I just read the news of the death of Toni Morrison, and as on other occasions when I have thought of her—or when her work was brought to mind, or while I was about to read her or had just finished something that she had written—I immediately remember that unforgettable afternoon when I sat at the same seminar table (at Princeton) with her and Cornel West. She never would have asked me (or anyone else there), to justify our presence there. She surely trusted that each of us was there in good faith. The depth of her humanity was such that she measured—in her work, her public speaking, her interviews, and her critiques—the immeasurable (unjustifiable) humanity of others. This is a great gift and legacy that we must try to honour in our encounters, unintentional gatherings, and anonymous assemblies.

“We die,” Morrison said. “That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”

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