There is not a single day which passes in which I don’t see your name, or your influence and breathtaking power seeping through in the structures you created and called your own. Years ago I promised myself that I shall become like you, someone exactly like you…with superhuman prowess and might. Today with extreme sadness I realize that those dreams of mine were laughably childish. I shall never become half, nay, even a quarter of what you were.
You left the earth a year ago, leaving me irrevocably sad that I had not known you or spoken to you whilst you were alive. I had dreamt and prayed that you make an appearance in the future somehow alongside me and that I could just see you and maybe exchange a few plesantries, as I wouldn’t have been capable of expressing in words my admiration for you.
I am not that kid I once was. Life has been cruel to me because it has all but robbed me of my chance of following your footsteps. But then again, I don’t know if all this was meant to be or if it was just me not working as hard as I should have.
I see the others every day. They surround me and talk around me and I am forced to listen. I am, as you were too, surprised by them sometimes, surprised by the facility with which they pick up, as if at play, new ideas, juggling them as if familiar with them from the cradle. But look where they are now, and look where you are. They pale in comparison. I ask myself if it will be the same for me? Of course it won’t.
During your later years you became dissatisfied with the system. You said you have retreated more and more from the scientific “milieu”. You said you noticed the outright theft perpetrated by colleagues of yours and that was why you declined the recognition being bestowed on you. This dissatisfaction which you had then has now made it’s way inside me. I am dissatisfied as well, but it is more of me being bitter because I have been rejected. How else should one respond to someone letting you know that you aren’t good enough?
What makes my heart ache is that I shall never again discover that beauty for myself. That single moment of clarity which reveals the structure behind mathematics in that synchronous harmony which is it’s own. You have experienced what I am talking about. I have too, but not nearly enough.
Now that it won’t be possible for me to experience it ever, what then, should my raison d’être be?
What I am most scared about, is that it is now that that bond between you and me shall begin to falter and eventually fade. You shall become just another famous name I know and there will be nothing in common between us.
The others have intimidated me all through my life. And whenever they have, your words have been the most powerful consolation I could have ever asked for. What then, will be my consolation when the bond between us breaks?
I miss you, Shurik. I miss you like a pupil misses his master. I miss you despite the fact that I have never seen you or heard your voice. I miss the joy you used to give me when I discovered I shared the same passion you had. I miss the fact that I won’t be able to call myself a mathematician anymore-in the fullest sense of the word: someone who “does” math, like someone “makes” love.
I have long contemplated learning French for the sole purpose of reading Récoltes et Semailles. I think now that I won’t. Reading it will be too painful for me and I have just about had enough disappointment to last me a life time.
Wherever you are, Alexander Grothendieck, rest in peace and know that you are missed.