’s niece, Sophie Merrill, also contributed a beautiful song, which she kindly performed in Rockville.

In addition, Adam Parr wrote and performed an original song for DK. And I wrote and performed “Mortal Moroni.”

DK’s brother in-law, Mike Ensign, made a poster-sized print of the poem, and encouraged attendees of Wednesday night’s event at The Terraces to sign.

DK was a creative force on this Earth. In our efforts to be more like DK, we let loose our own creativity. What will you make next?

DK’s Franklin & Marshall Magazine Obit

It was totally sobering to read DK’s obit in our alumni publication, Franklin & Marshall Magazine.

It was also nice to see him honored and remembered in this way–just one of a thousand little memories that come together to make a brilliant DK mosaic.

 

Lancaster, PA in the mid-80s was sure a great time and place to meet The Deacon. He was the lanky man on campus and so much more!

Did you know that DK was the host of a Grateful Dead-oriented radio show on WFNM-FM? Yes, he had a two-hour slot as I recall, late at night, and he’d play nothing but prime cuts from his choice Grateful Dead bootleg collection, which came to him in part from The ‘Rama, a New Englander and taper of Live Dead.

At one point, DK was forced off the air for violating FCC rules prohibiting drunkenness. I can hear those ice cubes rattling now, under DK’s compelling western voice.

“And we are back. Up next, a blistering Scarlet > Bucket from Hampton ’85.”

Onward, Saint Luke!

On January 17, 2014, UVU Review, The Independent Student Voice, ran an article of testimonials about David’s impact from UVU students, faculty and staff.

freakin Deac

I absolutely love the following passage:

Thirteen years ago as an undergraduate student I approached David (more or less out of the blue) and, after explaining my thin set of qualifications, asked if I could be his research assistant. It was an absurd gamble, and I had little hope of a positive response from him. David looked at me, and in his great booming voice said, “YES, LUKE, THAT WOULD BE EXCELLENT!” He continued to take unwise chances with me, letting me organize symposia, conferences, and an entire lecture series on behalf of the Ethics Center. When I decided to pursue an LDS mission, David sent me off with his secular blessing. One of my most vivid mission memories is of sitting on a hill overlooking Florence, and unwrapping a long parcel from David. Inside I found a hideous Jerry Garcia tie, and an attached yellow sticky note that read: ‘ONWARD, SAINT LUKE!’

The tie (and sticky note) are among my most prized possessions.

For a dozen years David took chances on me for no good reason other than his unflinching faith in the boundless potential of his students. I owe David more than I can say for giving me the high wire, the pole, and for taking away the net. Now, I can only hope to repay him by emulating that same unwavering faith in the students who approach me with short resumes and grand ambitions to change the world.

Luke Peterson
Director, Corporate & Community Partnerships
Utah Valley University

Luke’s story illustrates is how receptive DK was to people with different beliefs. I feel like we live in self-imposed camps now: Liberal/Conservative; Christian/Atheist; White/Black; Urban/Rural. Let’s be more like DK, and cross whatever chasm divides us from others.

Salt Lake Tribune Op-Ed #posthumous

David now is silent in death. On Dec. 17, 2013, he requested that I tell the story of his and his mother’s terminal illnesses.

Thus begins a brilliant and extremely moving essay from David and his dad, Richard Keller.

Let’s accept a more compassionate death for terminally ill,” an Op-Ed, first appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune, February 15, 2014.

“Dying for the incurable should not be as the curse of Job, but an exercise in compassion,” argued DK.

Amen brother.

A Poem for The Deacon

Mortal Moroni

by David Burn

Let it be known our man of Utah
is mortal, ever imperfect

Yet this Moroni, our Moroni
is not without his church

Pagans dance to an Earthen beat
and sway to reason’s raucous chorus

Arches are his altar
rivers his holy water

Socrates too was taken
by a mob

Cancer is today’s ugly fissure
a vengeful taker

Pain ceases with life
another movement complete

Mortal Moroni rejoins the unborn
and born again

This is the place
where angels point the way

From the tops of holy temples
and the lonely peaks of Deseret

In wild canyons
angels sing heavenly songs

II.
What is love? Love is
the active ingredient in consciousness

A light that can not be extinguished
by the icy chill of time

From Mortal Moroni’s horn
this universal note

Be kind, be a friend
pick ‘n’ grin, mix in gin

Our man of Utah no longer stands
he freaks no more

You freak on
forever find the groove

Dance to the music
knees up near your ears

Full tilt boogie friends
epic adventures for the soul

This is the place
where angels point the way

From the tops of holy temples
and the lonely peaks of Deseret

In wild canyons
angels sing heavenly songs

III.
From pioneer stock he came
priesthood on a platter

The garments did not fit
his lanky frame, nor his frame of mind

A western wind lifted his spirits
his faith was rugged

An Atheist he said he was
and a believer in love, beauty and truth

Some fall to get to Terrapin
some climb

What our man of Utah can no longer do
you do

Stand tall, reach high
Eat, drink and be merry

Walk many miles in cool mountain rain
always the mountain

This is the place
where angels point the way

From the tops of holy temples
and the lonely peaks of Deseret

In wild canyons
angels sing heavenly songs

Missing: A Public Intellectual and Force for the Common Good

It was gratifying to read this thoughtful piece of reporting on DK’s passing in The Salt Lake Tribune.

UVU professor, who was esteemed for his work in environmental ethics, remembered as a “public intellectual.”

“He always said it wasn’t his job to convince his students of his point of view, but to give them a broad understanding of various points of view,” said Richard Keller. In his 18 years at UVU, David Keller brought lofty ideas down to earth, said philosophy professor Elaine Englehardt.

“He helped students understand the most difficult of philosophical ideas,” she said. “He had the ability to explain simply what he was trying to say.”

Indeed. DK knew how to present ideas in a way that made the lofty available.

Thankfully, he made a series of videotaped lectures that are all available on YouTube. Here’s the first in the series of eight:

“I especially hope to show how the study of philosophical ethics is directly pertinent to everyday life, in your personal relationships, in your job and as a citizen in a democracy,” DK said.

DK was a well respected and well known intellectual who dared not dwell in ivory towers. He was a man of the people and a man about town, a.k.a. “the walking philosopher.”