Friday, October 24, 2014

John Joseph Murphy Jr.

To the family he was known as JJ or just Jay. He was my brother-in-law, and I loved him very much.

I don’t know how many of you know the name Christopher Hitchens. For a significant part of his life he wrote for “Vanity Fair”. Both he and Jay were blessed to know early in their lives what it was they would be doing. And it would involve a life of words and stories and journalism.

In response to a question about his lifestyle, Christopher responded, “I always knew that there's a risk in the bohemian lifestyle and I decided to take it because whether it’s an illusion or not, I don't think it is, it helped my concentration, it stopped me being bored, stopped other people being boring, to some extent, it would keep me awake, it would make me want the evening to go on longer, to prolong the conversation, to enhance the moment. If I was asked, would I do it again, the answer is probably yes, I'd have quit earlier, possibly, hoping to get away with the whole thing.” Christopher was diagnosed with esophageal cancer at the age of 61 and died in December of 2011 at the age of 62.

I bring up this parallel to Christopher because I admired both of them and Jay long before I ever heard of “the Hitch”. Describing Jay as bohemian is perhaps a bit of a stretch, but he had some of its characteristics, the most important? Take life as it comes and live in the moment. Another is being a rebel.

I read a book by Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist who wrote about Albert Einstein. He noted that Einstein was bohemian in that he rebelled against the establishment in physics. You see, his theory of relativity upended the prevailing theory established 200 years before by Sir Isaac Newton. Jay pushed against the norm and questioned the status quo. Jay was a skeptic and a cynic, traits I love in a human being. But, under those admirable qualities he was also, I think, an optimist. So he wasn’t perfect. :-)

As Chris Kelly noted in his piece on Jay in the Oct. 23 Scranton Times Jay was a fan of Bob Dylan. Most rebels are. One day we were riding around Scranton probably going to or coming from a golf match, this was 20 or 30 years ago and a Dylan song came on the radio, “Positively 4th Street”. The only thing “positive” about this song are the first three syllables in the title. So, he says to me,” listen to the ending of this song, it's just great” and he laughed that great laugh of his. So we listened carefully, the song ends like this.

"I wish that for just one time you could stand inside my shoes
And just for that one moment, I could be you
Yes, I wish that for just one time, you could stand inside my shoes
You'd know what a drag it is to see you"

You have to love someone who finds humor in that.  Jay, I miss you already.  BTW, If you’re sentient, give a brotha a holla.