SGML: Memory of Yuri Rubinsky (1952-1996)

SGML: Memory of Yuri Rubinsky (1952-1996)

[Via CTS Digest, (c) Erik Naggum]
Article: 12352 of comp.text.sgml
From: "Steven R. Newcomb" <>
Newsgroups: comp.text.sgml
Subject: In Celebration of Yuri
Date: Sun, 28 Jan 1996 15:45:22 -0500
Organization: TechnoTeacher, Inc.
Message-ID: <4egnbv$>

To Friends and Colleagues in the SGML Field:

The Celebration of the Life of Yuri Ivan Rubinsky (August 2, 1952 -
January 21, 1996) was very moving and very appropriate.  There were
several eulogists, all of whom were extremely articulate (what else?),
and some of whom had hilarious things to say.  One eulogist was
Charles Goldfarb, who said that Yuri was the best of us all.  I think
many people in the SGML field feel exactly that way; anyway, I do.
There were many friends there too, not to mention Yuri's family.  I
estimate there were at least 300 people present; afterwards it took a
long time to empty the sanctuary.  The organist ran out of music
before it was even half empty.  Watching people march out in silence
was like seeing a "Who's Who" in SGML, mixed in with many, many other
people whom I did not know.  Yuri was very rich in friends who loved
him.  Most of them appeared to be in shock, as pale and red-eyed as I
was.  Grief hung over us with unbearable weight.

The following quintessentially Yuri-ish thought was printed inside the

A Prayer About Prayer

I am starting to understand that it matters less to whom I pray than
that I pray.

That in praying for guidance, the real goal is to formulate questions
so clearly that I can understand them.  The external power that offers
guidance comes from within me; the force of its wisdom comes from my
clarity; the strength of its conviction arises out of my choice to
concentrate on this question or that call for help.  All of these are
requests for clarification.

That in praying for strength, the real goal is to recognize my
strength.  I have survived till now!  I have done some of what I can
do, but not all.  I have understood all of what I needed to arrive
here today and I accept that tomorrow I may need to learn more.  My
prayer for strength is a prayer for a moment of stillness in which to
gather my resources.

I am not going into battle.  I don't need the strength of ten.  I
don't need armour and a sward.  All prayers are prayers for guidance
and strength.  I have what I need: I have the clear strength of one.

- St. Yuri Ivan Rubinsky  8/2/1952 - 1/21/1996


Yuri had so many different projects and missions that his life defies
all attempts to categorize it.  However, there were some themes that
recurred a lot.  The rest of this note is about one of them.

Yuri was not an SGML zealot so much as he was a minister of access to
information.  For him, SGML was a really interesting means to the goal
of allowing everyone the freedom that access to information provides.
He wanted everyone to be able to benefit from what should be the
birthright of all humanity: access to whatever experience, wisdom, and
art of the rest of humanity, including all our forebears, have chosen
to share with us.  He never told me why he was so powerfully motivated
by this mission, but I can guess.  Knowing Yuri, I would guess that it
was a completely rational thing: he believed that if everyone had
access to whatever knowledge and art they needed, most would behave
more wisely and humanely, and, in turn, everything would be better for
all of us.

Regardless of whether that's what Yuri believed, I believe it, and
Yuri's loss has made me realize that I believe it.  Now that we in the
SGML field have lost Yuri as our sometime shepherd, sometime
cheerleader, and sometime conscience, I propose that, in memory of
Yuri, we dedicate our work to the proposition that "You will know the
truth, and the truth will set you free."  I think he would have liked
that very much, I think it's in our own best interest, I think it will
bring out the best that is in our community and in ourselves as
individuals, and it will be best for everyone else, too.

It may seem weird to say so, but I think the inexorable ascendancy of
SGML is, as Yuri put it, "a quiet revolution" in the emergent
phenomenon we (sometimes ruefully) call "civilization."  It's becoming
better organized, or, at least, we're becoming better connected with
each other.  (I hope the "better organization" will emerge, too, and
in such a way as to enhance liberty.  [Hmmm, that's just what SGML
does, isn't it?])  If, as the shouting distance between individuals
continues to diminish, and if we are going to continue to live
comfortably with each other, we are all going to have to sacrifice
some stupidity, weakness, ignorance, and arrogance.  I don't know what
we can do about weakness and arrogrance, and stupidity is a vexing
problem, too.  But I'm certain that we can do something about
ignorance.  We in the SGML field are in a unique position to do
meaningful battle with ignorance, and on a grand scale.  If our work
has, even as a side-effect, the diminishment of ignorance, I'm sure
St. Yuri will be very, very pleased, and his short life among us will
have been well spent.

*          Steven R. Newcomb | President                      *
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