Yesterday I read that a former teacher of mine from Burlington College, Shamms Mortier, passed away on May 22.  Shamms was a truly great person, and my thoughts go out to all his friends, family, students, and colleagues.  Few people walk this earth with as much excitement and enthusiasm for life as Shamms did, and he did so in a way that seemed so effortless; at times in his company I felt like to not try and match his energy would be almost a squandering of his brilliance.  His passion for human creativity and the miracle of life was simply ever-present.  He was of a Teal Altitude but at home in the world of magic and possibility and wonder.  In fact, he was a master of magic and possibility and wonder.

At the urging of my advisor, one year at Burlington College (there’s been quite a few of them) I signed-up for Shamms’ class Myths and Mysteries of Ancient Egypt.  It had such an impact on me that I immediately signed-up for Shamms’ summer course Sacred Geometry.  It was no small feat to go through one of Shamms’ classes- while he had little (if any) regard for rules, convention, or actual assignments completed, he pulled every trick out of his sleeve in order to push, drag, or throw each one of his students to the edge of their frontiers in their own creativity and curiosity.  If that’s not the makings of a truly great teacher, than I have been drastically mis-informed.

Of course, Shamms’ gift of teaching was rivaled by his desire to learn.  During that summer Sacred Geometry course I settled into the routine of giving Shamms a ride over to CCV where he had another class to teach in the evening.  Quite often, our short car-ride started with him saying something like “Oh man, when you/he/she said this was a connection to that I couldn’t believe it- I had never thought of thatthat‘s getting far out! I’m going to look into that, I’ll let you know what I figure out… it would be something if there were a connection between this or that!… but of course, there very well could be, all things considered….” and so on.  Almost all of those drives briefly down Battery Street and onto Pearl were filled with his overwhelming excitement about something someone in class had said or done.

I was touched to read the note that Shamms wrote to his last class of students at CCV this Spring.  It says more about the man then I ever could:

How honored I have been in these last three-plus decades to be in the sacred classroom with you. You have given me more, taught me more, than you will ever know.  All narratives must eventually reach their final chapter, and this is true for all of us as well. Would that it were not so, I would elect to keep teaching and learning forever; and perhaps that is what happens anyway in the great and enduring mystery to come. I would ask all of you to keep focused upon three things. First, be creative! That means risking doing things that are just out of reach. Push yourself to climb mountains. Second, or maybe first, be compassionate. Realize that extending a helping hand is the heart of humanity, and without heart, no blood flows. Third, be conscious! Wake up! Be aware of your world and your life. I send you much

April 21, 2008

Thank you, Shamms.